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March 21, 2017

Minutemen rally past Bobcats for third win of the year

Ricky Harris scored 15 of the Massachusetts basketball team’s first 19 points, and the Minutemen held off a late rally by Quinnipiac for a 62-58 victory on Wednesday night at the Mullins Center.

“We needed that win bad, just to get our confidence back up because after losing to Michigan State the way we did, a couple of guys started to get down on themselves, but that was a good win,” Harris said.

Harris, who finished with 19 points and six assists, started 5-of-5 from the field, and 3-of-3 from 3-point range, while his UMass teammates struggled to find their shots.

“He’s the best scorer on our team,” freshman Sampson Carter said. “I feel way confident with him with the ball, [and] I know that he’s going to score.”

The Minutemen (3-4) started 4-of-11 from the field, shooting 36 percent, as the Bobcats took an 18-11 lead within the first nine minutes of play. After a quick rest, Harris returned to the floor to ignite a 17-8 run, as UMass took its first lead of the game, 28-26, with 2:38 to go in the first half. Harris scored 15 points in the first half, as the Minutemen held a 35-29 lead at the break.

James Feldeine, Quinnipiac’s leading scorer, scored 10 of his team’s first 24 points, finishing with 20 points and eight rebounds. Justin Rutty, the Bobcat’s second-leading scorer, came into the game shooting 61 percent on the season, but struggled to find the basket, finishing 5-of-15 shooting, and going the entire first half without a field goal. Bobcats coach Tom Moore attributed Rutty’s struggles to the amount of size seen in the Minutemen forwards.

“Coming into the game, we didn’t face anything close to the size and athleticism at the four and five position,” Moore said. “[Rutty] just looked a little off balance when he was finishing, and I think he was surprised a few times at their length.”

The Bobcats did not come out in the second half with the same success they had in the beginning of the game, going 4-of-14 and shooting just 29 percent. UMass built a 46-36 advantage at the 13:29 mark, a lead it did not relinquish for the rest of the game.

Quinnipiac (3-3) capitalized on a few Minutemen turnovers late in the game to get within four points with 33 seconds left in the game. However, UMass was able to make its free throws to secure the win. James Johnson hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to draw the Bobcats within four.

Junior Anthony Gurley continued his success as a starter for UMass, as he scored 15 points, including 11 in the second half, and added six rebounds to give Harris some relief. He also hit two big free throws with 5.9 seconds remaining to give UMass a better cushion. Gurley leads the team with an average of 18.2 points per game on 53 percent shooting.

“That’s what your juniors and seniors are supposed to do, take the game over and make plays,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

The Minutemen relied on clutch 3-point shooting as well as steady free throw shooting to sustain their lead, but allowed 28 offensive rebounds to the Bobcats, who outrebounded the Minutemen 46-29 in the game. UMass did not miss a free throw until the 9:44 mark in the second half, going a perfect 8-for-8 at the line.

Quinnipiac shot 35 percent for the game while going 3-of-13 behind the 3-point line, and shot 53 percent from the free throw line.

The Minutemen will travel to Holy Cross for their next game on Saturday.

Pete Vasquez can be reached at pvasquez@student.umass.edu.

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