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’ comeback bid falls short in fifth straight loss

The Minutemen lost 64-62 to Loyola Chicago Tuesday
Kayla Wong / Daily Collegian (2023)

With five seconds left, T.J. Weeks faked a hand-off and drove to the rim, but his shot was smothered. Isaac Kante grabbed the offensive rebound and went up for a game-tying hook shot as time ran out. It bounced twice before ultimately falling off the rim as the buzzer sounded. Loyola Chicago avoided an 18-point comeback, as the Massachusetts men’s basketball team erased the deficit over the last 10 minutes, but fell 64-62 at home on Tuesday night.

“We eliminated the b****ing,” Minuteman coach Frank Martin said of what made the late run possible.

“When you got guys who make a lot of excuses and blame, you end up giving a lot of uncontested layups. So we eliminated the nonsense and then we had guys that committed to playing for each other rather than playing for themselves. Guys actually enjoy playing with people that have each other’s backs. And I’ve been searching for that since Christmas… I’ve been trying to do it a certain way and it’s not working. So now we’re going to do it a different way.”

After going into halftime down 14, UMass (13-13, 4-10 Atlantic 10) started well out of the break, but eventually let off the gas and the Ramblers (9-16, 3-10 A-10) extended the lead to 18 with 9:51 left in the game. At that point the Minutemen flipped a switch defensively and Loyola Chicago didn’t make another field goal for the rest of the night. Weeks was the catalyst of a 19-2 run over that span that made it a 1-point game with 32 seconds left.

Weeks led all scorers with 18 points, 16 of which came in the second half. He was UMass’ only player in double digits. Dyondre Dominguez added nine points, four rebounds and three assists in his first start of the season, but played seven minutes in the second half.

For the Ramblers, Braden Norris was instrumental in building the lead in the first half, scoring 14 points, four rebounds and five assists in that period, but was held to three points and one rebound in the second. Philip Alston added 10 points and six boards in the first half, but had just three points in the second.

“I’m tired of us being embarrassingly bad defensively,” Martin said. “I think we identified four or five guys that are going to actually try to defend and play for each other rather than play for themselves. We got a bad case of selfishness on our team right now. Not with everybody, some individuals. That’s getting addressed.

“You got to have guys that are committed to playing in a way that we want to build this program to be represented. So I was proud of those guys who were on the court there those last eight minutes of the game or so, we actually played like a college basketball team again.”

Martin’s trustworthy four consisted of Weeks, Kante, Wildens Leveque and Keon Thompson. Together with RJ Luis, those five all played at least 14 second half minutes, but Luis subbed out for Rahsool Diggins with 1:47 to go.

Kante’s missed shot at the end wasn’t the only heartbreak for the Minutemen. Matt Cross, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, went down five minutes into the game with a non-contact injury to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee.

According to Martin, Cross provides the toughness on the team and his absence left everyone looking for others to step up. Outside of Cross, the first UMass player to score multiple baskets was Rahsool Diggins with 4:39 left in the first half. It was a brutal opening 20 minutes for the Minutemen, who shot 18 percent from three and had 11 turnovers, along with being outplayed in just about every aspect.

“[In the second half scoring run] I felt like we started to rely on each other more on defense,” Weeks said. “In the timeout we were like, ‘we got to win the next four minutes, one play at a time.’ So we just focus on that individual play. So we got a stop, let’s get a bucket, then another stop, and then we just kept rolling it.”

The team’s fifth straight loss comes against a Loyola Chicago team that sits at the bottom of the A-10 standings. Rhode Island is right above UMass in the conference standings, and the Minutemen attempt to break their losing skid in Kingston at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be streamed on ESPNU.

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

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