UMass falls short, lacks energy in 82-71 loss to Saint Joseph’s

By Mark Chiarelli

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Cady Lalanne shouted at no one in particular as Jabarie Hinds grimaced. Demetrius Dyson trudged off the floor, his eyes fixated on the ground. The fans that hadn’t bolted early did so now, even as seconds continued to tick off the clock.

It was over.

Coming off the most taxing week of its season, the Minutemen hoped to respond at home against Saint Joseph’s. They couldn’t – instead falling victim to a standout individual performance in an 82-71 loss Wednesday night at the Mullins Center.

St. Joe’s (12-15, 6-9 Atlantic 10 Conference) coach Phil Martelli said he questioned which team would have the requisite “spirit” needed to win leading up to the game, as both teams entered on two-game losing streaks to quality conference opponents.

It was clear that the Minutemen are still looking for theirs.

“There are no excuses this time of year,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I would say we didn’t play our most energized game of the year.”

It didn’t help the Minutemen (16-12, 9-6 A-10) had to expend significant energy defending Hawks forward DeAndre Bembry – a player Kellogg said is one of the best in the conference.

He scored 33 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and added four assists, playing all 40 minutes in the win. He emphatically capped the victory with 55 seconds left, finishing a dunk in transition following a UMass turnover to make it 80-71.

On cue, hordes of stunned fans took off for the exits.

“We tried to do a lot of different things,” Kellogg said of defending Bembry. “We doubled him a bunch. He got free a few times that was uncharacteristic on verbal instances when guys didn’t speak loud enough and he got open.”

Once Bembry found success, it opened up outlets for other teammates. The Hawks shot 9-of-13 (69 percent) on 3-pointers as a team despite shooting just 29 percent as a team entering the game.

UMass shot just 25 percent from beyond the arc.

“You can’t go 6-for-24 from the 3-point line and then have them go 70 percent,” Kellogg said. “I think that was a huge difference in the game and then they made a bunch of big plays down the stretch when I thought we had a chance to maybe cut into the lead.”

The Minutemen twice cut the deficit to three, but couldn’t get over the final hump.

A layup from Maxie Esho with four minutes, 42 seconds remaining made it 69-66, but Hawks forward Isaiah Miles immediately answered with a baseline jump shot, Minutemen guard Jabarie Hinds missed a 3-pointer and UMass allowed an offensive rebound on the other end which led to a score.

Suddenly, St. Joe’s was in control again, leading 73-66.

Hinds missed another layup, Demetrius Dyson missed two open 3-pointers and UMass couldn’t find its spark.

“We had two or three opportunities where it was right there,” Kellogg said. “It’s a game about taking advantage of opportunity and we just didn’t do it this evening.”

Cady Lalanne led the Minutemen with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Maxie Esho added 12 points and Trey Davis had 11 points and 10 assists.

Following the game, only Kellogg showed up at the postgame press conference, as the players remained back in the locker room to talk as a team.

“I think we’ve got to get our guys re-focused and re-energized,” Kellogg said. “There’s season left to played. (The Atlantic 10 Tournament) is a little ways away. I thought maybe guys were looking a little ahead of schedule this evening.”

UMass desperately needed wins against either Rhode Island or Virginia Commonwealth last season for postseason purposes and fell short. That deflation carried over into Wednesday, and was evident simply by looking at the Minutemen as they left the floor.

“I’m a body language energy guy,” said Kellogg when asked about his team’s response following the game.

“I like guys when they’re upbeat and moving around at times. We have to move faster, even if you’re walking from the floor to the locker room. Like, sit up and look at me. That’s what I’m looking for.

“Yeah, the guys are disappointed. Everybody’s got their head down and that kind of stuff. For me, it’s late in the season. Play. Go out there and compete and use your energy. You don’t need to wait.”

Kellogg said his team doesn’t need to wait.

“I think it’s a mental approach now and getting everybody around the same page and talking things through and saying ‘Alright, let’s go,’ he said.

“I don’t want to say we have to put that stuff behind us, because it’s there and we all know it’s there. I think the two games last week kind of got us off kilter a tad. Now we have to get our mojo back.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.