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May 7, 2016

UMass basketball dominates glass to overcome poor shooting in win over URI

Taylor C. Snow/Daily Collegian

Taylor C. Snow/Daily Collegian

It’s not often that a team can win a game that comes down to the wire when that team shoots as poorly as the Minutemen did on Wednesday night.

But that’s exactly what happened for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, as they scrapped their way to a 70-67 win over Rhode Island at the Mullins Center.

One way to counteract a poor shooting performance is to dominate the glass, which UMass did. They outrebounded the Rams by a 41-28 margin—the main ingredient that helped the team claw its way back from a 13-point first-half deficit to eventually take the lead just before halftime.

“I thought we scrapped on the boards,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We hit the boards pretty hard, and some of it was we missed some pretty easy ones that we were right around the rim. But I do think the guys did a nice job crashing the glass on both ends of the floor.”

The Minutemen shot an abysmal 39 percent from the floor in the game, but came away with numerous second-chance opportunities that helped cancel out several misses early in the game.

UMass failed to score in its first eight shots, but continued to find itself in a position to win, thanks to constant pressure on the glass. The team managed 16 second-chance points in the game, nearly twice as many as URI’s nine.

“Obviously (UMass) had a huge advantage on the backboard, specifically in the first half,” Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. “(We) probably should’ve been up seven or eight at the half, but they really hurt us on the backboard.”

The rebounding margins were all in the Minutemen’s favor, owning an 18-6 offensive rebound differential, while also grabbing one defensive board more (23) than the Rams (22).

Derrick Gordon led all players with 10 rebounds, including seven on the defensive end. The ability for him and the rest of UMass to swarm the glass after a missed URI shot was a big factor in limiting the Rams’ scoring output, who shot 50 percent on the night.

But just as important as the defensive rebounds was Sampson Carter’s team-high four offensive boards for the Minutemen. He attacked the glass after missed shots, consistently limiting the number of empty possessions.

Once the Minutemen started knocking down shots, the ferocious play on the glass continued, and with the game tight after 20 minutes of play, the players knew that they needed to play better to close out another game.

“At halftime we were just talking about how we needed to come out in the first four minutes,” Gordon said. “We threw the first punch and we capitalized on a lot of points we should’ve capitalized on in the first half.”

The game was intense throughout and whoever was going to win wasn’t going to do it the easy way, or the pretty way. The disparity in rebounding and second-chance points was the reason why UMass came out victorious.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Hurley said. “But what showed through was their physicality.”

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

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