UMass women’s basketball rallies for win over Drake in FIU Thanksgiving Classic

Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2022 7:11:28 PM
Modified: 11/25/2022 7:09:10 PM

Down by 10 points with a minute remaining in the third, the Minutewomen looked completely deflated in their first game of the FIU Thanksgiving Classic in Miami. Drake was relentless and looked unbeatable, and UMass was worn thin, missing post mainstay Makennah White and with multiple starters in foul trouble.

But counting UMass out of any game is a mistake, especially this team.

The Minutewomen clawed their way back in the fourth quarter. A Sydney Taylor triple brought them within two points of Drake, but UMass needed the ball back in its hands. Enter Destiney Philoxy, who pulled her signature move and drew a charge against Katie Dinnebier to turn the ball back over to the Minutewomen. It took Ber’Nyah Mayo four seconds to knock down a jumper to tie it, and Philoxy stole the ball back from Drake with four seconds remaining to force overtime.

There was still five minutes of basketball left to be played, but UMass was fired up, Drake was scrambling and this game was already over.

“Her ability to take those charges, rotate over and pick up charges, they’re momentum stoppers, and they were huge,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said on Philoxy. “It just changed the whole momentum of the game and gave us confidence ... there’s a reason why she came back and this was it. Her energy and her want to and her toughness was the difference for us.”

UMass (5-1) willed its way to the championship game with five minutes of perfect basketball in overtime, knocking down 17 points and holding Drake scoreless to secure a 100-83 win. The victory sets them up against host FIU on Sunday afternoon; the two teams will clash for the title at 1 p.m., and fans can tune in to WMUA to listen to the game.

It was the first time UMass had scored triple-digits since it beat Fisher College 121-38 on December 7, 2017. Taylor led the team with a season-high 29 points and six boards, and all five starters for UMass scored in double digits – Philoxy had 20, Mayo and Sam Breen had 19 and Angelique Ngalakulondi had 13; paired with 12 boards, Ngalakulondi picked up a double-double despite fouling out with six minutes left in the fourth frame.

Drake made it clear that they weren’t going to make things easy for UMass in the opening quarter, but the Minutewomen answered the bell. After the Bulldogs got the opening bucket, UMass scored the next seven points to take a 7-2 lead two and a half minutes in. The Minutewomen held on to that lead for the rest of the first quarter, building up to a 10-point lead at one point during the frame. Drake brought it back within five points by the end of the first, giving UMass a 23-17 lead heading into the second.

From there, it was all downhill for UMass. Though they manage to fend off the Bulldogs’ advances in the first few minutes of the second, Drake outscored the Minutewomen 18-6 in the final 6:09 of the half. The Bulldogs took back the lead on a 3-pointer from Megan Meyer, who finished the contest with a team-high 25 points. By the time the halftime buzzer rang out, Drake was leading 43-38.

Drake continued to stymie the Minutewomen in the third, shutting down any comeback efforts

“What was frustrating in third period was that we turned the ball over, made some really mental mistakes, as far as fouling in the back court and putting their number 10 to the free throw line and given them points that way,” Verdi said. “We needed to clean that stuff up.”

Despite playing from behind, Sam Breen and Sydney Taylor kept the Minutewomen within striking distance in the early stages of the fourth quarter. And though she didn’t step foot on the court, the injured White was yelling and cheering her team on from the bench, her encouragement audible even on the radio call.

“Even though she wasn’t in the game and impacting the game by being on the floor, she was impacting the game from the bench ... As a coach, that’s all you want from those who are sitting,” Verdi said. “She was talking to Leila (Fair) as well, giving advice. That’s what really good teams do and I was really happy that she was putting forward that type of effort.”

After Ngalakulondi fouled out, Mayo, Philoxy and Taylor teamed up to push the game to OT. Taylor sank two triples and Mayo knocked down eight points in the final five minutes. Philoxy hit a jumper and two free throws in addition to her late charge, stepping up when her team needed her to.


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