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 struggles generating offense in 71-38 conference tournament loss

Minutemen shoot 24 percent from floor
Chris Tucci/UMass Athletics

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team had been down a rocky road. After a 9-3 start to the year and a Myrtle Beach Invitational title, the team entered the gruels of conference play, and came out a shell of its former self, entering Brooklyn with a 15-15 record, losers of seven of their last nine. 

Richmond (15-17, 7-11 Atlantic 10) jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, routing UMass 71-38, and ending its season on Tuesday afternoon. The Minutemen (15-16, 6-12 A-10) struggled in every capacity. 

“Yeah, I thought we did a lot of standing around [today],” coach Frank Martin said. 

“Bad attack offensively, lack of aggression offensively, and then the ball not going in. And eventually, it broke our spirit. And missing shots broke our spirit. And when your spirit breaks, especially this time of year, there’s no turning back. You’ve got no chance. And that’s what happened halfway through the second half there.”

The worst of the team’s struggles came on offense, where the Minutemen delivered one of the weakest performances across all of college basketball. UMass’ 36 points scored tied the 13th worst scoring output from a Division I team this season.  

Looking at the numbers, UMass shot a season-low 23.8 percent from the floor all game, enduring numerous scoring droughts. The worst of the bunch happened in the middle of the second half; a six and a half minute period with no Minutemen points took the Spiders lead from 19 points into an insurmountable 33-point margin. And UMass had plenty of looks, the team had 63 shot attempts and continued crashing the glass with 18 offensive rebounds. 

From beyond the arc, the Minutemen were even more dreadful. The team made one 3-pointer all game, a Matt Cross triple which occurred in the first few minutes. Apart from that, there were 15 misses, some worse than others. UMass shot six percent from deep. 

Turnovers were another weak spot for both teams. The Minutemen and Richmond both started slow, as the first half saw a combined 22 turnovers to just 20 made field goals. While the Spiders picked up the pace in the second half, things only regressed for UMass. The Minutemen committed the same number of turnovers (seven) as made shots. Players were passing into windows that didn’t exist, trying to find teammates that weren’t there. 

For UMass’ seniors, Tuesday’s loss represents likely the final time they’ll be seen on a college basketball court. It was anything but a storybook ending for players like Isaac Kante, Brandon Martin and T.J. Weeks Jr; the trio would combine for just seven points on three-of-13 shooting. No senior may have been hurt more from the defeat though than Wildens Leveque, a player who likely saw his career end after four years of growth at two schools under Frank Martin. 

“I felt real bad for Wildens this year,” Martin said. “I didn’t feel bad for him for three years at South Carolina. I felt bad for him this year. Two reasons – played hurt. Number two, he had to take on a bigger responsibility than he’s ever had as an individual player and no one really helped him.” 

“Wildens is one of those guys, he’s a guy on our team that understands help and elevating others… he’s a beautiful young man.”  

Wildens was second, trailing only RJ Luis, in scoring for the Minutemen. He finished with six points on 3-of-4 shooting and four rebounds. 

Tyler Burton continued as the main builder of the Spiders’ offensive attack, finishing with one of his best performances of the season. Burton took over 40 percent of his team’s shots, and he shined. The Uxbridge, MA native used a bevy of off-ball cuts, dribble moves, and athletic finishes to score 28 points, making the UMass defense constantly look uncoordinated. The all-conference second teamer outscored the entire Minutemen roster for the majority of the game. 

For UMass, its season is now over at 15-16, and 2022-23 can be described as an up-and-down affair for the Minutemen. 

“Year one is kind of a discovery-finding deal, because everyone is trying to understand each other,” Martin said. 

“It becomes a roller coaster sometimes, and back in pre-Christmas, the roller coaster was a lot of fun. And today, the roller coaster is not fun. But that’s part of the stuff that we sign up for.” 

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

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