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December 30, 2016

UMass basketball falls short at Richmond

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

In its first three Atlantic 10 games, the No. 13 Massachusetts men’s basketball team needed second half comebacks to avoid getting upset.

On Wednesday night, UMass’ Cinderella performances finally ran out, as it fell on the road to Richmond 58-55, prompting the students at Robins Center to storm the court as time expired.

Despite shooting only 40 percent from the field, the Minutemen (16-2, 3-1 A-10) still had a chance to tie the game on their final possession, but Chaz Williams missed a pull-up 3-pointer with three seconds remaining. The Spiders (13-6, 3-1 A-10) grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock, disrupting UMass’ six-game winning streak and handing the team its second loss of the season.

“I thought it was a good college basketball game,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said in a radio interview following the game. “I wish we could’ve made that three-pointer at the end, or got one more trap and a turnover. I’ll say it again, on the road in our conference, (Richmond) is a good basketball team. They’re probably an NCAA Tournament-level team and they beat us tonight. They won the game.”

The Minutemen came out slow to start the game and had to play catch up for the entire first half. UMass shot an abysmal 17 percent from the field and scored only 22 points in the half, but only found itself down by five.

“We just didn’t come up with those defensive rebounds, lay-ups, or wide-open 3 makes that we’ve become accustomed to,” Kellogg said. “For us to be good, or really good, or whatever you want to call it, we have to have a bunch of those a night that gets us some easy, free points.”

While the deficit was nothing insurmountable, it still wasn’t an encouraging sign for the Minutemen, who had slow starts to open the second half in each of their first three conference games. However, this time UMass came out on an 8-2 run to begin the second half, erasing the Richmond lead and gaining its first lead of the game with just over 17 minutes left in the contest.

But just as the Minutemen appeared to have found their groove, they lost it again. The Spiders answered UMass’ run with a 9-2 run of their own to open up a six-point lead.

Richmond opened up its largest lead of the game with just over six minutes remaining at 50-42, but like the Minutemen have done all season, they kept fighting back.

UMass’ Trey Davis hit a jumper with 13 seconds left to cut the Spiders’ lead to 56-55. Cedrick Lindsay responded with two free throws with 10 seconds left, so the Minutemen needed a three-pointer to send the game to overtime. Williams got a good look, but he couldn’t knock it down to prevent the upset.

Kendall Anthony paced the way for the Richmond with a game-high 21 points, while Sampson Carter kept UMass in the game late with a team-high 15 points.

The hardest part about Wednesday’s loss could very well be the impact of having the court stormed after the defeat. It’s been nearly two decades since the Minutemen have been a team worthy of a court-storming and is something that Kellogg hopes his team can mentally get over.

“Our guys got to realize, the toughest thing now is the fans rush the floor,” he said. “The team in the (other) locker room sounded like they won the National Championship Game …. This is their biggest game on their schedule and you saw with the way the fans rushed the floor after the game.”

This was a rough way for UMass to wrap up its three-game road trip, but it can now look ahead to Sunday’s game at home against a last-place Fordham squad. It will be the first time in 18 days that the Minutemen will play at Mullins Center, where they are 7-0 on the season.

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

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