Garcia, Weeks are key in UMass men’s basketball’s quarterfinal’s loss

The two combined for six offensive rebounds

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McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

Nobody was more valuable for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team than Noah Fernandes, who had another career day, but Javohn Garcia and T.J. Weeks made countless effort plays to keep their team in a game they had no business being in.

While a 75-72 score is still a loss for the Minutemen, it’s nowhere near the 81-62 loss from the same Dayton team in February. This is a free-flowing team on an uncanny stint since it was announced Matt McCall wasn’t coming back, and Garcia and Weeks were a large part of the near upset Friday night.

Garcia finished second in scoring for UMass with 13 points and added five rebounds, four of which were offensive. Weeks added 10 points and tied for the team high in rebounds with six — two of which were offensive — in shortened minutes due to a leg injury he suffered in the second half.

Seeing 13 points and five rebounds in the stat sheet isn’t game-changing, but watching Garcia save a possession by drawing getting to the free throw line on an offensive rebound is. Stealing the ball from DaRon Holmes II for what looked like another easy inside basket is also a play that kills the Flyers’ momentum in the final minutes of the game.

With Buttrick playing limited minutes because of foul trouble, Weeks slid in at the four and guarded Toumani Camara, who has four inches and about 35 pounds on the redshirt sophomore. While he didn’t outright shut Camara down, Weeks still grabbed key rebounds to prevent second chance opportunities for Dayton.

Weeks also tried to come back into the game after he was very obviously in a lot of pain. He walked over to McCall a few minutes after being checked in knowing he wouldn’t be able to finish the game. The two embraced for a hug knowing it would be the last time Weeks would ever play under McCall.

McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

“Honestly, at first, I was praying [Weeks] was okay,” Fernandes said. “Before he’s my teammate, he’s my brother, so that was the first thing. And when I see him come back into the game, I thought he was alright. But he was moving a little funny. And I think he was doing it out of his heart for the team, trying to give it his all, because it could be our last game [of the season].”

“Honestly, for him to do that, [Weeks] definitely gained a lot of respect from me, a lot more respect. Because a lot of people wouldn’t make that decision, so I appreciated that.”

A near perfect game for Garcia did come with one crucial error. After making a 3-pointer in front of Dayton’s bench, Garcia gave the Minutemen a 36-26 lead with 2:27 in the first half, their biggest of the night. Garcia immediately turned to the Flyers’ bench and said enough to earn a technical foul. Dayton turned that into an 8-0 run to finish out the half and diminish the chances of UMass holding its lead for the remainder of the game.

“Being able to find the right times and be able to find those runs and be able to stay locked in, collectively, make those plays I think is really crucial,” Camara said. “And I think that was one of the moments that opened a run for us, for sure.”

It’s unfair to think that was the one crucial moment that led to the Minutemen’s loss, because there were many. Garcia and Weeks’ contributions made a major impact in their last game with the only college basketball head coach they’ve ever known.

“What I learned from [McCall] is he always tells us just to believe,” Garcia said. “Like every day, every game, just believe in your game… It will take you far.”

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