On Saturday afternoon, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team squandered another opportunity to register a signature win, falling 83-75 to Miami at the BankUnited Center.
The Minutemen (6-3) battled from beginning to end, but couldn’t push themselves over the top in the final five minutes of the game and for the second time this season, were unable to defeat a legitimate ACC opponent.
“We’ve got to put a complete 40 minutes together, especially on the road or neutral cites, where it’s a tough environment and everything’s stacked against you,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg in an interview with UMassathletics.com.
The Hurricanes (5-2) snapped a two-game losing streak behind the efforts of Durand Scott (16) who was one of four players in double figures, including Shane Larkin (14), Malcolm Grant (15) and Trey McKinney Jones (10).
Scott went off for 16 points despite failing to register a field goal. He went 16-for-18 from the free throw line, and made eight consecutive attempts in the last six minutes of the game.
UMass found themselves in a 41-31 halftime hole, thanks to a 16-6 Hurricane run to close of the half.
Miami threatened to break open the lead to an insurmountable margin on several occasions, but the Minutemen constantly fought back.
The action picked up halfway through the second half when Freddie Riley nailed his only 3-pointer of the afternoon, cutting the deficit to eight points.
From this point on both teams traded baskets, and free throws, as Miami’s lead never exceeded eight points, but also never shrunk below three.
Over the final 10 minutes of the game, UMass couldn’t buy a shot, going 6-for-18, but did a nice job getting to the free throw line, going 13-for-16.
“It was nice, because I thought Chaz [Williams] and Sean [Carter] did a nice job getting to the free throw line … and we were attacking the paint finally,” said Kellogg.
Like the Minutemen, the Hurricanes struggled shooting the ball from the field, but found major success at the free throw line going 14-for-17 over the final 10 minutes of the game.
The number of times the Minutemen went to the line was an encouraging sign. However, the number of times the Hurricanes went to the charity stripe was not.
“We put them to the free throw line way, way too many times,” said Kellogg.
In total, Miami attempted a whopping 36 free throws, while the Minutemen attempted 27 shots from the line.
“If the whistle keeps blowing, we can never get the flow how we want it to go,” said the senior center Carter.
The flow Carter is alluding to is the up-and-down pace of the game which stemmed from the heavy fouling on both sides of the ball.
UMass had its best opportunity to overtake Miami with just over two minutes left in the game. Williams had just converted a layup, and cut the lead to just three points. However, Raphiael Putney committed a foul on the other end, and Scott converted both free throws. The Minutemen got right back to the line when Carter was fouled, but he was unable to sink both free throws and the lead never dipped below five points from that point on.
Williams carried UMass offensively, exploding for a season-high 22 points. Sean Carter aided him by with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Jesse Morgan continued to succeed off the bench, adding 10 points.
The Minutemen stay on the road Tuesday as they travel to face East Carolina at 7 p.m.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.