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 outplayed by Dayton in 72-54 loss at home

Flyers shot over 50 percent from floor
Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian (2023)

The Dayton Flyers thoroughly outplayed the Massachusetts men’s basketball team Wednesday, with a 72-54 win at the Mullins Center.

“[Dayton’s] players don’t shut up on the court, which is part of being a good basketball team,” UMass (14-14, 5-11 Atlantic 10) coach Frank Martin said. “There’s no breakdowns, and when there is, somebody has a guy’s back.”

“When you watch Dayton play, that’s what we’re aspiring to become.”

While plenty of Flyers (19-9, 11-4 A-10) made the score sheet, DaRon Holmes II rose above the rest. Holmes made his presence felt all night, affecting plenty of shots around the rim on both ends of the floor. Holmes’ quick first step created a problem for UMass bigs Isaac Kante and Wildens Leveque, as he blew past both big men for easy baskets on multiple occasions. The projected NBA prospect finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks on 9-of-14 shooting.

“[Holmes] is a real good player,” Martin said. “DaRon Holmes kept posting, kept posting, kept posting, kept sprinting into ball screens, kept sprinting out of ball screens, and eventually we kind of [relaxed]. And as soon as we relaxed, he exploited us. He’s a real good player.”

While Holmes commanded the paint, other Dayton players piloted the perimeter. The Flyers came in shooting 33.4 percent from deep, good for 9th in the A-10. Wednesday night, though, their season average got boosted thanks to an 8-of-19 (42 percent) performance from three.

The biggest contributors in Dayton’s 3-point barrage were the two similarly named sophomores: Koby Brea and Kobe Elvis. The two guards used backdoor cuts and off-ball movement for some of the best looks they’ve seen all season from deep. Brea finished with 11 points and three triples, while Elvis finished with 10 and two makes from behind the arc.

With the Flyers’ offensive firepower leading to plenty of points, the lack of defensive intensity from the Minutemen found its way into the mind of Frank Martin postgame, with the coach sarcastically remarking that “my fat rear-end could have probably scored against our defense.”

While the defensive effort from UMass left a lot to be desired, the first half saw a respectable offensive performance from the team. The Minutemen suffered from another slow start, taking over three minutes to score their first point. Eventually shots began to fall and the Dayton lead was even cut to two at one point midway through the first.

The second half offense painted a different picture. Two separate field goal droughts, each lasting over four minutes, dug a grave for the team. They shot 33.3 percent over the game’s concluding 20 minutes.

Without Noah Fernandes and Matt Cross, RJ Luis stepped up as the Minutemen’s go-to scorer from the jump, the freshman scored the team’s first six points on his own. That led to Luis’ best performance since the end of January, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds. The former A-10 Freshman of the Week showcased his quick first step, a high-level handle and offensive fluidity.

Fellow freshman Keon Thompson was the only other UMass player in double figures, as he finished with 10 points. The pair finished as the Minutemen’s top scorers for the second game in a row.

Martin and Dayton coach Anthony Grant fiery passion on the court the two maintain a mutual friendship off of it, dating back to the duo’s days at Miami High School in 1980. Grant talked tto the entire Martin family after the game. Wednesday was the first time Grant saw Brandon Martin, his godson, play basketball in person.

“To see his family, see his kids grown up, I hadn’t seen Amalia and Christian in quite some time,” Grant said. “That was emotional just to see them.”

For the Minutemen, they get nearly a week of rest before traveling to Pittsburgh next Wednesday to take on Duquesne. Tipoff’s at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN+.

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @DeanWende1.

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