Lack of bench scoring hurts UMass men’s basketball in loss to Duquesne at home

Minutemen’s bench combines for five points

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McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

The addition of T.J. Weeks back into the lineup wasn’t enough to spark some scoring for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team in its first home loss of the season to Duquesne Saturday afternoon.

For the second time this season UMass (7-7, 0-2 Atlantic 10) lost back-to-back games and it was the fifth time that the Minutemen have lost a game in the single digits. Since having two games postponed and one cancelled after its win against Fairfield, UMass hasn’t clicked on offense and the defense hasn’t lagged too far behind. Four of the five starters for UMass finished in double digits in scoring, but only one player off the bench managed to tack on any form of points on the stat sheet.

Greg Jones was the lone bench player to score in the loss to the Dukes (6-7, 1-0 A-10), finishing with five points going 1-of-2 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free throw line. UMass was without Preston Santos and Javohn Garcia heading into the game and brought back T.J. Weeks who was fresh out of his quarantine period.

“I give T.J. Weeks a lot of credit for trying to go out [on the court] and give it a go,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “Basically, having done nothing all week, that’s hard to do. [Weeks] had to be in quarantine [all week] and then he tries to go out there and play. I think that shows you just T.J. [Weeks’] toughness.”

Lack of scoring outside the starting five has been a common theme for the Minutemen this season, and it was on full display against Duquesne on Saturday. In UMass’ last game, its opening conference game of the season, the five scorers then were the same ones in the matchup against the Dukes. Jones and Michael Steadman flipped places in the starting lineup on Saturday, but the production was still the same from the starting five.

The combo of Steadman and Trent Buttrick seems to be coming together over the last couple games, especially with Steadman being inserted into the starting rotation. The two together haven’t lit up the box scores yet with their scoring, but for two straight games they have now combined for at least 16 rebounds. Steadman put up 13 points against the Dukes, most of them coming in the first half and struggled to get going in the remaining part of the game.

“We just failed to take care of the ball,” Steadman said. “So that kind of contributed to our collapse towards the end of the game.”

In their last five games, the Minutemen are only winners of one. Cancellations and postponements have played a large role in disrupting the rhythm of the squad, along with non-COVID-19 illnesses, but UMass hasn’t had the depth to attack teams for a full 40 minutes. Per McCall, the Minutemen weren’t able to practice 5-on-5 throughout the week, something that he felt hindered the squad in preparing for the weekend matchup against Duquesne.

“We got to get healthy,” McCall said. “We got to be able to get 10 to 11 guys out there on the practice floor to be able to work on some things that are causing us some problems.”

Against the Dukes on Saturday, the Minutemen’s bench combined to play for 41 minutes and only put up four field goals, connecting on one which was a 3-pointer. In the previous game the bench, outside of Steadman who connected on 3-of-10 field goals for eight points, the bench went 0-for-2 from the field in 26 minutes of action.

“We’re continuing to work,” Steadman said. “It’s still early in conference play. I think you’ll see an improvement throughout the conference season of us and being able to maintain those leads.”

UMass heads back on the road for a matchup against Davidson. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. this Tuesday.

Frederick Hanna III can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @FrederickHIII.