The Atlantic 10 tournament has not been kind to Ricky Harris and the Massachusetts men’s basketball team. In a year when the Minutemen least expected it, they won their first A-10 tournament game in eight years against Charlotte, but couldn’t continue their rally against Richmond, who finished as the weekend’s runner-up.
UMass (12-20, 5-11 A-10) battled back from a 17-point deficit, but couldn’t pull ahead in its 77-72 loss to the Spiders.
“We played an NCAA team on a neutral court that’s [26-8] and they shot lights out tonight, especially in the first half,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said following the loss. “That was one of my biggest worries.”
Guard Anthony Gurley did everything he could offensively to extend Harris’s senior with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting and seven rebounds, but the Minutemen never cut the lead below three points.
Harris finished his last game at UMass with 19 points and became the third all-time leading scorer in school history. But Richmond’s 55 percent 3-point shooting proved too much for UMass to handle. The Spiders (26-8, 13-3 A-10) used 9-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc to take a 38-21 lead into the half.
“They got a lot of good looks and converted on all of them, took advantage early and put us in a bit of a hole,” Harris said of their first half shooting. “When you’re playing a team like that, you have got to take advantage of each possession and each defensive stop and each defensive opportunity.”
Although the first half took UMass out of the game, the second half went much differently.
The Minutemen scored 51 second-half points with Gurley and Harris combining for 34 of them. Gurley first cracked Richmond’s double-digit deficit with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 46-28 with 10 minutes, 53 seconds left to play.
The Spiders eventually undid UMass’ efforts and regained a 17-point lead with 6:53 to play. The Minutemen stormed back with a 12-3 run to once again cut the lead to eight.
With a six-point lead and seven seconds left in the game, Kevin Anderson fouled Harris on a 3-point attempt. The senior made all three shots to put UMass down three points.
However, the Minutemen couldn’t get the ball back as Kevin Smith converted on a pass by Ryan Butler with a dunk to put the game out of reach.
Although UMass won back-to-back games to earn a spot in the quarterfinals, Harris was still upset with his leadership during the postseason in his four years as a collegiate basketball player.
“I’ve been here four years and I’ve only won one postseason game in the Atlantic 10 conference,” Harris said. “I can’t really be happy about that because this is UMass basketball and we’re known for winning games. This is what we do here, and I just can’t accept that right now.”
Kellogg praised his senior leader after the game and said he would be willing to help him in whatever capacity he needed. He also believes that Harris will be good enough to play some type of professional basketball and be successful.
With a team as young as the Minutemen, Kellogg believes this summer will be important for his team as it now has the experience of playing against A-10 opponents. One of the areas he believes his team needs to improve on the most is its strength.
“If you look at our team when we stand next to the other teams we play since they are a little bit older and more mature, we always look, I’d say, longer and skinnier and not totally developed,” Kellogg said.
He hopes that the process of maturing along with spending time in the weight room as part of an NCAA team will help change that for next season.
Adam Miler can be reached at email@example.com.