Minutemen out-fox Marist in victory

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Brian Tedder/Collegian Staff

UMass vs Marist Audio Slideshow

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Trailing, 58-52, with just over eight minutes remaining, Massachusetts forward Tony Gaffney told his teammates that losing against Marist would be unacceptable.

Gaffney proceeded to use his arms to back up his mouth, helping lead the Minutmen to a 83-68 victory with an impressive defensive display Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“When we were down 58-52, I brought the team together and told them, ‘we are not losing this game,'” Gaffney said after the game. “Everybody looked at me and agreed and we decided we were going to win the game on the defensive end. We ended the game on a 34-10 run, and that was the end of the story.”

Gaffney blocked five shots – all in the second half – leading to easy UMass field goals in transition. His biggest play came with the Minutemen (6-2) up two points, with under five minutes left in the game.

Marist’s Louie McCroskey (22 points) drove the lane looking for the game-tying basket. The 6-foot-8 Gaffney swatted away any chance of that, with the blocked shot going to teammate Gary Forbes – who found a streaking Ricky Harris up the court.

Harris went the distance of the floor, coming away with a 3-point play after he was fouled by Jay Gavin on the lay-up. After a McCroskey missed shot, the Minutemen extended the lead to seven on a pair of free throws by Chris Lowe and to 10 when Etienne Brower hit a shot from well beyond the 3-point line on the ensuing possession. Brower’s shot capped an 18-2 run by the Minutemen.

“Tony was terrific tonight; every time they were coming into the lane he was sending it the other way and starting the fast break for us,” Forbes said.

“It was a true case of the first time this year where our defense was the reason we won,” UMass coach Travis Ford said. “Our defense in the last eight minutes fueled our offense, and we haven’t been able to say that much this year.”

Lowe led all scorers with a career-high 23 points and handed out six assists after not recording one in the first half. Harris and Forbes each had 18 points, with all but two coming in the second half for Harris. Forbes added 11 rebounds for the double-double, and also assisted on five baskets.

McCroskey added 11 rebounds for his own double-double, but the Red Foxes (6-4) lost for the first time in six games. They kept the game close until the end, finally succumbing to their 22 turnovers and 10 missed free throws.

UMass missed 14 foul shots (23-of-37) but still outscored Marist by 15 at the charity stripe. The Red Foxes shot rather well from beyond the arc (8-of-17) while the Minutemen didn’t (6-of-22), but the 29-to-14 edge on points off of turnovers for UMass was too much to overcome for Marist.

“I thought their ball pressure was the difference in the game, [in addition to] our lack of poise against pressure,” Marist coach Matt Brady said. “I knew that was going to be the story of the game. We got the lead in the second half and we had two straight turnovers. The momentum completely changed and we never got it back.”

Marist held a six-point lead at 58-52 with just over eight minutes left to play, but the Minutemen scored six straight points to tie the game a minute later. After a missed shot by the Red Foxes, Forbes was fouled hard on a lay-up by Ryan Stillphen – a player he jawed with earlier in the game.

The Marist bench erupted after the call against Stillphen, and was called for a technical foul – sending Forbes to the line for four shots at taking the lead.

After the first two attempts missed short, Forbes overcompensated and hit the back rim on his third try. Finally on the fourth free throw, Forbes connected and gave the Minutemen the 1-point lead – a lead they never relinquished.

Lowe played a nearly flawless game in the victory, missing only one of his nine free throw attempts, connecting on his one 3-pointer and hitting 7-of-13 from the floor. Most impressively, Lowe didn’t commit a single turnover in 32 minutes of playing time.

“He doesn’t go into a game wanting to lead us in scoring, but tonight presented itself and we needed every single point he scored,” Ford said. “We needed him to lead us in scoring tonight and he did that. That’s the sign of a great point guard, not a good point guard.”

“It’s amazing at the speed he plays that he did not turn the ball over. That’s amazing.”

The first half was played at a slower pace by both teams, with the score tied at 32 entering the break. There were seven lead changes and nine ties in the opening stanza. UMass scored 51 points in the second half.

UMass’s next game is against Boston College (6-1) on Wednesday night in Chestnut Hill.

Game notes

Freshman Sedale Jones made his first appearance of the season in the first half for the Minutemen, registering two fouls and a steal in three minutes of play