Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sydney Taylor battles through eye injury, scores 13 points in Friday’s win

Taylor grabs six rebounds and hits three 3-pointers
Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

WILMINGTON, Del. – During the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Friday, Sydney Taylor only needed one good eye to make an impact in the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s 63-50 win against No. 9 George Mason.

In the closing minutes of UMass’ (25-5, 14-2 Atlantic 10) final regular season game against George Washington on Feb. 25, Taylor exited the game prematurely and went straight to the locker room with an apparent right eye injury.

When Taylor stepped onto the Chase Fieldhouse court for pregame warmups, her eye was visibly bloodshot and bruised.

Shooting wise, the start of the game was not pretty for Taylor. She started 0-for-6 from the field in the first and second frames, and things appeared bleak for the senior sharpshooter.

With just under three minutes remaining until halftime, Angelique Ngalakulondi kicked the ball outside to Taylor. Wide open on the wing with a defender closing out in her peripheral, Taylor took the 3-point shot with no fear, splashing her first of the day.

One minute later, Taylor utilized a Ngalakulondi screen to create space at the top of the key. Staying low to the floor, Taylor stepped into a rhythm crossover before elevating and drilling the mid-range jump shot at the foul line. From that point on, Taylor was locked in shooting the basketball and never looked back. Taylor finished the game shooting 5-for-9.

While Taylor was open and honest about the black eye bothering her during the game, she didn’t help lead her team to the top spot in the A-10 to make excuses in the postseason.

“It’s not the best right now but I’m working through it,” Taylor said of her eye. “I took a couple days off to try to get the swelling down a little bit. I’ve been icing it kinda nonstop. But, I’m not one to make excuses. I just gotta fight through it and play.”

To avoid further aggravating the eye contusion before the game, Taylor wore a face mask in practice leading up to the quarterfinal game, according to pictures posted on the team’s social media accounts. She chose not to wear the mask against the Patriots.

When Taylor’s shot wasn’t falling, she influenced the game with her rebounding. She had four rebounds in the first half and six in the game. According to Taylor, making an impact beyond scoring the basketball was a major component to gaining confidence during the shooting slump.

“It’s really important,” Taylor said of the importance of staying engaged. “[George Mason] has two very big, physical posts on their team that were grabbing a lot of boards so I had to get down there and help our post players. Just doing stuff when my shot isn’t falling. I know my teammates keep encouraging me to shoot regardless if my shot is going in or not.”

Taylor was active on the defensive side of the ball, as well. In the Patriots’ opening possession of the second half, Taylor earned a chase down block after swatting the ball away from a cutting George Mason.

“I thought [Taylor] was great,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “She’s been off and getting through that adversity. I thought she had a really good practice the last two days. It’s not easy to come back from something like that but she’s tough and I think getting this game underneath her belt right now will help her for future games. I expect her to be a little bit more confident here moving forward.”

With five minutes left in the game, Taylor pushed the Minutewomen lead to double digits after she sized up her defender with some quick dribble moves before stepping back and launching a deep three into the net. If the final minutes of Friday’s game were any indication, Taylor’s confidence is fully healed, even if her eye is not.

UMass will face off against the winner of No. 4 Fordham and No. 5 Richmond on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Michael Araujo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @araujo_michael_.

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