Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball falls to Fordham behind strong defensive effort by the Rams

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(Imogen Fairs/ Daily Collegian)

(Imogen Fairs/ Daily Collegian)

Down 69-68 with six seconds left in the game, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team found themselves in a situation they know all too well with the game on the line in the waning seconds.

UMass (12-8, 2-5 Atlantic 10) had an inbound pass under its own basket. Guard DeJon Jarreau scanned the court for an open Minutemen player and with seconds ticking off the five-second inbound pass clock, he took a chance with a high lob pass into the post to center Rashaan Holloway.

Fordham (9-11, 3-4 A-10) forward Chuba Ohams flanked the 6-foot-11 Holloway and tipped the pass out of reach from the big man. Fellow Rams forward Christian Sengfelder would come up with the ball and with it end UMass’ chances of victory as Fordham went on to top the Minutemen 71-68 at the Mullins Center Saturday afternoon.

UMass had a plan going into that late-game play, but couldn’t execute when they needed it the most.

“It came down to a last [out-of-bounds, under the basket] play that we’ve worked on in practice. I’m not sure what happened, I haven’t really watched the tape yet,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said. “The object was to get either Donte [Clark] the ball on the wing and have him drive it or over the top to Rashaan. We elected to go over the top to Rashaan, and unfortunately, I’m not sure what happened; he didn’t come up with the ball or whatever.”

That play was a microcosm of the defensive effort the Rams displayed against UMass on Saturday. Fordham had 14 steals on the day, leading UMass to 19 turnovers on the day. Coming into the game, the Rams were fourth in the nation in steals per game.

Defense is something that Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer prides his team upon.

“We’re very limited offensively, so we’re just trying to grind it out with our defense,” Neubauer said. “I think the last six minutes of defense, I think as well as we did all year. In a lot of games, we’ve really started well defensively, especially in our last game against VCU and this game it was the final six minutes that our guys were tough.”

Although the Minutemen outrebounded the Rams 32-31 in the game, it was Fordham’s ability to secure offensive boards that played a major role in topping UMass Saturday as they bested the Minutemen in that category 15-8, including a 9-3 advantage in the second half.

Minutemen guard Donte Clark and his teammates were frustrated when they were able to force the Rams into shots they wanted them to take, but Fordham came away with the ball.

“It’s definitely a terrible feeling to play as hard as we did and them get the rebound,” Clark said.

The top performer on the boards was Sengfelder who had nine rebounds, including five offensive rebounds. Sengfelder also paced the Rams offensively with a game-high 20 points. Guard Javontae Hawkins, who leads Fordham in points per game this season, chipped in 18, while Prokop Slanina had 13.

UMass was paced by Clark who had 17 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Jarreau followed him with 11 points, along with three steals, and Holloway had 10 points and seven rebounds.

The Minutemen’s late-game bid to take control was halted by two of its starters, Holloway and Jarreau, finding themselves in foul trouble with four personal fouls with 9:45 to play. Kellogg had to get a little creative with his lineups to preserve the duo for the end of the game, but he thought those that filled in did an admirable job.

“I think Deeky made a freshmen mistake. You don’t go clobber down on a guy when you got three fouls in the second half,” Kellogg said. “I was keeping him out there hoping that he wouldn’t pick up his fourth. So that part of it wasn’t good.

“I thought the other guys did just fine. Chris Baldwin gave us a few good minutes, I thought Brison [Gresham] was ok at the five, I thought Ty [Flowers] was decent. They just didn’t make like those winning championship plays that maybe an older junior or senior makes.”

Saturday’s result is obviously not what Kellogg was hoping for and he realizes the need for his team to keep grinding if they want to find any form of consistent success for the remainder of the season.

“So, instead of being 3-4 and having a little bit of a swag, we have to get back to the drawing board and get better and continue to work,” Kellogg said.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.

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