Lackluster shooting performance from UMass men’s basketball in loss to George Mason

Minutemen shot 31.7 percent from the field

McKenna+Premus+%2F+Daily+Collegian

McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

It was a dreadful shooting performance for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon as it lost to George Mason by a score of 72-62.

UMass (9-11, 2-6 Atlantic 10) came into the matchup against the Patriots (11-7, 4-1 A-10) with the chance to win back-to-back games for first time since December 4th yet fell short after getting dominated in the second half of the game. The Minutemen shot 31.7 percent from the field which was good for their second worst shooting performance of the season. From beyond the arc UMass wasn’t much better and finished the contest shooting at a clip of 32.1 percent.

“I thought they made shots and we missed,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I thought we missed layups in and around the basket and I thought we missed open looks from the perimeter that we normally make. That was the game…we got very little fast break points. I thought we didn’t play with enough pace on offense.”

At halftime, the Minutemen didn’t have one player in double digits on offense and shot more 3-pointers than 2-pointers. UMass went 5-for-17 from beyond the perimeter at the halfway mark while George Mason was efficient in every part of its game on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots were nearly doubling the percentages of what the Minutemen were shooting come halftime. George Mason shot 52 percent from the floor while UMass went 8-of-29 from the field, good for 27.6 percent.

Noah Fernandes was out of the lineup again in concussion protocol which meant that McCall’s depth on the bench would be short once again. The lack of depth seemed to be a looming issue for the Minutemen who were reliant upon Rich Kelly to make up for the void of Fernandes being out. Rich Kelly has been the primary ball handler for UMass in the absence of Fernandes which has led to plenty of teams drawing most of their pressure to him.

“Absolutely,” George Mason coach Kim English said on if Rich Kelly was their main focus preparing for the game. “It’s tough on him, to be the point guard and as good of a talented scorer as he is. We absolutely keyed in on him and wanted to limit his impact.”

UMass hasn’t hidden the fact that it is a heavy 3-point shooting team and it showcased that in the loss to George Mason. It was the fourth lowest 3-point percentage for the Minutemen on Sunday afternoon. Outside of Rich Kelly, who connected on three 3-pointers, Trent Buttrick was the only other UMass player to hit more than one shot from deep. Besides Buttrick and Rich Kelly, the rest of the squad went 4-of-20 from 3-point range.

“I thought we missed a lot of shots that we typically hit,” Rich Kelly said. “T.J. [Weeks] and C.J. [Kelly] are probably two of the best shooters I’ve ever played with and they didn’t have great shooting days today. They got a lot of open looks and I am very confident in both of those guys. We are going to continue to make the right play, that is what we are stressing right now.”

Aside from the 13-point performance from Javohn Garcia off the bench, UMass struggled to generate any sort of offense, especially from its bench. Outside of Garcia, the rest of the four-man bench went 3-for-11 from the field. The Minutemen have struggled to get production from its big men this season down low in the paint and it was evident in the loss against the Patriots. The tandem of Greg Jones and Buttrick put up only three shots within the arc, while Michael Steadman knocked down only one two-pointer.

“I just want him to be aggressive on defense,” McCall said of Steadman. “I want him to hop up and block a shot and have some aggressiveness at that end of the floor. Steadman is a very talented offensive player, but I want him to be more aggressive defensively. I think that’s where we really need him. I don’t want him to settle [on offense either].

UMass doesn’t have a midweek contest coming up and will now shift focus to taking on rival Rhode Island with tipoff set for 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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