Ford and Co. suffer letdown

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Saturday’s matchup against IUPUI epitomized what to expect from the Massachusetts basketball team this season.

From one game to the next – and even one half to the next – nobody knows which team will show up.

The UMass team that upset previously-ranked Syracuse at the Carrier Dome last week was back at it Saturday against the Jaguars during the first half. The Minutemen (5-2) held a 43-32 edge entering halftime with hot shooting and tough defense, limiting star Jaguars guard George Hill to four points.

But a whole new team came out of the locker room after intermission. The defense that UMass coach Travis Ford often worries about became a problem in the second half, as the Jaguars scored 57 points after halftime en route to a 89-77 victory in Indianapolis, Ind.

The Minuteman defense could not contain Hill in the second half, with the junior guard exploding for 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the final 20 minutes. He led all players with 30 points and 10 rebounds and tied Chris Lowe for a game-high eight assists. Jon Avery contributed 25 points off the bench for IUPUI (5-2), with 20 coming after halftime.

The Jaguars came out strong in the second half, using a 16-5 run to tie the game at 48. They took their first lead of the game since it was 2-0 when Hill hit a pair of free-throws to bring the score to 51-50. The game went back and forth and remained close until IUPUI used another scoring run to pull away from the Minutemen.

After UMass forward Gary Forbes converted on a lay-up to cut the IUPUI lead to 70-67 with 5:05 remaining, the Jaguars iced the game with a 15-to-5 run.

UMass struggled from the field after shooting 56.3 percent in the first half (18-for-32), with its second-half shooting percentage tailing off to 43.3 percent. The big difference was from 3-point range, as the Minutemen hit just 4-of-14 in the second half after connecting on 5-of-11 in the opening stanza.

The key in the second half was at the free-throw line. The Jaguars outscored UMass by 12 points in the second half at the charity stripe, with Hill hitting all but one of his 11 attempts. IUPUI was 16-18 in the half, while the Minutemen missed half of their eight shots. The Jaguars also had the advantage in the turnover department, limiting turnovers to nine overall and just four after halftime. UMass had 14 turnovers and was outscored 22-8 in points off turnovers.

The Minutemen had four players score in double-digits, with shooting guard Ricky Harris leading the way with 23 points. He hit four 3-pointers, including three in the second half. No other Minuteman had more than 12 points. Forbes had 12, Luke Bonner tied a career-high with 11 points and Dante Milligan continued his strong play with 10 points.

Point guard Chris Lowe struggled from the field (4-of-12) but handed out eight assists to go along with his nine points. UMass held its own in the low post, losing the rebounding battle by just two.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]