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 remains in ‘survival mode,’ beats St. Bonaventure

Minutemen ride good defense to 71-60 win
Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian (2023)

For a team that’s in “survival mode”, as Wildens Leveque said a couple weeks ago, Saturday exemplified just how tough and scrappy a team that’s surviving can be.

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team closed out their regular season with a win, knocking off St. Bonaventure (14-17, 8-10 Atlantic 10) 71-60 on Saturday. UMass (15-15, 6-12 A-10) fought for loose balls, commanded shots around the rim, and simply made offense difficult for the Bonnies all game, leading to one of their best defensive performances since conference play began.

“You never want to end your season on a loss, especially at home on senior day, against a team that beat us up pretty good the first time around,” UMass coach Frank Martin said postgame.

“It’s just the discipline to get through screens, not get screened, guard the basketball, help each other, to elevate one another, rather than standing around and [blaming] somebody… We played with a purpose today, offensively and defensively.”

St. Bonaventure committed 20 turnovers, 13 in the first half alone. When the Bonnies hung onto the ball and set up its offense, the results weren’t much prettier. A good portion of the first half saw no points come out of St. Bonaventure at all, with UMass turn a 13-6 deficit to a 20-13 lead in under eight minutes. The Bonnies finished the game shooting just over 36 percent from the floor and 32 percent from deep.

Martin continued rolling with two big men, Isaac Kante and Wildens Leveque, in his starting lineup. Close two-pointers, ended up as one of the toughest zones for Bonaventure to score from all day. The Bonnies finished 7-of-19 on its close shots, with both Minutemen bigs affecting attempts. Leveque, in particular, flexed his defensive muscles. He finished with three blocks, his most against a team not named Rhode Island since November.

While the UMass offense saw its fair share of struggles — such as shooting worse than St. Bonaventure from the floor — its attacking philosophy ultimately kept control of the game. Post entry passes, backdoor cuts, and crashing the glass forced the Bonnies to foul often.

The Minutemen finished with 19 offensive rebounds, a season-high for top offensive rebounding team in the A-10. This led to three Bonaventure starters ultimately ending their days early by fouling out, all but a death knell for one of the shortest benches in the country.

Rahsool Diggins co-led the Minutemen in scoring with 14 points, his second-highest scoring output of the season. The UConn transfer looked comfortable with his decision-making, scoring at all three levels of the court. RJ Luis continued to be a main option, also finishing with 14, while Leveque added 11.

The concluding home game of the season also meant senior day festivities for UMass, who honored six Minutemen in a pregame ceremony. All but one (Noah Fernandes) saw playing time, combining for 28 points, 15 rebounds, and 9-of-20 shooting.

With the regular season concluded, all eyes now turn to the Big Apple and the Atlantic 10 tournament. UMass is locked into the 13 seed, and will play the tournament’s opening game Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. ET versus an opponent that’s yet to be named. So how are the Minutemen approaching Brooklyn?

“We just want to play with an identity,” Leveque said. “And that’s what we’re going to instill within our practices.”

“Hopefully [playing with a purpose] allows us to re-embrace that as we play next week,” Martin said.

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

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