UMass men’s basketball falls to George Washington at home Wednesday night

Minuteman haven’t beaten the Colonials since 2014

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Caitlin Mott/Daily Collegian

By Pedro Gray Soares, Collegian Staff

After a quality road win against Rhode Island, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team fell to George Washington at home on Wednesday, 77-68.

“[We] got outplayed, outworked, out-efforted,” UMass head coach Matt McCall said. “They played so much harder than us, that’s the bottom line, that’s why we lost. They worked harder than us, we had zero resistance, … didn’t make them really earn anything.”

This comes after a game at URI where McCall praised the performance of his team that finished with few mistakes, but that was not the case tonight.

“[…] When we play with great effort, when we play unselfish, when we celebrate each other’s success and we utilize it each other, we can win a lot of basketball games,” McCall said. “It’s almost like when adversity hits and it starts not going our way, we break away from doing the things that make us successful.”

Despite a fair share of injuries and run-ins with Covid-19, this team has underachieved in conference play. UMass (10-12, 3-7 Atlantic 10) started Wednesday night’s game hot, but could not adapt to the Colonials’ (9-13, 5-5 A-10) adjustments in the second half.

In the first half the Minutemen shot 40 percent from deep, but in the second half that percentage dropped to 16.7. George Washington started to switch on screens to stop the 3-point shooting, and forced UMass to beat them in the paint, which it couldn’t do.

The Minutemen have also struggled finishing at the rim throughout the season, and tonight was no different. Paint presence issues for UMass are not exclusive to the offensive side of the ball. The Minutemen’s defense couldn’t find an answer for Colonials star James Bishop, who has been red-hot in his last five games, averaging 26.4 in that stretch.

Despite going 0-for-5 from three, Bishop drove to the basket at will and scored with ease. He finished with 24 points, his lowest mark in the five-game stretch, and shot 11 free throws.

“He’s a great player,” Colonials head coach Jamion Christian said. “Coaching guys like that, you can give him a little bit, and they can make it a lot. A big part of our resiliency is because of him. … When he committed to us, we felt like he was a program-changing player.”

Coming into the game, containing George Washington’s guards was key for UMass. Bishop and Joe Bamisile combine for over 30 points per game, stopping them would mean limiting their team’s offensive production. McCall didn’t want them to be able to play their game, but Bishop and the Colonials’ other four starting guards combined for 65 of their 77 total points.

Additionally, the Minutemen were outrebounded 41-29 by a team with not much paint presence, which McCall like many coaches identifies as a “hustle stat” that defined the contest.

“I think when something doesn’t go well […] we deviate from [effort and unselfishness],” McCall said. “I guess I got to do a better job, preaching it, at the end of the day I’m the leader and I’ve got to do a better job, because clearly in games like tonight the message is not registering, so I’ve got to do a better job.”

The lone bright spots for UMass were Trent Buttrick, Rich Kelly and Michael Steadman. Buttrick finished with a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double. Kelly scored 15 points and had four assists, and Steadman notched seven points and four rebounds in only 10 minutes of playing time. Noah Fernandes had his worst scoring night of the season, with just four points in 1-for-11 shooting.

The Minutemen will next host Saint Joseph’s on Saturday at noon. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares.