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FSU hands UMass men’s basketball its first loss of the season

And just like that, the winning streak is over.

Playing in its last game before the Christmas break, the No. 22 Massachusetts men’s basketball team gave Florida State an early gift on Saturday, shooting just 35 percent from the field and committing 20 turnovers in a 60-55 loss in the first game of the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla. It was the Minutemen’s first loss of the season.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

“I didn’t think we executed down the stretch,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said in a radio interview following the game. “I thought we had three guys do a couple things that were just out of character; a shot that you’re not accustomed to taking or a drive into two bigs.”

All season long, the Minutemen (10-1) have closed games with that one run to pull away late and seal a victory. On Saturday, the Seminoles (8-3) gave them a taste of their own medicine.

Trailing by three points with three minutes, 33 seconds left in the game, Florida State went on a 10-2 run to take the lead and put the Minutemen away for good.

UMass looked like it cut the Seminoles’ lead to only one point with four seconds left on a Cady Lalanne dunk, but it was waved off for offensive goaltending after Lalanne hung on the rim. Florida State hit two free throws on the next possession, putting the game out of reach for the Minutemen.

“We didn’t make some plays that we’re used to making,” Kellogg said. “I don’t know if it was their size, athleticism, length, what it was… we just had one of those days.”

The game was tightly contested from the start, with both sides trading leads. UMass held the largest advantage of the game at five points early in the first half when it was 11-6, but an 11-4 Seminoles run erased that deficit.

From that point forward, the lead never reached more than four points in a game that, at times, felt more like a heavyweight boxing match than a mid-December college basketball game.

“The game didn’t really have a lot of flow,” Kellogg said. “It was kind of like an old-school, backyard brawl type of deal where the game never really, totally got moving. When it did, I thought we were in good shape and when it became more of a half-court grudge match, which was most of the contest. I thought we struggled to score because of their size and physicality.”

Prior to the loss, the Minutemen were averaging 83.9 points per game and routinely had five guys in double-digit scoring. On Saturday, UMass was held to well below its season average in scoring and only had three guys reach double figures on offense.

Derrick Gordon led the Minutemen with 12 points, while Lalanne and Chaz Williams each recorded 10.

Despite the loss that could see UMass drop out of the national rankings come Monday, Kellogg is still excited about where his team is heading into the Christmas break.

“Anytime you can be 10-1 and go home and spend some time with your family, I think that’s a good place to be,” he said. “We’re just shooting for the stars. I’m disappointed. I thought we could be 11-0 going home for the holidays and coming back with Providence. The one thing with this team is that I honestly feel that we can win every game.”

The Minutemen have a week off before returning to action next Saturday against Providence at Mullins Center.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at pstrohec@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @P_Strohecker.

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