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December 28, 2016

Minutemen defeat Holy Cross in DCU Center

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WORCESTER, Mass. — Building on momentum from a victory over Quinnipiac, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team defeated Holy Cross at the DCU Center this Saturday. UMass came into the game with an 8-1 record at the facility, along with defeating the Crusaders 73-59 at last year’s matchup.

The Minutemen (4-4) had a dominating first half, taking an early 5-0 lead and maintaining a lead for the entire game. At the 15 minute, 36 second mark, Ricky Harris hit a 3-point shot to put UMass on a strong offensive run that led to 11 unanswered points. Harris was 6-for-10 on the night with a team leading 19 points, 12 of which came from 3-point range .

“It’s just confidence I guess. They left me open, in the beginning of the game they were denying me extra hard. I got a couple good looks and transitions and was confident in knocking them down,” Harris said.

Anthony Gurley also served as an offensive threat, scoring seven field goals and two 3-pointers. Gurley closely followed Harris for the team lead with 18 points. The two guards had a combined 25 baskets for the night. The Minutemen as a whole scored 12 3-pointers, compared to three by Holy Cross (2-7), proving to be an important part in the victory.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg felt satisfied with his guards’ performance and leadership of the team.

“They have the ball in their hands probably 70 percent of the time and they’re making good plays and scoring and doing what I’m asking them,” Kellogg said.

Holy Cross struggled offensively in the first half, partly due to an injury to leading scorer Mike Cavataio, which limited his playing time. Cavataio, who is 37-for-74 in field goals this year, contributed just one basket in the first half. It was Andrew Keister and R.J. Evans, who stepped up for the Crusaders with a combined seven baskets, over half of the team’s 11 of the period.

Holy Cross came alive with eight minutes remaining and lowered Massachusetts’ lead to eight points. However they could not close the gap any further. The Minutemen continued their offensive attack until the final minutes of the first half, going into the locker room with a 49-34 lead.

“We made shots. When you make shots that really helps, and I thought that gave us some momentum and enabled us to get Holy Cross to play a little faster,” Kellogg said.

Holy Cross continued chasing UMass’ lead into the second half, coming within seven points at the 12:55 mark. A 3-pointer at the 12:23 mark by Gurley revived his team’s offense and put them on another 11-point run. The Minutemen kept at least a 16-point lead for the remainder of the game, taking the 84-63 victory.

Gurley felt as though this game marked an improvement in UMass’ ability to gain a lead and maintain it for the entire game.

“Usually in the past we come out flat in the second half and either give up the lead or teams get an even bigger lead on us,” Gurley said. “But this game we were able to sustain a little run and just keep our lead.”

Holy Cross held an advantage in rebounds coming into the game, averaging 38 boards per game. However, UMass’ defense turned the numbers around with 33 defensive rebounds, 11 more the Crusaders. Cavataio, who led his team in rebounds with an average of 13.3 per game, was held to three rebounds by the Minutemen. Hashim Bailey, returning from an injury, had a team-leading eight boards and three blocks, something Kellogg contributed as a main reason for shutting down the Crusaders.

The Minutemen also took advantage of free-throw opportunities, achieving a perfect 8-for-8 in the first half and 10-for-12 overall. Holy Cross struggled inform the line, connecting with only 18-of-29 free throws.             

“I thought it was a good game for us, a tough Holy Cross team on the road,” Kellogg said. “Our guys came out and played with a purpose tonight, and we really shared the ball tonight.”

UMass will travel next to New Jersey on Monday night to face undefeated Seton Hall.

Geena Lombardi can be reached at glombard@student.umass.edu.

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