Spider-bitten

By Herb Scribner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Since Atlantic 10 play began, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team adopted a style of play that saw its prolific scorer Anthony Gurley work with the rest of the team in a pass-oriented offense. This was not the case on Saturday afternoon against Richmond.

On Saturday at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen (11-7, 3-2 A-10) could not get their new offensive structure going, falling to the Spiders, 84-68.

“They’re a good team, very disciplined and have a very good indication of what they want to do on the floor,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

“We felt like we didn’t do a lot of things we should have done offensively,” sophomore guard Javorn Farrell said.

Gurley, contrary to earlier A-10 games this season, towered over the Minutemen offensive with 30 points, exploding for six scores from beyond the arc on 9-for-22 shooting and being the driving force behind much of UMass’ points in the second half.

At one point in the game, Richmond (14-5, 3-1 A-10) had a 23-point advantage over the Minutemen until the Maroon and White caught fire and stormed out with an 11-1 run to bring the game closer. It was close as the Minutemen could get however, with the Spiders mustering points off heavy fouling by UMass late in the game.

“We thought we could still comeback and win,” Farrell said. “We could have brought it to single digits … We always thought that we were in it.”

Farrell was second on the team in scoring behind Gurley with 16 points. Not only did Farrell display highly-skilled offensive moves (four assists), but on the defensive side Farrell made an impact with a thunderous block and five rebounds throughout the contest.

The pairing of Gurley and Farrell wasn’t able to muster enough energy to put off Richmond’s four double-digit scoring players in Dan Geriot (24), Justin Harper (21), Darien Brothers (17) and Kevin Smith (11).

“Their starting five really played well tonight,” Kellogg said.

Richmond opened up the second half with a 7-0 run in just over a minute and a half to pull away from UMass. This run was enough insurance that the Spiders never had to look back.

“They came out on fire and they were hitting [and] contesting shots,” Farrell said.

“It was an uphill battle for the rest of the half and we weren’t able to withstand it,” Gurley said.

The dominance by the Spiders in the early part of the second half was seen quite clearly when Kevin Smith lifted high above the Minutemen defense to dunk away a putback opportunity.

The Spiders’ high level of play continued throughout the rest of the half with 17-for-27 shooting, including 5-for-7 from Brothers and 8-for-12 from Geriot.

“The continuity of their offense is kind of tough to defend,” Gurley said. “It puts you in a lot of spots where you’re forced to help.”

The game kicked off with an oddity of a first half, with neither team finding a rhythm on the court. Similar to recent UMass games, the Minutemen held off the Spiders from making any scoring runs or fluid offensive possessions.

For the first 20 minutes, the affair turned into hard-nosed battle with missed shots and failed scoring opportunities on both sides. While UMass failed to convert on its tip-ins off missed shots, Richmond couldn’t find a way to put away 3-point shots, going 4-for-14.

Gurley kept the Minutemen (and the crowd) alive in the first half with 13 points, which included four scores from beyond the arc. He drained his final 3-pointer of the first half with little time remaining to send UMass into the locker room down six points.

Gurley also led the team in rebounds at the end of the half with four. UMass had the slight edge over the Spiders with a 18-17 advantage, with seven of its rebounds being on the offensive side of the floor. These rebounds aided the Minutemen in continuing to score from the paint (10 points).

Despite suffering its second loss in five games, the Minutemen remain hopeful that its upcoming schedule, including Wednesday’s upcoming affair at Saint Bonaventure, can provide them relief.

“I honestly think we can play anybody in our league,” Farrell said. “I think on any given night we can beat anyone in our conference.”

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]