Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In a game riddled with mistakes, UMass men’s basketball falls to Providence

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(Sam Anderson/Daily Collegian)

PROVIDENCE — Saturday’s matchup against Providence was a winnable game for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team. But excessive turnovers, fouls and a stagnant second-half offense sent it home with a 75-69 loss and bad a taste in its mouth.

UMass’ (6-3) roster has been greatly improved since the last time they met the Friars a year ago; and Providence (8-2) is navigating through its first season post Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn.

Nineteen turnovers and 25 fouls committed by the Minutemen put them in a situation where they were forced to play from behind and to the pace of the Friars.

“You know, I think we have a long ways to go as a team, but 19 turnovers against a team that doesn’t really press – I think we had five charges, three travels, things of that nature,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “Those were all fixable, we’re going to continue to work and get better – I like our group.”

A first half riddle in turnovers and fouls prevented the Minutemen from making any sort of run. The furthest UMass got was a 6-0 run to start the game. Missed shots on the Friars’ end contributed to the Minutemen’s early dominance.

At no point in the game did UMass dominate on the offensive side of the ball. Providence’s 37 percent first-half shooting percentage kept it from separating from the Minutemen. The Friars went into half time with a 29-28 lead.

Providence collected itself in the second half, while UMass did not. The Friars made 15 of their 30 shots and improved their 3-point shooting from 2-of-8 in the first half to 4-of-8 in the second.

The Minutemen never gained momentum.

A two-handed dunk in the paint by Rashaan Holloway with 10 minutes, 12 seconds remaining was quickly followed by a dunk from PC forward Kalif Young on a fast break just six seconds later.

The response put a charge into the Dunkin’ Donuts Center crowd and served as a turning point for the Friars.

“(Rashaan) makes a great play, I see the guy running — Rashaan, the guy had a little bit few steps on him but we’re trying to get into our press,” Kellogg said. “The guards are sprinting up that guys sprinting the other way and it’s like a helpless feeling per se where you just know what’s happening.”

That was the story for UMass. Every time they gained ground, the Friars, and sometimes even themselves, took it away.

Shortly after Young’s dunk, junior guard Jalen Lindsey hit a 3-pointer to put the Friars up by 16 with 9:26 remaining in the second half, their largest lead of the game. Kellogg called a time out where the team delivered the message to themselves.

“Their message was kind of before I even got back into the huddle, it was already taken care of,” Kellogg said. “They had already said ‘we’re going, this game is not over, let’s go.’ I think there was nine minutes and some change. There were some broken plays, they made the threes. we had a few of those where we didn’t.”

Despite and overall lack luster offensive performance, Holloway and Luwane Pipkins each had 21 and 20 points respectively.

“We just got to look at this game like as a game where we came out and they wanted it more,” Pipkins said. “In the first half we came out and we jumped on them right away and then we gave up a few runs throughout the first half and then in the second half they turned it up more.”

The freshman guard made 43 percent of his shots and hit six-of-13 attempted 3-pointers.

An 18-point second half performance from Rodney Bullock helped the Friars keep a lead over UMass. Shooting 10-for-12 from the free throw line, 6-for-6 in the second half, helped seal the win for PC.

“Two free throws, a layup and a bunch of free throws got him to his 26,” Kellogg said of Bullock. “He’s a really good player and he’s kind of a tough mismatch because he can shoot threes and he can score in the mid-post and he can drive it to the rim.”

The loss, like any, will serve as a learning experience for the young Minutemen who are less than a month away from playing St. Bonaventure, their first Atlantic 10 game of the season.

Three teams from the A-10 made it into the 2016 NCAA Tournament, while an additional three played in the NIT.

According to Kellogg, this game against Providence served as an accurate preview of what is to come from the better teams in the A-10.

“That’s kind of an A-10 road game against one of the top teams in the A-10,” Kellogg said. “Or even a home game against one of the top teams. It’s like playing VCU or Dayton or Rhody or whoever. That was a good learning experience for them that you have to play a certain way for forty minutes to be able to beat a team like this, especially on the road.”

UMass will play it’s next three games at home as part of the Gotham Classic starting with North Carolina A&T Tuesday at Mullins Center.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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