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

Matt Cross scores a career-high 28 points after a tumultuous week

‘Matt’s the personality of our team’
Dylan Nguyễn/Daily Collegian

Matt Cross scored a career-high 28 points in Saturday’s 93-78 loss at home against Davidson. Aside from the skill and toughness he showed during the game, setting foot on the court was an even bigger feat.

Stomach sickness left Cross in bed and eventually in the hospital, forcing him to not travel for Wednesday’s mid week game against Duquesne. The Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s coach Frank Martin said Cross lost around 17-18 pounds at first, unable to stomach any food. Throughout the week he had to stick with eating softer, more digestible foods such as fruit, yogurt and apple sauce.

Cross said he’s gaining weight again, and slowly progressing to his normal diet before the stomach incident. Hydration is even more important in getting his weight back, since a lot of the weight he lost was water weight.

Cross practiced for the first time this week on Friday, but only did so for 30 minutes. The day before he lifted some weights and had 20 minutes of individual drills.

“I’m just tired,” Cross said. “Just trying to get my wind back, my legs back. I’m up a couple pounds now so I’m getting there, just tired.”

Even with Cross not 100 percent, the same physicality and aggressiveness he usually shows was prevalent Saturday. He grabbed two offensive rebounds and drew seven fouls. His usual difficult shots around the rim continued to drop.

“Matt’s the personality of our team,” Martin said. “Matt brings that hard hat every single day. And he makes mistakes as he’s trying to understand how to become a more complete player, but effort and grit is not one of them … It’s disappointing to me that he was more willing to bring the fight to the fight than the other guys who had nothing wrong with them.”

Only T.J. Weeks and Keon Thompson played more minutes than Cross’ 31 against Davidson. With 4:08 left in the game, Cross was at the free throw line after drawing a foul. His mid section was rapidly pumping for air, he was clearly much more tired than usual, as a player who’s consistently on the floor at the end of games. Martin subbed Cross out with a little over two minutes left when the game was out of hand, receiving applause from the crowd as he walked to the bench.

“I played [Cross] way too much today, I should’ve played him less,” Martin said. “He said he was good and I got wrapped up in the moment to try and win the game today.”

Poor defense was UMass’ (13-10, 4-7 Atlantic 10) biggest downfall in this game. Despite the career-best performance on the offensive end, Cross was not an exception to that – though it was for different reasons.

“Without diminishing Matt’s effort and Matt’s competitiveness, he wasn’t bad but he was very average defensively today, understandably so,” Martin said. “If I wore a uniform today and that guy had more enthusiasm and energy than I did, I’d go home and question why I’m playing basketball, that’s what I would do.”

Among his more difficult baskets Saturday, Cross caught an entry pass under the left side of the hoop, which positioned himself at the edge of the baseline with three Wildcats (11-12, 4-7 A-10) defenders on his back. He jumped back and made the contested layup look easy.

“It felt great [having Cross back],” Minuteman guard T.J. Weeks said. “I felt like we had a physical presence because Matt’s always going to do the gritty stuff; get a rebound or blitz somebody to the paint. So I felt like we could be more physical with the other team and hopefully get some more stops and rebounds.

“If [Cross is] fighting, we all got to fight a little extra harder for him just to pick him up because he’s not 100 percent. If I see him fighting, I’m going to fight 150 percent for him,” Weeks added.

UMass’ next game is on the road against Fordham, who is currently 18-4 and 6-3 in conference play. That game is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and will be streamed on ESPN+.

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


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    Garrett JacobsmeierFeb 6, 2023 at 2:26 pm

    Nails ????