UMass men’s basketball cools down after a strong first half in loss to St. Bonaventure

Minutemen outscored 38-18 in the paint

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Sophia-Zoe Schreyer

Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

A strong first half for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team didn’t last, as St. Bonaventure dominated the final 20 minutes to defeat the Minutemen 83-71. UMass’ game plan of defending the paint at all costs was a success in the first half, but the Bonnies adjusted and outscored the Minutemen 38-18 in the paint.

“The game plan was ‘hey listen, let’s do whatever we can to limit points in the paint, playing zone, packing it in,’” McCall said of what his team’s primary objective was against St. Bonaventure (16-7, 8-4 Atlantic 10). “We lost [Dominick Welch] too much in the zone. We need to do a better job there on their best perimeter shooter if we’re going to play zone going forward… In the second half, we lost [Welch] a couple times there, we lost a couple guys in the back side and we need to be better then switch to man-to-man.”

Welch finished the games with 23 points and 10 rebounds on 10 field goal attempts, shooting 7-of-9 on 3-pointers. Kyle Lofton was as big of a factor in St. Bonaventure’s offense, finishing with 11 points and a program-record 17 assists, six of which came on alley oops and dunks to big man Osun Osunniyi. The combination of these two made the Bonnies nearly impossible for UMass (11-13, 4-8 A-10) to successfully defend for 40 straight minutes.

“[St. Bonaventure is] just a really unique team, because they have such a good presence inside and Welch can really shoot it,” Noah Fernandes said. “It just sort of balances out their whole offense, and when you’re so worried about the rim, sometimes you just forget about Welch. [Welch is] always there, he can really shoot it. We knew that, but tonight was his night and we definitely let him free a little too many times.”

Osunniyi is the primary reason for the Bonnies’ success in the paint. McCall’s game plan of limiting points in the paint directly correlated to the amount of time Osunniyi was in the contest. In terms of trying to limit Osunniyi’s playing time, the Minutemen succeeded. The big man got three fouls early in the second half which benched him for a large portion of the second half.

“That was a big piece of our game today,” Fernandes said about trying to get Osunniyi in foul trouble.

The lack of playing time for the big man in the second half didn’t help. Osunniyi played 11 minutes, but St. Bonaventure outscored UMass 47-34 in the final 20 minutes. The Bonnies shot 13-of-19 in the paint in the second half, soiling McCall’s game plan and the Minutemen’s chance of an upset win on the road.

“I think they have four really good players and even though their guys on the bench don’t play I’m sure they come to practice every day and work and compete against those guys and make them better too,” Fernandes said on how St. Bonaventure played so well with Osunniyi in foul trouble.

The first half shooting clinic from UMass kept them alive in a game most never expected them to have a chance. T.J. Weeks made four first-half 3-pointers and Rich Kelly added three more. The team finished the first half 9-of-19 from deep (47.4 percent), yet 4-of-12 on its 2-pointers (25 percent). They finished the game with 16 3-pointers on 33 attempts (48.5 percent) and nine 2-pointers on 24 attempts (37.5 percent).

Weeks made his collegiate debut in Olean Wednesday night. He was born in Olean while his dad, Tyrone Weeks, was an assistant coach for the Bonnies. T.J. was being born as Tyrone was on the bus traveling to take on Kentucky in the NCCA Tournament, leading to the bus stopping to allow Tyrone to watch his first child’s birth, Pickin’ Splinters reported.

Weeks’ birthplace debut was a success, finishing with 19 points, shooting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc and adding six rebounds and two steals in 35 minutes.

UMass outrebounded St. Bonaventure 32-26 in the loss, an uncommon occurrence for a team that tends to allow two more rebounds than it grabs per game. Trent Buttrick was a large factor in the rebounding success, finishing with 10. Buttrick quietly averaged 12.3 points and 10 rebounds over the past three games. The Minutemen have been looking for a consistent rebounding presence all season and might have one heading into the final stretch.

The Minutemen have six games remaining before the A-10 tournament and are currently tied for ninth place in conference standings. They host George Mason at noon this Saturday.

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