Defense near the rim breaks down late for UMass in overtime loss to Fordham

By Anthony Chiusano

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(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

 

There seemed to be a glimmer of hope for the Massachusetts basketball team Saturday afternoon that it might put an end to its six-game losing streak that has quickly derailed its once promising 5-1 start.

Sophomore guard Donte Clark knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner, UMass’ first of the second half, with 8.8 seconds remaining in regulation to tie Saturday’s game against Fordham at 63 to send it to overtime.

But the lift of Clark’s last-second heroics didn’t carry over to the extra period for the Minutemen (8-12, 1-7 Atlantic 10), who were outscored 15-9 in the extra period in their 78-72 loss at Mullins Center.

UMass was outscored 36-32 in the paint by an aggressive Rams attack that went to the free throw line 31 times off of consistent drives past Minutemen guards into an open lane. In overtime, 11 of Fordham’s points were scored off layups or at the free throw line.

“I thought our post presence on defense was lacking at the end there. Our guards were letting them into the paint a little bit too easy and that kind of hurt us some,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “Tyler (Bergantino) probably played too many minutes or didn’t have enough gas to come over and make a few of those big blocks that honestly you need to make if you’re going to win.”

The Minutemen’s struggle down low toward the end of regulation and into overtime was something Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer said the Rams were cognizant of heading into Saturday’s matinee.

“There are different types of teams in the Atlantic 10. There are many shot blockers in the Atlantic 10 and we’ve seen those teams and they’re hard to attack,” Neubauer said. “UMass is not a shot-blocking team. And they were also switching some screens, so we had some good matchups at times.

He added: “We absolutely wanted to attack them. Our mentality coming in was we had to get some buckets at the rim at some point. Our guys did a good job down the stretch of getting those baskets.”

Tyler Bergantino played the majority of minutes at center for UMass (28) while stretch-forward Antwan Space (39) and Rashaan Holloway (11) also spent time guarding the rim.

At guard, both Trey Davis (21 points) and Clark (19) were slowed by foul trouble in the later stages of the game, with Clark fouling out early in overtime and Davis sitting with four. The Minutemen committed 28 combined fouls.

“Obviously we’ve struggled at times with foul trouble. Twenty-eight of them again this game, that’s the same as last game,” Kellogg said. “It did seem like a few of the guys that had four fouls were struggling to guard the ball whether it was Trey, Donte or even C.J. (Anderson) a couple times got a beat. In those situations you either need to come up with a big block or something and we didn’t make the winning plays to win a basketball game coming down the stretch tonight.”

Neubauer maintained that he wasn’t fully aware of the extent of UMass’ foul trouble – Holloway and Space also finished with four – until after the game and that it didn’t affect the Rams’ aggressive mentality.

“You know what, I actually I don’t know. I was aware that Clark fouled out. Other than that, I wasn’t aware of the foul trouble,” Neubauer said. “So I don’t know what effect it had. I’ll watch the film. Maybe it did help us.”

UMass didn’t receive much more help in the post on the offensive end, as the trio of Bergantino, Space and Holloway combined for 18 points Saturday. Bergantino had nine of them on 4-of-4 shooting.

“We were 5-of-27 from 3, obviously we are lacking a little bit of post scoring at times and we are relying on (the guards) to make some 3s. When you’re shooting 18 percent, and that’s a lot of your offense, I think you’re going to struggle,” Kellogg said.

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