Rich Kelly and Trent Buttrick’s second half not enough for UMass men’s basketball

The duo combined for 29 second half points in the loss

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McKenna Premus/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

After an abysmal first half, 29 combined second half points from Rich Kelly and Trent Buttrick was not enough for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, losing 80-72 to Richmond in its conference opener.

The first half ended in a 50-31 lead for the Spiders (10-6, 1-2 Atlantic 10), Rich Kelly had five points and Buttrick two. Buttrick’s two was off 1-of-5 shooting from the field. Minutemen (7-6, 0-1 A-10) head coach Matt McCall challenged Buttrick after a poor first half on both sides of the ball. McCall has challenged players this season, but he chuckled when saying this challenge wasn’t “over a diet Dr. Pepper,” McCall’s go to beverage in postgame media sessions.

“ ‘We got to play harder, we got to play with more effort, we got to go up and make a layup, we got to finish in and around the basket, play with some passion, play with some aggression, we can’t just let [Nathan Cayo] back us down and shoot layups, we got to get a stop, we got to be in a stance, we got to be physical’,” McCall said when paraphrasing what he told Buttrick at the half.

“That was the clean version.”

Buttrick responded with 12 of UMass’ initial 15 points in the second half, finishing the half with 14 and the game with 16. Rich Kelly took his turn soon after, finishing the second half with 15 points, hitting all three of his triples. A few of his four total made 3-pointers extended well beyond the arc, something the graduate transfer has done multiple times this season.

“[Rich Kelly’s] work ethic, his approach, his process, how he comes in early every day, gets extra work in, stays after, form shoots,” McCall said of what he thinks when he sees Rich Kelly extend his range. “You come in our gym he’s working crazy finishes, layups, he has a process and an approach. He’s got a confidence about himself,”

“Rich works on it, and his process is why he’s so confident, and he should be.”

The process has shown in large fashion as of recent. This is Rich Kelly’s second time in the past four games in which he scored at least 20 points, the first coming in the 82-76 loss to Northeastern in early December.

The Minutemen outscored Richmond 41-30 in the second half, cutting it down to six points with 1:10 left in the game after an NBA-range three from Rich Kelly. A miss from Buttrick with 30 seconds left sealed the game. Though a second half performance like the one he had can be turned in an optimistic light, especially with a cold stretch after a hot start to the season.

Following an average of 15.8 points through the first six games, Buttrick averaged 7.5 in the following six before Wednesday night’s game. His minutes had slightly dipped in the previous six games from 28 to 25 with the emergence of Greg Jones. Whether or not the 35 minutes Wednesday night were a product of T.J. Weeks’ absence or not, Buttrick was finally able to emulate his early-season performances.

Buttrick, Rich Kelly and the rest of the team will host Duquesne Saturday at noon barring any extra postponements due to COVID-19. UMass is currently scheduled to finish the month with seven more games, which would mean getting back into a normal season after having three games either postponed or cancelled and 16 days in between games.

Joey Aliberti can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1.