Women’s basketball: UMass storms into holiday break with dominant win over Hartford

  • Destiney Philoxy and the UMass women’s basketball thumped Hartford 86-40 on Wednesday to enter the holidays with a 12-2 record. PHOTO BY CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2021 8:33:10 PM
Modified: 12/22/2021 8:32:56 PM

It’s not always easy for teams to stay focused with a holiday break looming, but the UMass women’s basketball team was all business on Wednesday afternoon. 

The Minutewomen improved their record to 12-2 after a dominant 86-40 win on the road over Hartford. The Hawks fell to 0-11 on the season with the loss.

Five of the visiting players finished with double-digit scoring: Sydney Taylor (18 points), Angelique Ngalakulondi (14), Ber’Nyah Mayo (14), Sam Breen (12) and Makennah White (10), and UMass didn’t give up a lead once it took one.

Destiney Philoxy was close to a double-double, posting nine points and dishing out 11 of the team’s 22 assists, while Mayo led the team with five steals.

“Regardless of who we're playing, where they are and what their record is, this game is about us. I want to see us continue to grow and develop as a team,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said postgame. “Championship teams bring it regardless of what time the game is, where they’re playing – they bring it in. What I was looking for from our team here today was to play together, outwork them, out tough them, force them to quit, and I thought we did that. They played together. We shared the basketball. I thought we played extremely hard, we executed, and it was a fun game to coach.”

Heading into the fourth quarter leading by 37 points, Verdi decided to let his bench get some in-game action, including some players who saw the hardwood for the first time in a long time. Despite most of the team’s starters sitting out late, UMass was able to continue to execute its game plan, outscoring Hartford 21-12 in the final quarter.

“It wasn’t about the individuals, it was about the team. I was looking forward to seeing those guys go out there, and take those minutes and learn from that and play really hard and play together,” Verdi said on his bench players’ performance. “I want whoever’s out on the floor… to play together. And I want to play as a team, as one unit, and continue to execute on both sides of the ball, because that’s how your minutes grow.”

That emphasis on team play was evident against Hartford, no matter which five individuals were on the floor together. 

HISTORY-MAKING START: The Minutewomen head into their break at 12-2, one of the program’s best starts since the 1968-69 season. It’s something that Verdi is proud of as a coach, and both he and his players are looking forward to a much-anticipated and deserved rest.

“It’s four nights that they get the opportunity to go home and see family and friends and enjoy a well deserved break. You know, it’s been a tough go. There’s been a lot of basketball, there’s been a lot of travel,” Verdi said. “We’ve weathered the storm, the good, the bad, the indifferent, and we’re sitting now at 12-2 which I think is one of the best starts in the history of the program.”

MILESTONE ALERT: Freshmen Alexzeya Brooks (3), Damoni Tucker (2) and Natousha Harden (1) all earned their first career NCAA points against Hartford. For Tucker, it was also her first time stepping into a game this season. 

HOLIDAY SPIRIT: Like his players, Verdi is looking forward to the time he’ll get to spend with his family this Christmas, and will be sure to spread the holiday cheer. 

“I’m going to be Santa and it’s going to be festive and it’s going to be a lot of fun, and you can bet that there’s going to be a lot a lot of presents given out,” Verdi said with a grin. “I just cherish this time – now I’ve got an 18-year-old and almost a high schooler with my daughter, and I still have one young one left. So we’re gonna enjoy this family time right now, and eat a lot and drink and be merry.”

UMass returns to action on Dec. 28 with a road trip to play Dartmouth. The Minutewomen then open Atlantic-10 play at home on Jan. 1 against George Mason.

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