The Massachusetts men’s basketball team had its worst shooting night of the season (24.2 percent from the field, 17.2 percent from 3-point range) as Baylor overpowered the Minutemen, 71-45, with its size-up front.
Guard Ricky Harris finished with a game-high 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting while freshman Terrell Vinson came through with a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds). However, UMass (7-12, 1-4 Atlantic 10) couldn’t find production from anyone else.
Excluding Harris and Vinson, the Minutemen shot 16 percent from the field. The Bears (15-3, 2-2 Big 12) shot much more efficiently (45.7 percent) while controlling the game with their size.
The loss extended UMass’ losing streak to five games dating back to the Jan. 10 loss against La Salle. The last time the Minutemen went on a five-game skid came at the beginning of last season, when they started with a loss to Southern Illinois on Nov. 12, 2008 and lost six straight games before eventually defeating Holy Cross nearly a month later.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said after the game that having to go up against three players nearly 7-feet tall made it difficult for his team to be effective offensively.
“They do a good job in that zone,” Kellogg said. “It allows the guards to kind of pressure the ball and play out and the big guys to stay home. I mean, when you are 6-foot-10, 7-feet and 6-foot-11 it is tough … Their length obviously bothered us.”
Baylor forward Epke Udoh was the most effective of the big men as he tied guard Tweety Carter for a game-high of 23 points to go with seven blocks. He sat out last season after he transferred from Michigan, where he averaged six points and five rebounds.
This year, he’s averaging 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds for the Bears.
“That is a nice guy to pick up as a transfer,” Kellogg said. “I mean, as much as anything, he dominates the game just by being out there. His presence is really what separates him.”
The main positive for the Minutemen was rebounding. They outdid the Bears, 42-33, on the glass.
“That is one of our main focuses coming into every game,” Kellogg said. We want to rebound the ball well and hopefully that can lead to transition baskets, but tonight we really couldn’t get too many.”
Center Hashim Bailey was the other main rebounding force with 11 in 21 minutes, but scored no points on six attempts.
As much as the Minutemen controlled the glass, it wasn’t enough to make up for a poor shooting night. Despite outrebounding Baylor, 22-6, in offensive rebounds, they finished with six second-chance points.
The Bears also proved to be better in transition with nine fast break points and none coming from the Maroon and White.
Even with UMass struggling, it kept the game within single digits until the seven minute, 45 second mark when LaceDarius Dunn hit a 3-pointer to put the Bears up 12 points.
The Minutemen were down 34-20 at the end of the half, but 3-pointers by forward Sampson Carter and Harris cut the deficit to eight points. Baylor rolled right back with an 11-0 run to increase the lead to 19 points.
UMass never came within 15 points the rest of the game. The Bears’ biggest lead came in the final two minutes when they increased their lead to 28.
“Baylor is a very good team,” Kellogg said. “I have played and coached a lot of different NCAA Tournament teams and they are a good ball club. If they can continue to improve and get better, I think they can make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament.”
The Bears mark the third ranked opponent to play UMass this season, however it has not found much success, with the closest loss coming to then-No. 19 Temple in a 12-point loss.
The last time Kellogg and Co. beat a ranked opponent was last year in a one-point victory over then-No. 25 Kansas.
The Minutemen’s next game is on the road against Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday. The Hawks are on a two-game winning streak with victories against Towson and Dayton.
Harris moved to sixth in career scoring at UMass. He now has 1,656, passing current UTEP coach Tony Barbee (1,643). The senior captain is 95 points away from passing the No. 5 scorer Lorenzo Sutton (1,731) … The Minutemen’s 42 rebounds were the most any team has rebounded against Baylor this season … UMass’ 45 points were the fewest its scored in six years when it lost, 64-44, against Xavier on Feb. 14, 2004.
Adam Miller can be reached at email@example.com.