UMass men’s basketball drops first game of season to Creighton in MGM Grand Main Event finals

By Anthony Chiusano

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian
Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

In Monday’s decisive 82-65 victory over Clemson in the MGM Grand Main Event semifinals, it seemed like the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s shooting was hotter than a Thanksgiving turkey fresh out of the oven, after it recorded a program-tying 16 3-pointers for the second consecutive game.

However, in Wednesday’s tournament finale against Creighton, it was a different story for the Minutemen, who dropped their first game of the season 97-76 in Las Vegas.

UMass (4-1) never led against the Bluejays (4-1) and shot just 39 percent from the field – including 3-of-16 from 3-point range. The Minutemen looked stagnant throughout the night on offense, failing to capitalize on open looks from the field or from the free throw line (27-of-40).

“It’s a good learning opportunity for us,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg told reporters following Wednesday’s game. “That’ll be a great tape for us to watch and get better from and try to improve.

“I thought our energy came down when we didn’t make some shots. Our defense wasn’t as good as I would have liked.”

Creighton opened up its first double digit lead of the game at the 11 minute, 10 second mark of the first half after a layup by Maurice Watson pitted the Minutemen in an early 10-point hole. But an ensuing 8-3 run by UMass, capitalized by a Trey Davis 3-pointer at the 7:09 mark, brought the deficit back to five.

That would be as close as the Minutemen got to coming back, as Bluejays center Geoffrey Groselle recharged Creighton with six points over the final three minutes to build the halftime lead to eight.

UMass trailed by as much as 27 points Wednesday and was outscored 60-47 in the final frame.

Groselle finished with a game-high 20 points in 22 minutes. Watson (16 points), Cole Huff (12), James Milliken (11) and Toby Hegner (10) also all reached double figures for the Bluejays, who effectively handled UMass’ press defense.

“Our press was ineffective. They walked through that and got some pretty easy open looks,” Kellogg said.

Trey Davis led the Minutemen in points for the second consecutive game with 19 on Wednesday. Two days after combining for 71 points alongside guards Donte Clark and Jabarie Hinds in UMass’ win against Clemson, the backcourt trio tallied 43 total points on just 12-of-33 shooting Wednesday.

“If they’re going to play our guards the way that (Creighton) did, at some point we’re going to have to get some post or mid-post buckets,” Kellogg said.

Down low, UMass starting center Rashaan Holloway finished with nine points, with most coming in the second half with the game considerably out of reach. The freshman got in foul trouble early on and only played two minutes in the first half.

Behind Holloway, backup centers Malik Hines and Tyler Bergantino combined for two points in 27 minutes.

“From here on out, they’re going to key on me, Donte and Trey. We’re going to need our teammates to step up,” Hinds said. “And me, Donte and Trey are going to have to play much smarter and find other ways to be productive out there.”

The Minutemen will next host Boston University at the Mullins Center on Dec. 2 for a 7 p.m. matchup. UMass looks to avoid its first losing streak of the season.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.