Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass ends on 12-0 run to beat Richmond at home on Wednesday

Minutemen finish with season-low seven turnovers
Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team locked in late to defend homecourt in an 85-76 win over the Richmond Spiders on Wednesday.

UMass (12-8, 3-5 Atlantic 10) shot 47.8 percent from 3-point range and 85.7 percent from the free throw line on 28 attempts. Richmond (11-10, 4-4 A-10) failed to score for the last three minutes of the game, letting the Minutemen close the door in front of the home crowd.

It’s tied up 76-76, with 1:45 left in the ballgame. Freshman RJ Luis, who led UMass 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists, launched a three to take the lead. The ball bounces off the rim, hanging in the air awaiting to be snatched. In comes veteran Matt Cross, flying in the middle of the paint to grab the offensive rebound.

He takes a jumper and misses. Luis comes back and picks up another offensive rebound, kicking it out to Dyondre Dominguez. Dominguez pump fakes, drives to the basket, and throws a lob to Wildens Leveque, who tomahawks it home. The Minutemen go up 78-76 with 1:40 left, and never let off the gas pedal.

“That was just wild,” Luis said. “[Leveque] was trying to be flashy. Tight game, I’m thinking he was going to dunk it with two-hands. But he dunked it with one, he got that. It gave us a lot of momentum, seeing Wil dunk the ball, Wil scream.”

The momentum play helped propel UMass to the finish line, who was missing its usual late-game floor general, Noah Fernandes.

Fernandes and TJ Weeks watched the game from the bench, recovering from injury. To help produce from the guard position in their absence, the Minutemen turned to sophomore Rahsool Diggins, who answered the call with 12 points and six assists to no turnovers.

“I’m a big Rahsool guy,” said UMass head coach Frank Martin. “He gave us a personality today and you can’t win if your team don’t got personality.”

The Minutemen made both the most threes and free throws of the season, with 11 and 24 respectively. They shot 47.8 percent from beyond the arc, which helped them stave off any Richmond attempt to pull away in the second half.

Three of those makes came from Matt Cross, who finished the night with 16 points. His team-high eight rebounds proved to be vital for UMass, who outrebounded the Spiders 39-32.

“Matt gives us an identity, an identity of toughness” said teammate Wildens Leveque. “That’s something we need as a team. Someone to keep going after those (rebounds), inspire us, so we can do the same thing as him.”

Richmond didn’t go out without a fight, however. 7-foot Neal Quinn and 6-foot-7-inch Tyler Burton formed a two-headed monster, combining for over half the team’s points.

Burton finished with a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Quinn used his massive frame and arsenal of post moves to score 19 points, along with five rebounds and a team-high six assists.

The Minutemen entered halftime down five points, curtesy of a Burton buzzer-beating jumper from the right corner. They responded by outscoring the Spiders by 14 in the second half.

UMass held the visitors scoreless in the last three minutes of game, getting crucial defensive stops and converting late-game free throws.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Martin said. “They fight. Today was the first time all year where things weren’t going our way, and we actually rallied to help one another.”

UMass will host the Duquesne Dukes on Saturday, Jan. 28. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.

Judah Katz can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @judah_katz

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