Matt Cross’ career night falls short in loss to UMass Lowell

Cross scores career-high 19 points with 17 in second half takeover

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Dylan Nguyễn/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Pedro Gray Soares, Assistant Sports Editor

After falling behind early, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team needed a hero to step up in the absence of point guard Noah Fernandes. Matt Cross answered the call with 17 points and four steals in the second half. It wasn’t enough as the Minutemen fell 85-80 to UMass Lowell at home on Thursday.

With 16:32 left in the game and down by 15 points, Cross’ takeover started. He got to the foul line and sank two free throws, then blocked a layup on the other end and grabbed the rebound. Isaac Kante scored for UMass and then Minutemen allowed a couple free throws, but Cross went on to score nine straight UMass points with a mix of driving layups, foul shots and a three pointer. He left the game at the 13:00 mark after scoring 11 points in 3:32 and cutting the deficit to single digits.

“I’m really happy for Matt, happy that he saw the ball go in the basket,” UMass coach Frank Martin said. “He’s been frustrated with himself because Matt’s one of those guys he thinks every shot he shoots should go in the basket. He puts a lot of pressure on himself from that standpoint … Matt gave us a toughness [in rebounding and loose balls], the rest of us kind of just stood and watched a little bit.”

There weren’t many bright spots for UMass (7-2) in the first half. Cross was no different, notching just two points along with two turnovers and two fouls while playing 15 minutes, the most on the team. But the Minutemen managed to go into the break down by eight and now someone needed to take initiative.

Coming back from halftime Cross scored 17 points in 5-for-6 shooting, including 6-for-6 from the free throw line. The forward played 18 minutes, adding three rebounds and four steals. He got in foul trouble towards the end of the half but managed to stay on the court and charge the Minutemen back into the game.

“I didn’t really, I want to say, even take ownership [of the game],” Cross said. “I think we just kept playing, kept doing what we do except play harder, more aggressive. I think sometimes when I get tired, I hang around the arc too much, not rebound, not be aggressive and what I can do, and I think that’s the biggest thing of helping this team, is be aggressive. So I think it’s just when I’m not in the rhythm of the game, kind of just get down low and bang around and help my team, all the little things I think will come.”

His physicality was key in the dominant second half performance against the River Hawks (10-1). Cross finished his big night with career highs in points with 19, minutes with 33 and steals with five. His physicality was seen especially in getting to the foul line eight times, converting all eight – both also career highs.

“[Physicality is] kind of Frank’s style,” Cross said. “He doesn’t care who we’re playing, punch them in the mouth and get on the line and bring it to them every time. He thinks that if you bring it every time most teams will crack and don’t want to deal with that all game. But it’s a discipline. It’s something that we got to keep doing all game, not when we’re down bring it out in the second half, like it’s got to be off the rip.”

The Minutemen will travel to Brooklyn, N.Y. to face Hofstra in the Hall of Fame Invitational on Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Barclays Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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