UMass basketball downed by Florida Gulf Coast 84-75

By Andrew Cyr

Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

SPRINGFIELD — As time was winding down in Sunday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University, the entire Massachusetts men’s basketball team – players and coaches included – sat and watched in disbelief and disgust.

Some of the players sat with their hands to their faces, while others couldn’t even look up from the ground as the Minutemen fell 84-75 to the Eagles at MassMutual Center.

“Everyone just needs to look in the mirror,” Cady Lalanne said. “We still need to find our identity.”

Tied at 40 with 17 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the game, FGCU guard Brett Comer found a wide-open Bernard Thompson on the wing to give the Eagles a 43-40 lead. That’s when Thompson got hot and things went into a downward spiral for the Minutemen.

Over the next 11:06, Thompson hit four more 3-pointers, three of which came in transition off of UMass’ full-court press after made baskets by the Minutemen. Thompson’s 3-pointer sparked a 16-5 run to which UMass couldn’t answer.

“We just couldn’t get stops,” Lalanne said.

The Eagles finished 10-for-18 from behind the arc, including 5-of-9 in the second half. Thompson was 6-for-8 from 3 after shooting 1-of-7 from the field in the first half.

“I’ll have nightmares about (the transition 3-pointers),” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “Those were killers. It looked like whenever we were about to go on a little run, they hit like five or six in a row.”

Although it was Thompson’s shooting that prevented UMass from clawing its way back into the game, it was Comer who orchestrated the offensive outbreak, finishing with 14 assists, tying his career high. Comer entered Sunday’s game as the NCAA active career assist leader with 667.

Along with Thompson’s 18 points, FGCU received adequate help across the board as Jamail Jones finished with 16 points, while Julian DeBose and Marc-Eddy Norelia chipped in with 15 each.

Donte Clark led the Minutemen with a game-high 25 points off the bench after struggling Tuesday night against Louisiana State.

Clark scored 16 of UMass’ 33 points in the first half and was a perfect 3-for-3 from deep and 5-of-5 at the free throw line. Clark was the lone bright spot in the first half, as UMass once again opened the game with another slow start, shooting just 1-10 from the floor. Its first field goal didn’t come until the 11:45 mark of the first half when Tyler Bergantino tipped in a missed Trey Davis jump shot to cut the FGCU lead to 11-6.

Kellogg attributed the Minutemen’s lack of offense to their inability to get stops on the defensive end.

“It wasn’t a particular play, we need to get back to our identity of playing hard and competing on every possession…we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board to make sure these guys play a little tougher,” Kellogg said.

UMass lead the game for 16 seconds when Gordon’s floater of the glass broke the 38-38 tie 1:18 into the second half. However, the Eagles matched the basket on the next possession by Nate Hicks. Despite Hicks only finishing with six points and six rebounds, Eagles coach Joe Dooley said that his defense on Lalanne was a key factor in their win. Hicks held Lalanne to just nine points and six rebounds.

Jabarie Hinds started for the first time the season after Seth Berger missed the game with a left foot injury. Kellogg was hopeful that having Hinds in the lineup would open up Davis on the wing to get more open looks. Davis shot just 2-of-8 and split the pair of 3-pointers he took.

The Minutemen will look to end their three-game losing streak on Dec. 13 when they host Canisius at 4 p.m.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.