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 men’s basketball struggles in the second half against Fordham, extends losing skid to three

Minutemen again without Fernandes, Diggins and Luis
Dylan Nguyễn/Daily Collegian

After starting the second half up by five, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team allowed a 30-8 run, eventually losing to Fordham 77-67 on the road.

Wednesday night’s game was the eighth straight without point guard Noah Fernandes for UMass (13-11, 4-8 Atlantic 10), who Minutemen coach Frank Martin said will be out for the “foreseeable future” after their most recent game against Davidson. Along with Fernandes, guards Rahsool Diggins and RJ Luis didn’t play against the Rams (19-5, 7-4 A-10). Down two of its top three scorers and another contributing point guard, UMass has three straight losses. It also struggled moving the ball in the second half after a strong first.

“They just got after us and they scored,” Martin said of Fordham’s improved second-half defense. “Every time they scored they can set up their press. In the first half, they didn’t score, so they couldn’t set up the press. In the second half, they played that ‘sophisticated offense’ called drive the guard, and we couldn’t guard the bounce. And our help defense is embarrassing.”

“It’s been an achilles heel all year, our inability to guard the bounce.”

On the surface it sounds simple, but Fordham’s defensive identity relies heavily on scoring to set up its relentless full-court press. That’s why UMass managed to go into halftime with a lead, and even led by 10 at one point. The Rams’ pressure was never a real threat in that period because they shot 39 percent from the field and 1-for-10 from three. On the other hand, the Minutemen took advantage by going 53.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep.

But everything changed after the break.

Fordham came out firing with a 30-8 scoring run in the first 10 minutes of the second half. It shot 50 percent from both the field and 3-point line (9-of-18, 3-of-6) and 9-of-11 from the free throw line, committing zero turnovers and snatching four steals. In that same time, the Minutemen were 4-of-12 from the field, making zero threes and foul shots and committing five turnovers.

One of the most impactful aspects of the game was the home crowd’s energy. Rose Hill Gymnasium, the second-oldest on-campus Division I arena, was sold out and the student section was rowdy.

“As a coach it’s fun to play league games and come to some of these buildings, and they all got sold out gyms, it makes it really hard to win on the road,” Martin said. “Much credit to Fordham for creating the environment that they’ve created.

“The guys are trying, but it’s hard. You’re going on the road, sold out arena against a pretty darn good basketball team, and we got caught up in the emotion of the building.”

Matt Cross contributed over 35 percent of the Minutemen’s points in their previous game, but scoring was much more balanced Wednesday night. Four players scored in double figures, but arguably the most impressive statline came from Keon Thompson.

Thompson did another commendable job filling the shoes of Fernandes and Diggins; the freshman called plays, dropped dimes, and made tough shots through all of his season-high 37 minutes. 

“[Keon] tried really hard, man,” Martin said. “For him to go against [Fordham guard Darius Quisenberry] and fight and compete. He made some mistakes but he also offensively gave us a chance with his courage.” 

Thompson finished with 13 points and four assists. However, after zero turnovers on Saturday versus Davidson, Thompson didn’t follow up his mistake-free outing, coughing up four to the Rams. 

UMass’ backcourt injuries forced Martin into his shortest rotation of the season; a stark change for a team that leads the country in bench minutes. Only six players played more than 10 minutes, and three of them (Cross, Brandon Martin, Thompson) logged season highs.

For Fordham, Darius Quisenberry and Khalid Moore continued to lead the Ram offense. The duo combined for over half of their team’s points, finishing with 21 and 19, respectively. 

The Minutemen stay on the road for a matchup against La Salle on Saturday at 2 p.m. which will be available on ESPN+.

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