Staying Alive

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Brian Tedder, Collegian Staff

For the first time in team history, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team beat Richmond on the road. For the Minutemen, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

UMass defeated the Spiders, 78-74, Saturday night at the Robins Center in Richmond, Va., on the strength of five 3-pointers from both Ricky Harris and Etienne Brower. The Minutemen extended their winning streak to four games with the victory and helped their case to receive a possible at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re excited. This is a Richmond team that’s playing some of the best basketball in the conference,” UMass coach Travis Ford said after the game, in a phone interview for CBS3 in Springfield. “Any time you go on the road and beat a team like Richmond, it’s gratifying and very much needed.”

The Minutemen (19-9, 8-6 Atlantic 10) have two games left in the regular season; wins in each would secure a first-round bye for UMass in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which will be held at the Boardwalk Arena in Atlantic City, N.J., from March 12-15.

Richmond (15-12, 8-6 A-10) came out firing early, taking a quick 8-0 lead about two minutes into the game after two 3-pointers by David Gonzalvez. But UMass tied the game at 14-14 at the 13:20 mark in the first half and slowly pulled ahead and added to its lead as the game progressed.

The Minutemen were up by as much as 10 against Richmond (49-39, 16:31 left in the game), but the Spiders made a run late to give UMass a brief scare. After a lay-up by Richmond guard Kevin Anderson which cut the lead to 68-64, Gary Forbes helped secure the victory for UMass with a pair of timely rebounds.

Point guard Chris Lowe missed a jump shot after Anderson’s basket, but Forbes came up with the offensive rebound to keep the possession alive and run out some clock. Forbes was eventually fouled and hit both free throws, giving the Minutemen a 70-64 lead with 2:45 left in the contest.

The ensuing possession for the Spiders took 43 seconds and resulted in no points, as UMass took advantage of its foul to give. After the foul, the Spiders took the ball out of bounds, and Anderson missed a jumper 20 seconds later. Forbes corralled the rebound, and Lowe took all but two seconds off the shot clock before making a lay-up to give UMass an eight-point lead with 1:31 left.

The Spiders made consecutive lay-ups to cut the lead to four, but UMass iced the game with four free throws by Forbes in the final 20 seconds.

Harris led all scorers with 24 points, hitting 5-of-7 from long distance. Brower was even better from the perimeter, connecting on all but one of his six attempts. Both Brower and Forbes had 17 points and seven rebounds. Forbes has reached double figures in scoring in every game this season.

Gonzalvez led Richmond with 20 points, while three others reached double figures. Starting forward Kevin Smith didn’t score a point in 18 minutes of action.

The Minutemen had trouble in the turnover department, committing 15 which led to 25 points for the Spiders. But the 3-point performance by Brower and Harris, coupled with solid free throw shooting late, enabled UMass to hold on for the win.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]