Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball falls short in its comeback bid against Richmond in first game of conference play

Minutemen had just eight scholarship players available
McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

After a 16-day layoff in between games the Massachusetts men’s basketball team finally stepped onto the hardwood for a matchup against Richmond on the road. An underwhelming performance in the first half saw the team dig itself into a hole too deep to crawl out of, losing out to the Spiders (10-6, 1-2 Atlantic 10) by a score of 80-72.

A poor performance on both ends of the court for UMass (7-6, 0-1 A-10) allowed Richmond to find its groove offensively and maintain a comfortable lead throughout most of the first 20 minutes of action. By the midway point of the first half the Minutemen were down by 13 points and were struggling with the lack of options that they had.

“I thought in the first half we played like a team that has been off for 17 days,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “We were a step slow. I thought our effort was not where it needed to be. All we talked before the game was when you want to win an A-10 game your effort needs to be at a high, high level. I thought our effort was really bad. I thought we had some mental lapses and some mental errors on some turnovers.”

Carrying the bulk of the load on offense for UMass in the first half was the duo of Noah Fernandes and C.J. Kelly. The two players finished the half with 10 and 12 points respectively and combined to go 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Four of the five starters played at least 16 minutes with Greg Jones being the lone exception finishing with 13 minutes. Before tipoff it was announced that the Minutemen would be without Javohn Garcia, T.J. Weeks and Preston Santos.

“We essentially thought we were going to be with nine guys [at Richmond on Wednesday],” McCall said. “And then one of [the players] got contact traced so that knocked us down to eight [players].”

Richmond put up 50 points against UMass in the first half, the first time they had reached that amount against an opponent this season. The Spiders had an electric first half for themselves, having six of its players finish with at least five points or more. On the other hand, the Minutemen got two points out of its three bench players to end the half.

UMass got eight points from its bench all game while the Spiders bench finished with 26. The two teams were nearly equal on the glass as Richmond edged out the Minutemen by two rebounds. UMass come out with its usual fast paced tempo in the first half and the Spiders matched the intensity offensively and defensively. They ended the game with 21 fast break points compared to the Minutemen’s four.

Michael Steadman quietly had himself a respectable night on the court finishing with a near double-double of eight points and nine rebounds. Steadman and Fernandes were the lone players to finish with a positive plus/minus in the second half. The big man has yet to have consistent time on the court with the postponement of games, but he showed Wednesday night that he is certainly capable of battling it out with some of the A-10’s best big men.

“For [Steadman] to get out there and continue to get those reps [is important for us],” McCall said. “[Steadman]’s been great. We’ve got to continue to get the ball down to him on the block. I thought his rebounding was a real big presence for us out there tonight too.”

After an opening night loss in conference play, UMass heads back home to Amherst for a 12 p.m. tipoff on Saturday against Duquesne.

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

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