UMass men’s basketball drops third straight, falls to George Washington 81-70

By Andrew Cyr

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

They kept it close for a while, but like so many other times throughout season the Massachusetts men’s basketball team didn’t have enough left in the tank to carry itself over the final hump late in the second half.

UMass (8-8, 1-3 Atlantic 10) dropped its third consecutive game Tuesday night, falling to George Washington 81-70 in front of an apathetic crowd at Mullins Center.

Six of the Minutemen’s eight losses have now come by at least 10 points.

“That’s a good team. They’re one of the better teams, obviously, in the league. I thought we went toe-to-toe for a stretch there. We were right there with them,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

“We showed some toughness and grit for a while there, definitely in the first half and even at some junctures in the second half. But I think we, as a group, can get in a little better condition for how I want to play and run,” Kellogg said.

After UMass and the Colonials exchanged baskets back-and-forth throughout the first half leading to a 34-34 draw after the first 20 minutes, GW’s Tyler Cavanaugh sunk two of his 13 free throws to break the game’s eighth tie two minutes, 56 seconds into the half. The Colonials never trailed after that, extending their lead to as many as 17 points.

Cavanaugh finished with a game-high 26 points, shooting 13-of-15 from the free throw line. Swingman Patricio Garino added another 17 for GW while Kevin Larsen contributed 13 points and eight rebounds of his own.

“They made three last-second shot-clock baskets that I thought were killers, too. Mitola, he made a couple three’s with a guy on him and then Cavanaugh banked one,” Kellogg said. “Sometimes those things don’t work out. And then 29-for 34-from the free-throw line is a tough recipe with that team.”

Mitola finished with 11 points including three 3-pointers, two of which came in the winding second of the shot clock. As a team the Colonials started shooting two-of-nine from 3-point range, however finished making six of their last 10.

“I think, in the second half after the 16-minute mark, we beat ourselves with defense. It’s all defense. It’s nothing offensively challenging. We can score,” Trey Davis said. “We’ve just got to want to play defense. We need to buy into that or we’re not going to make that run that we want to make.”

Davis, who suffered an ankle injury in the Minutemen’s loss against Saint Bonaventure Saturday, said he wasn’t 100-percent tonight and was limited in his ability on “quick cutting, starting and stopping.”

“I wasn’t really feeling too good,” Davis said. “I was feeling all right, but I couldn’t get any jump on my shots. I play with speed out there. That’s me.”

Donte Clark led UMass with 19 points while Davis finished with 13. Both Jabarie Hinds and Antwan Space added 10 in the loss.

Clark was the only Minutemen to score for the first 7:20 of the second half on a pair of layups and five free throws before Seth Berger made a lay up to cut the GW lead to 50-47, the closest it was for the remainder of the game.

Despite the continuous struggle of UMass not having the healthy bodies or conditioning Kellogg is looking for, Kellogg went to the press early in the first half as the Minutemen attempted to neutralize the Colonials size with speed. The press worked in stretches, however throughout the later portion of the game showed signs of fatigue that played a major factor in the loss.

“Here’s the deal: we didn’t practice the press much in the preseason because I had limited numbers of guys,” Kellogg said.

“So, now that we have some guys getting healthy, we added a couple walk-ons and hopefully Zach Coleman can come back, we’ll have a little bit more depth to be a pressing team and play UMass basketball.”

With only one game – Saturday at Dayton – in the next 10 days, Kellogg said that UMass plans to tweak its reoccurring problems as well as install some new elements to its defense.

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