Minutemen’s season ends in blowout loss to Dayton

By Herb Scribner

Before Tuesday night’s game, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team thought it held an advantage in hosting a first round Atlantic 10 conference tournament game.

For the Minutemen, those sentiments could not have been more wrong.

UMass fell, 78-50, to Dayton in a game that knocked the Minutemen out of the Atlantic 10 tournament and more than likely ended its season.

“It hurt a lot, we didn’t want the season to end like this, we wanted to keep playing,” said sophomore guard Freddie Riley. “You always want to end the season with a win, it hurts.”

While Riley was first to speak in the postgame press conference, senior guard Gary Correia had similar sentiments to Riley seconds later.

“I know [there are] only three or four teams that end their season with a win,” Correia said, who was visibly upset. “I just knew I didn’t want to go out like that. I’m lost for words man. If we had another chance to play again, I would.”

Correia went on to say that if he had the chance to compete at midnight, he would get out on the court and play the game against the Flyers all over again.

“I’m not sure if the guys were nervous, if Dayton was that good tonight, it was ugly on some different fronts,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “I think they may have lost [some confidence].”

Riley, who entered the game with four minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the first half, provided life to the ailing Minutemen offense with 15 points. While Riley made small dents into the Dayton lead, most of his contributions gave life to the crowd.

Senior guard Anthony Gurley led the team at the end of the first half with 10 points, but after an apparent injury early in the second half, never returned to the game.

“Anthony’s hurt and a little banged up,” said Kellogg after the game.

The offense struggled mightily throughout the entire game, shooting 18-for-64 from the field. The charity stripe wasn’t kind to the Minutemen either as they shot just over 42 percent.

The Flyers found success from forward Luke Fabrizius and guards Juwan Staten and Brandon Spearman. While the trio shot over 59 percent from the field, forward Chris Wright also helped out with 10 points, a clear difference from the six points he scored against UMass earlier in the season.

While the game started off with defensive pressure from both sides, similar to the last contest between the two on Jan. 9, UMass’ offense failed to compete successfully when the game opened up. The Minutemen could not find the net with the 29 shots they took in the first, including shooting a dismal 2-for-15 from beyond the arc.

Gurley headed the Minutemen offense in the first, continuing his hot streak. Despite 4-for-12 shooting (2-for-7 from beyond the arc), Gurley led the team with 10 points in the opening half. It wasn’t a pretty 10 points either, as Gurley often found himself struggling to get to the rim.

Gurley was the only Minuteman to have more than two points at the end of the first half.

It wasn’t only the offense that struggled for the Minutemen, as their defense couldn’t find a way to maintain the Flyers. Dayton shot over 54 percent from the field and 70 percent from the perimeter. Fabrizius and Spearman shot lights out for the Flyers, going a combined 5-for-6 from the 3-point line in the first half.

The loss rounds up a season that saw the Minutemen have their best start since the 1995-96 season at 7-0, and will be the final career game for Gurley, Correia and center Hashim Bailey if the Minutemen do not accept an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational.

“We had some bumps in the road obviously,” said Kellogg. “We didn’t play the way we wanted to especially the last few games. I’m not sure if playing another tournament or game is going to help us.”

Dayton will head to Atlantic City, N.J., to face No. 23 Xavier.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]