UMass falls 71-91 to Yale on the road Friday night

Minutemen struggled to handle scoring runs from the Bulldogs

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McKenna Premus/Daily Collegian

By Pedro Gray Soares, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team once again fell into a deep first half deficit similar to the one in its opening contest, but was not able to rally to victory this time around losing 91-71.

“Disappointed more than anything in our effort,” UMass head coach Matt McCall said. “The only thing we talked about before the game was effort and playing unselfishly, and I thought that those were two things we didn’t do a great job of tonight.”

UMass (1-1) seemed to have a collective off-shooting night, while Yale (2-0) was efficient in its scoring from every spot of the hardwood. The Minutemen shot just 35.1 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from the free-throw line, but those numbers were not their only issue in the game.

McCall knew going into the season that inside presence and defense were going to be areas of concern, and his suspicion was confirmed after tonight. Without big man Michael Steadman, who’s out with an ankle injury, UMass found itself obliged to turn to a small lineup that got dominated inside.

Even though the Minutemen had strong starts to both halves the group was not able to maintain its scoring runs whereas Yale was able to capitalize on the Minutemen’s mistakes.

“We went one step forward and two steps back,” McCall said. “I also felt like we didn’t handle adversity well at all. I felt like when things didn’t go our way we started looking at ourselves and just got like completely disheveled.”

The Minutemen went divided when things didn’t go well as Yale beat the adversity they faced with togetherness and a clear connection on the court.

Defensively for UMass, switching almost everything in screens allowed the Bulldogs to adjust and slip to the basket, allowing uncontested 3-pointers at the top of the key for guards Azar Swain and Matthue Cotton.

The Minutemen began with good defense and rebounding in the first few minutes, but Yale quickly made changes. At 16:53, Swain started a Yale run with an and-one off a 3-pointer. The guard from Brockton, Massachusetts was automatic in the first 10 minutes, with 12 points on only six shots. He had a slower second half, but still finished with 17 points.

Perhaps just as big of a threat in this game, Yale’s Cotton was one of the Bulldog’s main threats throughout the game. The 3-point specialist went 5-for-10 from downtown for 23 points in the outing, to go along with seven rebounds. As a group, Yale shot 50-40-90 from the field, from deep and at the free throw line.

Forward Trent Buttrick, who led UMass in its season opener, didn’t skip a beat in the first half. Buttrick struggled to get time on the court in the second half after getting into foul trouble. In the first possession of the game, he stole the ball, assisted Dyondre Dominguez on a 3-pointer and immediately stole it again in the following possession, scoring with a layup in transition. He finished with 11 points on just four shot attempts.

Struggling offensively, McCall opted to turn to C.J. Kelly for a boost on that side of the ball. This was the junior’s first appearance of the season, and he checked in regardless of the fact that he had practiced once within the last few weeks. Kelly played 15 minutes and scored eight points.

UMass will take on Penn State on Monday. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected]  and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares