The Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s aspirations for making the NCAA tournament were diminished Saturday night with a 73-62 loss to Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia.
With the loss, the Minutemen fall to 18-7 overall and 7-4 in the conference, and considering their current body of work, UMass will now only have an outside chance to dance.
The Hawks (16-10, 6-5 Atlantic 10) were led by junior guard Carl Jones, who tallied 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting.
Jones, who averages 15.9 points per game, was a non-factor in the team’s first matchup – a 71-62 UMass win – as he scored just four points.
But Saturday, Jones was a completely different player, as he tore up the Minutemen defense in the first half with 13 points. He made all three of his 3-pointers in the first half, and the Hawks carried a 29-28 lead after the first 20 minutes.
UMass was without its second-leading scorer, Raphiael Putney, for the majority of the half, as Putney was forced to sit after committing his second foul of the game at the 13:52 mark.
Riddled with foul trouble throughout the game, Putney scored just two points on 1-for-5 shooting and collected five rebounds.
“Putney had a couple really good drives, he just didn’t put it in,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg in an interview with UMass Athletics. “It wasn’t one of his better games.”
The story of the game was the Minutemen’s poor shooting. They shot just 34 percent from the field and made only 7 of their 27 3-point attempts.
“We had 70 shots, but the problem was we only made 24, and [Saint Joseph’s] made 25 out of 57,” said Kellogg.
UMass took care of the ball well, but couldn’t turn those extra possessions into points.
“The good thing is, we got the ball to the rim and only turned the ball over nine times, and normally when that happens we kind of get a couple runs,” said Kellogg.
The nine turnovers were the least since they committed nine versus Fordham on Jan. 5 and point guard Chaz Williams – who had 10 turnovers on his own in a game earlier this season – had zero giveaways for the first time this season.
Williams recorded a double-double in the game, with 11 points and 10 assists. It was his second double-double of the season.
However, Williams struggled with his shot, and the length of SJU’s front line disrupted the point guard at times.
“I thought [Saint Joseph’s] length bothered us when we drove the ball to the rim. I thought it really affected Chaz at times, and he didn’t get the calls when he was throwing his body in there and creating contact,” said Kellogg.
He shot just 5-for-13 from the field, and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.
SJU big men C.J. Aiken, Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts Jr. were key forces all day on defense and on the boards.
The Hawks blocked seven total shots and controlled the glass, outrebounding the Minutemen, 42-31.
UMass, regarded as a solid rebounding team, allowed the Hawks to collect 12 offensive rebounds.
“We’ve got to defensive rebound,” said Kellogg. “When we defensive rebound, we’re a pretty good team, when we don’t, we lose a game on the road to Saint. [Joseph’s].”
Kanacevic finished the game with six points, 15 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. Aiken had 13 points, grabbed five boards and swatted four blocks. Roberts Jr. had 14 points and eight rebounds.
SJU broke away from the Minutemen early in the second half with a 17-2 run, capped by a Langston Galloway jump shot.
While Jones controlled the first half for the Hawks, it was Galloway (15 points) who hit some huge shots for SJU down the stretch.
With just over five minutes remaining in the game, and the Minutemen threatening to inch their way back into the game, Galloway knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, making the score 58-43 with three minutes and 55 seconds left.
UMass mounted a comeback when Freddie Riley hit consecutive 3-pointers, and then Jesse Morgan drilled a trey of his own just a few possessions later. Morgan’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to seven with just under two minutes remaining.
However, SJU was clutch down the stretch as it went 13-for-14 from the free throw line in the final minutes, ending any hopes of a Minutemen comeback.
Morgan led all scorers with 18 points, Terrell Vinson added 10, but shot just 4-for-15 from the field.
“Saint Joseph’s deserved to win tonight,” said Kellogg. “Hopefully we can rebound and get back to the drawing board and get ready for next Saturday against La Salle.”
The Minutemen will be looking for revenge in Saturday’s home game versus La Salle. Early in the season, the Explorers dealt UMass an 82-75 loss in Philadelphia.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.