UMass men’s basketball stumbles late again in Florida vs. FGCU

By Anthony Chiusano

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

While Florida and its hot weather often serves as an ideal vacation spot during the cold winter months, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team can’t return home to Amherst soon enough following its second straight gut-wrenching defeat in the Sunshine State.

Five days after UMass squandered its late comeback rally against Central Florida when the Knights won on a tip-in with 2.4 seconds left, the Minutemen (5-4) saw another late lead dissipate Sunday afternoon in a 77-76 loss to Florida Gulf Coast (6-4).

Rayjon Tucker lifted the Eagles past UMass with a layup and an and-one free throw to give FGCU a one-point lead with 13 seconds left in regulation. The Minutemen came down the floor with one more possession and a Trey Davis 3-point attempt deflected off the side of the rim to hand UMass its third straight loss.

“That’s two games in a row so I’m obviously going to talk to them and say let’s not make this a habit,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg told reporters after the loss. “It’s almost like, two games in a row, a lot of things that have to go against you go against you.

“Probably our best 3-point shooter got a decent look to win the game,” he added about Davis’ final look to end the game. “I’m not sure if you draw something up and do that, it would be much better.

Like in Tuesday’s game against UCF, UMass overcame an early double-digit deficit to take the lead for the first time four minutes, 40 seconds into the second half and battled back-and-forth over the final frame in an up-tempo pace.

After the Minutemen retook a 76-74 lead on a Davis 3-pointer with 1:32 left to play, UMass was called for a 10-second violation as Davis took too long getting up the court. FGCU took over with 35 seconds remaining and, after a loose ball tie-up went back to the Eagles, Tucker drove toward the basket for the game-winning basket and free throw.

“This (game) was even tougher. We have a 10-second call, our big guy gets the rebound and some action happens and he loses it,” Kellogg said. “So there’s a lot of stuff that didn’t go our way.”

Sunday’s loss marked UMass’ third consecutive defeat after the team started 5-1. Both games over this week’s Florida road trip were seen as winnable heading in, according to Minutemen point guard Jabarie Hinds.

“We gave one up,” Hinds said. “We were supposed to win that game. I don’t even know what to say, honestly.”

The three-man backcourt of Hinds, Davis and Donte Clark once again drove UMass’ offensive attack, combining for 42 of the Minutemen’s 76 points. Forward Seth Berger chipped in 14 points off the bench.

But Clark was held scoreless in the first half before finishing with 14 points and Davis (13 points) was only 4-of-16 from the field.

Christian Terrell (14 points) and Tucker (15) paved the way for the Eagles, combining for 19 points in the second half. Marc-Eddy Norelia had a game-high 20 points but was limited to two in the second half by the Minutemen defense.

“We were trying to crowd (Norelia). He had a full game’s worth of stats in the first half,” Kellogg said. “We were trying actually to double team him but they did a good job of getting it to him quickly (in the first half).”

UMass returns to the Mullins Center for the first time in two weeks on Wednesday against New Orleans for a 7 p.m. tipoff. Former Minutemen coach John Calipari will be honored before the game with a jersey retirement ceremony.

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