UMass men’s basketball suffers third consecutive loss of the season, falls to Davidson on the road

Weeks and Fernandes combined for 40 points

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McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

After jumping out of the gates with a commanding first half lead, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team struggled to match the pace of Davidson in the second half, losing its third game in a row by a score of 77-67.

The Wildcats (13-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10) were too tall of a task for UMass (7-8, 0-3 A-10) to deal with Tuesday night. Davidson extended its winning streak to 12 games and showcased why it has the potential to be the top team in the A-10 this season. The Minutemen fell victim to coming into John M. Belk Arena and catching the Wildcats at the wrong time of the year.

“I thought our intensity, I thought our intention and I thought our effort was outstanding,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I thought our guys executed the game plan nearly perfect.”

A hot start for UMass in the first half seemed like it was up to the challenge of hanging with an experienced team like Davidson. The Minutemen got quality production on the offensive end from T.J. Weeks who scored his first points since the loss to Northeastern on December 7th. The redshirt sophomore found his groove early in the corner, knocking down three corner 3-pointers to finish the half with 12 points.

“Obviously [Weeks] shot the ball good from the perimeter, but I am more impressed with his rebounding tonight,” McCall said. “Consistently he has done a good job [rebounding]. Not having played since December 11, and then getting chucked into the game [against Duquesne], after really not being in practice at all because he was in quarantine…I am fully confident in putting him in the starting lineup, he deserves to be there.”

Weeks seemed to get back on track offensively while maintaining the same defensive intensity that he’s provided for the Minutemen all year. He finished with 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and went 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. His five made shots from deep were a season high. He also grabbed seven rebounds, good for third on the team against the Wildcats.

“It felt good early on [in the game] trying to find my rhythm,” Weeks said. “I haven’t played since early December, so it felt nice to stroke [the basketball] back in. Me doing that opened the floor up for my teammates.”

UMass relied heavily upon its guards to get any sort of offensive production against Davidson. The starting trio of Weeks, Rich Kelly and Noah Fernandes finished with 54 points combined, while the rest of the team combined for 27 points. Rich Kelly continued his streak of scoring in double digits and extended it to 11 games after he put up 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the perimeter.

Fernandes was at times the lone playmaker for the Minutemen and it showed on the box score. The junior finished with 9 assists on the night, six more than his closest teammate. He connected on eight of the 19 shots that he attempted, finishing with 19 points which was second to Weeks.

“I think as a team we just showed what we were capable of, obviously the result isn’t what we wanted and nobody on our team likes moral victories, but I think as a team we played hard on both ends of the floor,” Fernandes said. “They really made some big shots and some big plays. [Davidson] has some high-level players.”

Right before tipoff it was noted that UMass would be without C.J. Kelly. The junior sat on the bench for the whole game but wasn’t dressed in uniform. He was dealing with knee swelling per McCall in the post-game media session. The Minutemen got Javohn Garcia back on the floor, but the sophomore only played ten minutes on the court and recorded one block.

“It seems like just another game where we have somebody out,” McCall said. “When is the last time we had all 13 healthy bodies out there on the floor?”

The Minutemen head back home to Amherst for a matchup against New England foe Rhode Island on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m.

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