Second-half offensive attack beats UM

By Jay Asser

In its loss to Atlantic 10 foe Richmond, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team had the tough task of defending a Spiders’ offense which went off for 51 of their 84 points in the second half.

After an Anthony Gurley 3-pointer with time expiring in the opening period, the Minutemen (11-7, 3-2 A-10) were down six points heading into halftime.

Following intermission, however, Richmond connected on eight of its first nine shots from the field, including a putback dunk by Kevin Smith on its only misfire in that stretch. The run increased the Spiders’ lead to 19 points as they went on to a comfortable win, 84-68.

While allowing an offense to get into a rhythm would be detrimental against any opponent, UMass coach Derek Kellogg knows it hurts even more when it’s against an experienced and well-coached squad.

“It was a combination of them going, like I said, 9-of-10 from the floor and us giving away some opportunities were key when they went up in a short period of time,” Kellogg said after the loss. “They scored seven straight to go up 13, against a good team, a good senior-laden team, you can’t have that happen.”

The style of offense Richmond ran relied on cutting, coming off of picks and a disciplined passing attack, which requires patience. That style gave the Minutemen problems and often led to open shooters on the perimeter, which the Spiders took advantage of.

Even when Kellogg tried to throw off Richmond’s offense by switching to a press, the Spiders had little trouble beating it with quick passes.

“That’s a very untraditional offense, one that, when you have guys that have been in it for four and five years, it’s very effective,” Kellogg said. “When they’re cutting hard and they’re making 3’s, it’s almost impossible to defend.”

“They run their set offense, but they can do a lot of stuff off [of] their offense,” Javorn Farrell said. “We saw their offense earlier in the year against Boston College and they had trouble defending them like we did today.”

The loss marked the third most points allowed by UMass this season, behind 104 to Seton Hall and 92 to Central Connecticut.

Against the Pirates, the Minuteman defense allowed a record for points in a game at the Mullins Center behind 11-of-22 shooting from long range. Similar to the loss against Richmond, UMass had to deal with a run by the opposition which extended the lead from six points to 17 points midway through the second half.

Central Connecticut was also propelled by a run which allowed them to defeat the Minutemen. In the first nine minutes of that contest, the Blue Devils outscored UMass, 33-9, including 17 consecutive points. Central Connecticut was on fire from deep, converting 8-of-13 shots from 3-point land. The early run put the Minutemen in hole which they couldn’t climb out of, as they went to lose, 92-63.

Overall, UMass has struggled against offenses which put a lot of pressure on perimeter defenses. Gurley saw that problem in the loss to the Spiders.

“The continuity of [Richmond’s] offense, it’s kind of tough to defend,” Gurley said. “They put you in a lot of spots where you’re forced to help, which creates matchup problems and stuff like that…That still doesn’t make an excuse for us. We have to come out with more defensive effort and more intensity.”

Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]