UMass suffers first conference loss of the season in double OT to George Mason

Minutemen committed 16 turnovers

By Frederick Hanna III, Collegian Staff

By the look of the box score one may have thought this game had the potential of being a double overtime thriller but it was quite the opposite for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team who suffered its first Atlantic 10 conference loss to George Mason, 93-92.

It was a narrow yet chaotic ending that saw the Minutemen (2-3, 1-2 Atlantic 10) suffer a difficult loss to a conference foe. It was a rough from the start, and much of the game saw both teams struggling to get anything going or find their rhythm.

“Obviously we have been working really hard these last few days and thought we made some strides and made some improvements. We got to just continue to get better,” UMass coach Matt McCall said.

The offense was lackluster from the start for UMass who jumped out of the gate shooting just 30 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. It looked to be the same theme as the one in the loss against Bryant where UMass couldn’t find their groove offensively and got killed on the other end of the floor due to turnovers.

A key part in the 16 turnovers that George Mason (5-2, 1-0 A-10) forced out of UMass was the lack of point guards it could throw at the opposing sides defense. Kolton Mitchell was out following COVID-19 protocols, and Javohn Garcia only managed to play 12 minutes all game because of foul trouble. Noah Fernandes played 46 minutes, tying Tre Mitchell for the most minutes out on the court. The sophomore finished with 19 points while only going 5-of-15 from the field but managed to go 7-of-11 from the free-throw line.

Another notable stat line was Tre Mitchell finishing with just four points in the first half. The big man struggled to find his rhythm to start the game and could not get anything to gel in the low or high post. George Mason’s double teaming and at times even triple teaming of Mitchell caused panic in UMass’ offense that caused a lot of turnovers and easy buckets on the other end. Mitchell ended up finishing with 23 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, but his slow start stagnated the offense.

“I think we have to look at how the floor looks and who is doubling him,” McCall said on how to get Mitchell going early. “I think teams are going to double him in different ways. I think we have to look at how a floor looks, are they doubling off the passer, who is open and when he is throwing those passes, or he is throwing out of the double team who is he throwing to. Is it shooters, is it drivers? How does the floor look when the ball comes out of those double teams if we do penetrate.”

The game could have easily ended multiple times for both sides early on, especially in regulation. With four seconds left in regulation UMass drew up a play with Mitchell at the top of the key. Carl Pierre and Fernandes both came swooping in for the potential handoff but Mitchell decided to keep the ball himself and try to drive to the hoop, but the ball was stripped, and the game headed to OT.

In overtime it seemed as though UMass was going to pull ahead but that wasn’t the case as the Patriots kept clawing their way back into the game. UMass pulled out to a seven-point lead with 3:35 remaining but a 10-3 run by George Mason tied the game at 74. Both teams went back and forth to finish out OT until UMass pulled ahead by three with 17 seconds left. A late three by Jamal Hartwell sunk and the game headed to double overtime.

Double OT once again saw UMass jump out to a six-point lead with 3:14 left but George Mason kept inching its way back into the game. A foul drawn by Mitchell with 14 seconds left saw the sophomore sink one of two to give the Minutemen a one-point lead. With time remaining for one more play, Jordan Miller drove baseline into Cairo McCrory to draw the contact and went to the free throw line for two shots. Miller sunk one of two to give them a one-point lead which was enough for the 93-92 win.

UMass will take on George Washington on Jan. 6th with tipoff time to be announced.

Frederick Hanna IIII can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @FrederickHIII