UMass men’s basketball falls short in bid to upset Dayton in A-10 quarterfinals

Fernandes finished with third-straight game of 25-plus points


McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

In Matt McCall’s final game coaching the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, the Minutemen put up a strong fight against Dayton but fell by a score of 75-72. UMass’ (15-17, 7-11 Atlantic 10) short-lived run in the A-10 Tournament came to an end with the loss to the Flyers.

Noah Fernandes scored 26 points in the loss to Dayton (23-9, 14-4 A-10) which was his third straight game of 25-plus points. Fernandes finished his final game under McCall connecting on 10 field goals and a single 3-pointer.

“[Fernandes] has done the last four or five games, whatever it is, what he’s capable of doing night in and night out,” McCall said. “He’s been outstanding. He’s one of the best guards in the A-10.”

Outside of Fernandes, the closest scorer to him was Javohn Garcia who had exactly half the total amount of points with 13. T.J. Weeks joined Garcia and Fernandes with 10 points as the only players to finish with double digits.

Fernandes fell two points short of the game-high total of 28 points from DaRon Holmes II. The freshman dominated from the start of the game and enforced his will into the paint against a much smaller Minutemen team. The big man led the team in minutes with 37 and was efficient from the floor, connecting on 12-of-15 field goal attempts. His 28 points was also a career-high.

“We feel like [Holmes II] is a heck of a player,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “The opportunities were there tonight with the way we felt like we had an advantage. [Holmes II] was able to take advantage of the situation as it presented itself and the [team] did a really good job of putting him in the position to do that.”

UMass stayed ahead of Dayton for majority of the game, holding onto the lead for almost 29 minutes. It took until the 7:04 mark of the second half for the Flyers to reach their largest lead of the game of four points. The Minutemen followed that up with a 4-0 run to get the game neutralized again and after that, no team held a lead greater than four.

A pivotal turning point in the game occurred when Fernandes lost the ball on his side of the court to Malachi Smith of Dayton. Smith ran the fast break and drove to the lane, eventually getting fouled by Trent Buttrick who then fouled out. UMass’ lead of two points quickly fizzled out after Dayton sunk both free throws.

“That was a huge play,” Grant said.

UMass clawed back into the game after Fernandes headed to the line under a shooting foul which would have been for three shots, but the referees changed it to a reach-in foul. Fernandes knocked down both free throws to get the Minutemen within one point of Dayton.

The Minutemen were forced to foul Koby Brea, who hit the first free throw and missed the second. Brea snagged his own miss, kicked it out to Toumani Camara who was fouled, which blew any chance of UMass getting the ball back down by a single possession.

Despite the loss, it was one of the cleanest offensive performances the Minutemen had all year. UMass finished the game with six turnovers which was good for a season low.

The Minutemen competed hard against the Flyers all the while going 5-of-20 from beyond the arc. There wasn’t a player on UMass who hit more than one three, a rarity for a team that heavily relies on its perimeter shooting. It was the fifth lowest shooting percentage for UMass on the year.

UMass’ season and McCall’s coaching career in Amherst ends with the loss to the Flyers and the focus will now shift to the program finding a new head coach.

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