Women’s basketball: UMass looks to turn the page against Saint Joe’s

Staff Writer 
Published: 1/28/2022 4:21:20 PM

For the first time all year, the UMass women’s basketball team is starting to look mortal.

The Minutewomen have dropped three of their last four games, and while those losses were to formidable opponents – Dayton and Rhode Island, currently first and second in the A10, respectively – those are teams that UMass will have to beat if it wants to walk away with an Atlantic 10 championship, something head coach Tory Verdi has talked about from the very start of this season.

It’s not unusual for teams to face adversity. Makennah White said it best after their last loss to Rhode Island – it’s a long season, and there will be highs and lows. The Minutewomen have hit plenty of highs already. They jumped out to a 15-4 start, the best in team history since the enactment of Title IX. The team has received at least one vote for three consecutive weeks in the USA Today Sports Women’s Basketball Coaches Poll, the first time the program has earned a vote since the 1994-95 season. A number of players are nationally ranked in a variety of statistical categories – total assists (Destiney Philoxy, T-17), total offensive rebounds (Angelique Ngalakulondi, T-7), total double-doubles (Sam Breen, T-7) and more. Sydney Taylor reached a career-high 32 points in a game. Both Breen and Philoxy collected their 1,000th career points (in the same game, no less). The talent, the skill, the desire to win – it’s all there. 

But while those accolades are all nice, it doesn’t change the fact that the Minutewomen need something that will stop their downward slid. Adversity is something that every team will have to deal with sooner or later, no matter how talented it is. How UMass responds to this moment, right now, could define the rest of their season.

In his last postgame press conference, Verdi described his team as looking “fractured” on the court. It may be the best way to describe their recent games – the Minutewomen aren’t always playing poorly, but the consistency that brought them such success early on has vanished. Nobody has caught fire in recent games to carry the team, and the chemistry that once seemed unstoppable has been sporadic. 

Saturday’s game against St. Joseph’s is a critical one. On paper, UMass is the better team – the Hawks currently sit at just 6-10 overall – but the Minutewomen have only one more win in conference play. To be fair, UMass has faced much tougher conference foes than St. Joseph’s so far, but anything can happen in college basketball. 

The Minutewomen may be rattled, but don’t count them out yet. This is the best squad that UMass has put together in years, and it’s going to take more than a couple losses for them to lose their focus. If they can keep their composure and work more as a unit, rather than a team of individuals, they should be able to walk away with the win, and hopefully for them, the start of another winning streak. 


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