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December 30, 2016

UMass basketball drops third-straight to Colonials

On a night where offense wasn’t easy to come by, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team couldn’t compensate with its defense and suffered its third-straight loss to conference opponent George Washington, 59-51, at the Mullins Center on Sunday.

After both teams began the game with field goals in their first possession, including an alley-oop from University of Massachusetts guard Javorn Farrell to center Sean Carter, it seemed as if the tone was set for a fast-paced, high-scoring affair. The remainder of the first half, however, dragged on with both teams exchanging empty possessions.

The offense picked up in the second half as the Colonials outscored the Minutemen (13-10, 5-5 Atlantic 10), 41-27. GW corrected its poor shooting from the beginning of the game and shot 46.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range (5-for-10). The Colonials went on an 18-4 run to win the game following a six-point deficit with five minutes, 27 seconds remaining.

“We lost on the defensive end,” said UMass guard Gary Correia after the game. “We lost probably their second or third best player, time and time and time again, and we didn’t rebound the basketball. As they made their run and took the lead, we started seeing their offense get offensive rebounds, and-1’s, wide open 3’s in transition.”

“We just never closed it out and didn’t make good basketball plays down the stretch,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “There were four or five tough plays like loose balls or loose rebounds that we did not come up with that I thought were the difference in the game.”

The Minutemen had difficulty handling pressure from GW, especially in the second half, which led to 19 turnovers, compared to nine for the Colonials. GW capitalized on UMass’ mistakes, scoring 22 points off the turnovers, which was a significant factor in the outcome.

The Colonials (13-12, 6-5), despite having leading scorer Tony Taylor held in check with 11 points, were led in the victory by forwards Dwayne Smith and Nemanja Mikic. Smith was a presence in the post, scoring 14 points and securing 10 rebounds, while Mikic made all of his field goal attempts, save one, from 3-point range (6-for-14) for a game-high 20 points.

Guard Anthony Gurley struggled all game, falling well short of his team-leading 19.9 points per game average. Gurley finished with seven points on 2-for-15 shooting from the field and 1-for-8 from beyond the arc.

“They really shadowed (Gurley) with one guy and with the whole team when he catches is kind of in a position to help out,” Kellogg said. “I think they changed up on us a little bit and they were basically saying, ‘We’re going to make the game really hard on him and make it really difficult for him to score.’”

“We have to figure out ways to win without him because our last few games, teams have box and 1’d him or threw a jump defense at him,” Correia said. “I know he’s getting frustrated, obviously he would as a scorer.”

The lone bright spot for the Minutemen on offense Correia, who had a team-high 15 points, all coming by way of the long ball (3-for-5) and the free throw line (6-for-8).

Farrell and guard Freddie Riley, who rank second and third, respectively on UMass in scoring behind Gurley, combined for five points. Riley only played five minutes after hopping off the court around the five-minute mark in the first half with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Kellogg said in his postgame press conference that Riley was walking around in crutches and the injury would have to be examined.

The score 10 minutes into the contest was 6-4 in favor of UMass, with the Minutemen shooting 1-for-12 from the field and the Colonials converting 2-for-11. UMass came to life and obtained a 17-4 lead following three consecutive 3-pointers by Raphiael Putney, Correia and Matt Hill.

Nevertheless, GW closed out the half strong after posting only four points in the first 13 minutes to take a modest 24-18 deficit into the intermission.

The Minutemen will look to break their skid on Wednesday when they host A-10 foe Duquesne for a 7 p.m. tilt.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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