Memphis proves too much to handle

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg wished he could have cloned Tony Gaffney Monday night against No. 12 Memphis.

Anyone big enough to battle with the Tigers inside would have been just fine, as a thin UMass frontcourt couldn’t contend in an 80-58 loss to Memphis against former UMass coach and Kellogg mentor John Calipari at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.

“I just want to say how unbelievable I thought Tony Gaffney played tonight: 16 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks – we just needed one more Tony Gaffney out there, a guy who could do all the little things,” Kellogg said after the game.

The Minutemen played without 7-foot-1 starting center Luke Bonner (sprained knee) and lost 6-foot-7 reserve forward Matt Hill (left leg) early in the second half. The Tigers made UMass pay down-low, scoring 52 points in the paint.

“Boy I’ll tell you, I thought we were thin before the season started with anyone 6-foot-6 or over. Calling all students, calling all students,” Kellogg joked.

Both teams struggled from the floor and with turnovers, but UMass’ 23 giveaways led to a 24-4 Memphis edge in points off turnovers – and the easy Memphis victory.

The Minutemen (1-2) made it tough on the Tigers (2-0) defensively, keeping the game close – and even jumping out to an early lead – before entering halftime down 33-25. But Memphis’ talent and athleticism came out in the second half as the Minutemen wore down physically.

“I thought we did a great job in the first half. If the ball had bounced the right way a few times, it could have been a little closer,” Kellogg said. “Memphis is a really long, talented and athletic team – they go 10-11 [players] deep and all those guys are top 50 high school players, let’s call it the way it is.”

Gaffney’s stellar performance on both ends of the floor and Ricky Harris’ 12 first-half points kept UMass in the game entering the break. Even with 15 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, UMass was down just eight points thanks to 34.2 percent shooting from Memphis, including 1-of-11 from 3-point range.

“There were some things on the turnover part that I just couldn’t believe we did. It’s what gave the game away,” Kellogg said.

Memphis shot better in the second half to pull away, led by the 19 points from freshman sensation Tyreke Evans. Robert Dozier added 18 points and Antonio Anderson had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

UMass point guard Chris Lowe struggled for the second straight game, scoring just five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Lowe, who had 10 turnovers and no assists in his last game against Southern Illinois, had three assists and five turnovers.

With the victory, Calipari became the all-time winningest coach at Memphis with 221, eclipsing the previous mark set by Larry Finch. But both Calipari and Kellogg, who played under Calipari at UMass and served under him as an assistant at Memphis for eight years, were honored by the crowd.

“Absolutely. It felt great,” Kellogg said about getting a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,254 at the FedEx Forum. “It felt like they appreciated the eight years of service I gave to the Memphis program and the university. It was kind of surreal walking out, seeing all sorts of family, friends and former players out here. But when the game got started you kind of forget you’re at the FedEx Forum.”

Despite the poor shooting (20-for-66, 30 percent) and 23 turnovers, Kellogg was mostly pleased with his team’s effort against a much more physical and talented team.

“To come over as banged up as we are, as inexperienced as we are, putting in a new system and really expecting to win may be a little farfetched,” Kellogg said. “But I did expect for us to compete and play hard, and I thought at times – maybe not for the full 40 minutes – but for 30 minutes of the game we did compete.”

UMass has a full week off before its home opener Nov. 24 against Jacksonville State. Bonner isn’t expected back until mid-December, and Kellogg didn’t seem optimistic after the game that Hill will be available anytime soon.

“From all indications, it wasn’t real good what happened to him tonight. He may have torn his Achilles [tendon] again,” Kellogg said.

Game notes

Memphis finished 2-of-19 from 3-point range in the game (10.5 percent). UMass was 20.8 percent (5-of-24).