Lessons learned from UMass’ many losses

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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P.J. Stanley/Collegian

PHILADELPHIA – The Massachusetts men’s basketball team has a lot of losses this season.’

Sunday’s most recent defeat was one of the most damaging of those 17 setbacks, as UMass’ loss to La Salle has put the Minutemen in danger of failing to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Tournament with just two regular season games remaining.

There may be no such thing as a good loss, but UMass was pleased with the way the team battled back in a 97-88 defeat after trailing by 26 points with fewer than 12 minutes remaining against the Explorers.

‘It would have been extremely easy for guys to just give in and no one did. It doesn’t show in the win-loss column but it shows how far we’ve come,’ Tony Gaffney said after the game. ‘We haven’t had the season that we had hoped, but it says a lot about the character of our team.’

UMass coach Derek Kellogg liked what he saw from his team down the stretch in the loss.

‘I was proud of that, and it was a good learning lesson for our young guys ‘- that this is how we compete,’ Kellogg said. ‘And for the last couple games of the season ‘- and hopefully the Atlantic 10 Tournament ‘- that we don’t ever give up. Don’t quit. The team that plays the hardest the longest wins the game.’

UMass made two separate scoring runs (11-2 and 11-3) to make a game of it, cutting the La Salle lead to eight with just over a minute left to play ‘- but by then it was too late.

The switcheroo
Sunday’s lineup to start the second half looked a lot different than the one UMass started the game with.’

Considering how poorly his Minutemen played in all aspects of the game to trail 46-29 entering halftime, one could hardly blame Kellogg for benching three of his starters to begin the second half.

So out went Chris Lowe, Ricky Harris and Luke Bonner and in went Gary Correia, Anthony Gurley and David Gibbs.’

‘I was pretty candid with the team at halftime. It was definitely a statement,’ Kellogg said about the lineup change. ‘I thought those were the guys who competed in the first half and played at a level I expect. So I figured we’d play the guys who were playing the hardest.’

Harris picked up two early offensive fouls in the first half, and didn’t score a point in six minutes of action. Bonner had two points and no rebounds in nine minutes, while Lowe did better with six points and three assists in 17 minutes.

All three seemingly got Kellogg’s message, playing much better in the second half. Harris scored 20 points (all in the last 11 minutes, 12 seconds) to help lead the comeback charge; Bonner played much tougher inside with some big rebounds and Lowe helped direct a second-half offense that scored 59 points. Lowe had nine points and six assists after halftime.

‘It was great to watch Luke play like a 7-foot-1 guy in the second half ‘- rebounding the basketball and playing physical and tough,’ Kellogg said. ‘Luke did a good job in the second half anchoring our defense.’

Gaffney injury
Gaffney sat out much of the second half with tendonitis in his knees. Both he and Kellogg seemed optimistic that he will play in Wednesday night’s crucial matchup with George Washington.

‘His knees were bothering him and he wasn’t as effective as he’s been, so I opted to kind of rest him when we got down 20 [points],’ Kellogg said. ‘I feel confident he’ll play Wednesday.

‘He wasn’t as energetic and athletic as he’s been ‘- he just didn’t look right to what I’m accustomed to seeing out of him. A little ice and a little rest should get him ready for Wednesday.’

High-water mark
For the second straight game, the UMass defense allowed its opponent to score at least 90 points.’

La Salle‘s 97 points surpassed its previous high of 92 against Rider. The Explorers had only broken 80 points one other time in conference play, and that came in an overtime loss against Rhode Island. Both Rodney Green and Darryl Partin scored 30 points in the win. Partin came in with a scoring average of 2.3 points, with a previous career-high of 11.

Duquesne scored 94 against UMass on Feb. 25, marking its second-highest scoring output this season in conference play and highest in regulation.’

Gurley improving
Sophomore Anthony Gurley scored a season-high 20 points off the bench against La Salle. Gurley, who started the first 23 games of the season, really struggled in his first two games off the bench.’

But he has scored 38 points in his last two games, tying for the team-high in both contests.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected].