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Minutemen fall to Dayton’s high-flying offense

Jeff BernsteinMassachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg knew that playing an away game against Dayton was going to test his young team. He also knew that with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line, the Flyers were going to be difficult to beat.

What he didn’t know was just how difficult they would be.

UMass (10-18, 4-10 Atlantic 10) dropped its third-straight game in a 96-68 loss to Dayton on Saturday. It was the worst defeat for the Minutemen since Nov. 28, when they lost to Michigan State by 38 points.

Although Dayton didn’t take UMass out of the game until the second half, the Minutemen never had a lead past their first two baskets of the game. The Flyers were up by 33 points with two minutes, 34 seconds left in the game after Rob Lowery stole the ball from senior Ricky Harris and converted on a lay-up.

“For their team and their program to come home in a game which I think was somewhat of a must-win for them to play the way they did was a testament to their maturity and their age,” Kellogg said.

Dayton’s offense controlled much of the game, shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from 3-point range.

Six different Flyers scored in double-figures. Mickey Perry scored a team-high 15 points and finished with five 3-pointers while forward Chris Wright added 14 points.

Meanwhile, Harris (nine points, 3-of-15 shooting), who recently has been on a scoring surge, had his worst offensive performance since Jan. 24, 2009 against La Salle where he finished with six points. Five of his points came in the first half.

The Flyers (19-9, 8-6 A-10) contained Harris by rotating three guards and made him a focus of the defense. As a result, the team captain also led his team with three turnovers.

“I thought they did a very good job of forcing him into some tough plays,” Kellogg said.

Despite a rough night for Harris, Kellogg was encouraged by his freshmen’s performances. Terrell Vinson (16 points) led the team with 60 percent shooting while Freddie Riley (12 points) had a hot shooting night from beyond the arc with 4-of-6 shooting.

“When your four freshmen are your four leading scorers, that’s a good sign for the future, but when you’re playing that many, sometimes it doesn’t work out that well right off the bat,” Kellogg said.

The Minutemen will play their last road game of the season on March 3 against La Salle, who is also fighting for a spot in the A-10 Tournament, before ending the season at home on Saturday against Rhode Island.

Game notes

Center Hashim Bailey didn’t play in the loss to Dayton. It was the first time the Memphis transfer didn’t see playing time since Dec. 2 against Quinnipiac … Dayton’s bench dominate UMass scoring 48 points in comparison to the Minutemen’s 22 … The Flyers sold out their fourth game of the season on Saturday with an attendance of 13,435.

Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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