Richmond blows past UMass basketball in its return to play, Spiders win 79-65

Spiders scored 19 points off turnovers

By Dan McGee, Assistant Sports Editor

Despite cutting the deficit to as little as seven points with 7:28 remaining, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team was unable to finish the job against Richmond, falling 79-65.

“We just needed a couple more stops,” said TJ Weeks. “We made our runs and cut it to nine and seven, we needed that next rebound, that next stop, that next charge. They did a good job of getting to the 3-point line or getting a bucket or the extra rebound to cut our run off.”

The Spiders (13-5, 6-3 Atlantic 10) frustrated the Minutemen (7-5, 6-3 Atlantic 10) defensively all evening, scoring 19 points off 13 UMass turnovers. Jacob Gilyard, the NCAA leader in steals per game (3.5), swiped away four of Richmond’s seven steals in the victory.

“[Gilyard] is scrappy,” Weeks said. “You may not know he’s there, but he’ll get a tip, a deflection or a steal. That’s just their defense, they try to get little deflections, little steals and stop us from running our offense.”

The Minutemen failed to shoot the 3-ball consistently, making only seven of their 27 attempts beyond the arc for a 26 percent clip. In contrast, the Spiders made the same amount of 3-pointers in just 20 attempts, for a much more impressive 35 percent rate.

Leading the scoring for Richmond was guard Blake Francis, who scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including five 3-pointers. Nathan Cayo and Grant Golden caused problems for UMass in the frontcourt, adding 18 and 16 points respectively on a combined 68.2 percent from the field.

To combat Cayo and Golden, head coach Matt McCall mixed up his big-men rotation. When Mark Gasperini and Mitchell both fell into foul trouble, Dyondre Dominguez saw some time at the center position.

“We talked a lot about wanting to post-double and being aggressive,” McCall said. “I thought Dyondre had some really good post doubles where he was aggressive, and it allowed us to get a steal or forced them to shoot quick. I liked what we were doing in some of those situations and we’re going to play against a terrific frontcourt on Monday night and we have to keep getting better.”

For UMass, Dominguez and Weeks did the brunt of the scoring, combining for 29 points. Weeks caught fire in the first half, shooting 4-of-6 for 11 points including a pair of threes.

The biggest issue for the Minutemen in the loss was defensive lapses that allowed wide open baskets. Time and time again, the Spiders’ effective Princeton style offense was able to find open backdoor cutters for easy layups. Richmond totaled 40 points in the paint.

In one instance, UMass failed to boxout the Spiders on a missed 3-pointer, allowing an offensive rebound to Gilyard who passed to Cayo. The forward quickly found an open Andre Gustavson cutting to the hoop for an easy second-chance bucket. Moments later, Gilyard stole the ball on the ensuing Minutemen inbound and found Cayo who converted another easy layup for an and-one which he converted. A potential zero-point possession quickly turned into five as the Richmond lead ballooned to 15 at the time.

“We were struggling man-to-man, we played some zone and were struggling with zone,” said McCall. “Just understanding how the floor looked and where we were supposed to be in our zone, we gave up some back cuts there.”

“If you’re missing shots, that can overall bleed into your defense and overall effort defensively.”

On a positive note, the loss marked the return of star center Tre Mitchell and point guard Noah Fernandes. The duo, who both came off the bench, played 22 and 19 minutes, respectively. Mitchell scored nine on 4-of-8 from the field, while Fernandes nailed a single 3-pointer.

“It felt good to be back out there with them,” Weeks said of Mitchell and Fernandes. “We were missing them a little bit. Sometimes we get stagnant, and no points will be scored or no rebounds or stops and that’s when they come in. It felt good seeing them back out there with us again.”

The Minutemen will look to finish the regular season in a better light when they take on Saint Louis on Monday at 6 p.m.

Dan McGee can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TheDanMcGee.