Women’s Basketball: UMass takes care of business against George Mason

  •  Alexzeya Brooks looks for an open player during the Minutewomen’s game against George Mason on Friday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—

  • Alexzeya Brooks celebrats a basket with Destiney Philoxy on Friday afternoon at the Mullins Center.  CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—

  • At left: Alexzeya Brooks sets up on defense during the Minutewomen’s win against George Mason on Friday afternoon.  Below: Sydney Taylor throws the ball up in a layup attempt.

  • Makennah White jumps up for a layup during the Minutewomen's win against George Mason on Friday.  CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—

  • Sydney Taylor holds the ball during an offensive play against George Mason on Friday afternoon.  CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—

  • Sydney Taylor throws the ball up in a layup attempt during the Minutewomen’s win against George Mason.  CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2022 10:57:29 PM
Modified: 2/11/2022 10:55:46 PM

AMHERST — Friday afternoon’s contest against George Mason was one that, on paper, UMass should be able to win handily. They executed their game plan to the letter, rolling to a 87-58 win.

“We talked about coming out and having a sense of urgency right from the get go. And I thought we did that,” UMass coach Tori Verdi said. “We talked about really defending them, not allowing them to run their action. I thought we did a great job on I thought defensively, we did a great job against their on-ball screen action, and we beat them on the boards – that was important.”

UMass outplayed George Mason in nearly every statistical category. They capitalized on 19 Patriot turnovers, outscored them 42-22 in the paint, hit 16 second chance points to George Mason’s zero, and had meaningful contributions from up and down the lineup, getting 28 of their 87 points from their bench.

The noon start time had both teams making a couple mistakes early, but the Patriots put the Minutewomen on their heels, jumping out to a 6-2 lead in the first two minutes. But once Sydney Taylor sank her first triple of the game with 6:25 left in the opening quarter, the game was on for the home squad. The Minutewomen outscored the Patriots 15-2 in the remainder of the period, cruising to a 20-10 lead in the opening frame.

Destiney Philoxy was on point for the Minutewomen during the entirety of the first half, as was Makennah White, who finished with a career-high 13 points.

“I thought she played well and she established herself in the paint. She was physical and was able to you get in position and finish the score around the basket, so great minutes from her. I just think that she’s just scratching the surface,” Verdi said. “There’s going to be a maturation process. I just can’t wait to see the player that she’s going to become down the road.”

UMass finished the second period with a 13-4 run in the final four minutes of the half, cruising into halftime with a 39-20 lead against the Patriots and not looking to slow down any time soon.

As they have been all season, UMass came out of halftime with a strong performance, dominating the Patriots from start to finish and outscoring them 30-18. Taylor found her groove behind the three-point arc, knocking down four of her six triples in the penultimate period, as did Alexzeya Brooks, who saw her confidence grow the longer she was on the court.

“Once Sam passed me the ball and I made (my first) layup, they called the timeout after, and Coach (Lynn-Ann Kokoski said) ‘You finally got your feet wet,’ Brooks said. “That really stood out to me, so I was like okay, time to go.”

Brooks hit her first triple of the game with 1:09 remaining in the third, marking the first multi-point game of her college career, and then proceeded to put away seven more points in the fourth quarter, picking up 11 points total and bringing the bench to its feet on multiple occasions.

Despite getting as much as a 35-point lead on the visitors, the Minutewomen never took their foot off the gas. Philoxy was called for a charge late in the fourth quarter, something that Verdi said made him “hold his breath” but that was also a testament to how hard she and the team was still playing, despite their insurmountable lead.

“It goes to show you the type of competitor that she is, and I’ve told them that regardless of what the score is, you go out there and you play the right way,” Verdi said. “If you want to be great, you got to be consistent, and you got to be consistent regardless if it’s the first minute of the game or the last minute of the game. And I think that we’re starting to show that consistency.”

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