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May 4, 2017

End of game slip ups cost UMass men’s basketball in regular season finale

Jessica Picard/Collegian

Sometimes in order to win college basketball games, you have to be in the right place at the right time. Massachusetts men’s basketball center Malik Hines was in that exact position.

Trailing 56-54 to St. Bonaventure (19-11, 10-7 Atlantic 10) with 25 seconds remaining in the regular season finale, Zach Lewis shot a free throw that clanked off the rim and bounced over the fingers of an outstretched Denzil Gregg that landed right into Hines’ hands. A simple put back would have tied the game, but that’s not what happened. Hines lost control of the ball and it trickled out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Bonnies.

St. Bonaventure went on to beat UMass (14-17, 4-14 A-10) 60-56 and clinch the No. 5 seed in the A-10 tournament in Pittsburgh next week.

Hines’ end of the game blunder essentially marked the end of what was a career game for the sophomore big. Hines was able to put together a double-double scoring 15 points and bringing down 13 rebounds.

“I kind of went with the guys that I thought were playing real well,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said to WEEI Springfield. “I thought Chris Baldwin was great. I thought Ty Flowers did some good things for our freshmen. Malik Hines was fantastic tonight, he actually had that game-winning rebound that he could have put back in.”

Baldwin played his best game of the season scoring a career-high 10 points while picking up seven rebounds. The freshman forward, who usually averages eight minutes a game, was on the floor for 32 minutes, longer than any other Minuteman Saturday afternoon.

To mention the Minutemen’s poor shooting percentage especially from beyond the 3-point line seems repetitive. However, unlike the Minutemen’s last game against Richmond, the Bonnies were equally as bad from the field, if not worse.

Once again the few 3-pointers that the Minutemen made came out of the hands of a single player. Though this time instead of Luwane Pipkins it was Flowers. The freshman forward was 2-for-3 from 3-point range and the Minutemen were 2-for-13 as a team.

“We’ve have five or six chances in games like these and it just seems like the ball doesn’t bounce our way,” Kellogg said. “I know we made a mistake when down four at the end. We had a wide-open layup and kicked it off of our foot. I am kind of at a loss a little bit because I thought we played really hard and did some decent stuff. We’re right there and it just hasn’t happen. We just haven’t gotten over that hump yet.”

Against Richmond, the inability to slow down the Spiders’ 3-pointers proved to be what cost UMass the game. The same could not be said against St. Bonaventure. Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams combined for just 1-for-9 from deep.

“I still thought we made [Adams] work for every point,” Kellogg said. “He had 17 points and went 2-for-11 from the field, Mobley was 1-7. You couldn’t ask for a better defensive game plan.”

Despite his poor shooting performance, Adams would still finish with 17 points, hitting all 12 of his free throws.

UMass struggled to close the game out in the final few minutes. After a Donte Clark layup extended the Minutemen lead to 49-46 with 5:15 left, UMass would make only three of its final nine shots. The Bonnies took advantage of the Minutemen’s missed opportunities and capitalized on their own.

UMass’ inability to score allowed St. Bonaventure to take the lead. Though the lead never exceeded more than four, it was enough to force UMass to foul the Bonnies and send them to the free throw line, where they were excellent all afternoon. The Bonnies made 10-of-12 free throws in the final five minutes, helping them hold their lead and secure the win.

“I did think the 24 free throws kind of sealed it at the end there,” Kellogg said. “A few plays where it just didn’t go our way.”

St. Joseph’s 63-60 victory over Duquesne secured UMass’ spot as the No. 12 seed in the A-10 tournament. UMass will face the Hawks at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 in the first round.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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