UMass falls to Duquesne

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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P.J. Stanley/Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team and Duquesne appeared more interested in having a 3-point contest rather than an actual game for much of Wednesday night’s matchup.

But while the Minutemen insisted on launching shots from all directions, the Dukes competed in their own dunk contest ‘- slamming home the Minutemen in a 94-77 win on UMass’ home floor.

The Minutemen hit a school-record 16, 3-pointers, but the Dukes countered with 12 of their own and absolutely pounded UMass down-low with seven dunks and 14 layups en route a 42-20 edge in points in the paint to earn the victory.

‘It looked like one team was just superior athletically ‘- they were flying and we were not running as fast,’ UMass coach Derek Kellogg said after the game. ‘And if we weren’t going to be able to take advantage of the inside game with our size, then we may as well play four, five guards ourselves.’

The Minutemen (10-16, 5-8 Atlantic 10) got off to a fast start hitting nearly every 3-pointer, but the Dukes tied the game at 31 before going on a 13-1 run to build momentum and take a lead they would never lose.

‘We gave them this game. We didn’t even fight, they just came and swept us off the court,’ UMass point guard Chris Lowe said.

The Dukes (17-9, 8-5 A-10) led by as many 21 points with 13 minutes, 22 seconds left in the second half, but the Minutemen made things interesting going on a 26-15 spurt to cut the lead to 10 points with 4:44 left. But a Jason Duty 3-pointer and a Damian Saunders dunk laterforced the Minutemen to leave the Mullins Center with their seventh home loss of the season.

‘It’s very frustrating. One thing I want to be able to do is play well at home, hold home court advantage, be tough and have teams not want to come in here,’ Kellogg said. ‘I would say right now teams come in here and think it’s going to be a shootout, we’re going to be able to score points and have a free pass to play a wide open game.’

In addition to having problems at home, UMass can’t string together consecutive wins. Wednesday night’s loss marks the fifth straight failed opportunity for the Minutemen to claim back-to-back games. The last time they won in that situation was against IUPUI on Dec. 27 to extend their winning streak to four.

Duquesne continued that streak while ending one of its own, having lost 11 consecutive times at UMass. And the Dukes did it despite the Minutemen hitting 16-for-35 from 3-point range.

UMass can blame that on 20 turnovers, and Duquesne’s dominance in the paint, where it outscored the Minutemen 13-0 on second-chance points and 48-20 on 2-point field goals.

‘They really get out and run. It was hard at times picking up guys and matching up,’ said Anthony Gurley, who led the Minutemen with 18 points off the bench. ‘We really need to communicate more and I think that’s what led to some of their easy baskets in transition.’

The Minutemen got burned on backdoor cuts and the pick-and-roll, something Kellogg worked on his team with during practice this week.

‘Our guys didn’t execute,’ Kellogg said. ‘[Duquesne] went with the most basic of basketball ‘- they went high, middle pick-and-roll and they scored continuously on that. I hope no other team is watching that DVD.’

Five different Dukes scored in double figures, led by Bill Clark (22 points, eight rebounds, eight assists), Saunders (18) and Aaron Jackson, who had 17 points and nine assists. Ricky Harris had 14, while Matt Glass and Lowe each added 12. Lowe also had 11 assists, but turned it over six times.

After Sunday’s thrilling last-second victory over Saint Joseph‘s at the Palestra in Philadelphia, UMass thought the win could be a turning point in what has been a difficult season. But the Minutemen suffered another setback against Duquesne, falling to 10th in the conference.

UMass travels back to Philadelphia on Sunday for a road tilt against La Salle (14-12, 5-7 A-10), a team they lost to, 62-54, on Jan. 24 at the Mullins Center.

Game notes

Tony Gaffney (eight points, 10 rebounds) had three steals and two blocks for the Minutemen. He became the first player to have at least 100 blocks (107) and 50 steals (51) in a season since Duke’s Shelden Williams in 2005-06. He’s only the sixth to do it since the 1996-97 season. ‘hellip; The 17-point win for Duquesne was its
largest ever against UMass in Amherst. ‘hellip; The Dukes are off to their best start since 1981. ‘hellip; Their 28 assists are a season-high and mark the sixth-highest total in school history. ‘hellip; Duquesne had 11 steals.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached [email protected]