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May 8, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falters in the second half, falling to George Washington 83-67 Thursday

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

Coming into Thursday night’s Massachusetts men’s basketball game against George Washington, all eyes were on Colonials’ Tyler Cavanaugh. UMass would have to contain the forward if it wanted to come away with a victory.

Cavanaugh did just as he was expected posting a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds en route to 83-67 GW win. However, it was a graduate student from the Great White North that unexpectedly stole the show Thursday night at the Smith Center.

Patrick Steeves, a Harvard graduate pursing a masters of science in business analytics, came into the matchup averaging 5.0 points per game. Thursday night Steeves put that Harvard education to good use, surprising UMass (13-15, 3-12 Atlantic 10) as he went for a career-high 26 points and added five rebounds and five assists.

The Montreal, Quebec native’s effort played a large part in GW’s win over the Minutemen.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg gave credit where credit was due in regards to Steeves’ performance.

“They were able to throw him the ball in the post and he was able to use his crafty moves and kind of dominate the game from that point,” Kellogg said.

The Minutemen came out of the gate strong against the Colonials (15-13, 7-8 A-10), even heading into halftime with a 40-38 lead, but the second half was a completely different story for this struggling UMass team. GW ceased control with an 18-2 run over a seven-minute stretch and outscored the Minutemen by 18 points in the second half.

“Our offense was suspect at best in the second half with how many points we scored,” Kellogg said. “There was about four or five loose balls that they came up with that are killers. Here we go, we end up losing on the road when I thought we played with more energy and more oomph at the beginning of the game.”

Realizing that the Colonials big men, in particular Steeves and Cavanaugh, were taking advantage of his defenders down low, Kellogg elected to go with bigger lineup to combat the effect, but it was to no avail.

Kellogg knew the defensive effort on that duo was not up to par for UMass.

“If they can’t cover, you can’t keep them in the game,” Kellogg said about the Minutemen’s struggles. “If you can’t stop those guys, then offensively we’re somewhat limited.”

Rashaan Holloway was one of those big men who were not consistent defensively. Earlier this week, GW coach Maurice Joseph made sure to note the importance of keeping Holloway in check and his Colonials did just that Thursday. Holloway was held to just seven points and four rebounds.

Holloway and junior guard Donte Clark were expected to carry the load for the Minutemen, but both didn’t play their best against GW.

“Rashaan can’t have seven and four, Donte can’t have one rebound,” Kellogg said. “Those are the guys we’re kind of relying on to be our rocks for the team here. They have to come and play every single day. Those are our sophomore and junior older leaders.”

Not all was negative for UMass against the Colonials. Guard Zach Lewis paced the team with 16 points in the first half. Freshman DeJon Jarreau added 12 points and kept his turnover problem in check with just two.

UMass will look to right the ship and gain some momentum heading toward the A-10 tournament just two weeks away, as they take on La Salle Sunday at the Mullins Center. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.

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