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 falls to Towson in first road test

Tigers maintain lead for nearly entire game
Jonathan Shi
Daily Collegian (2023)

In its first road game of the season, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team fell 81-71 to Towson on Wednesday.

While UMass (4-2) never let the game get out of hand, it never got to within striking distance either. The Tigers (4-5) used a hot shooting start to build an 11-point lead within the game’s first seven minutes, a lead that lasted the rest of the game with the Minutemen only able to reduce it to one possession once.

“We battled in that second half, but we played with no force today,” head coach Frank Martin said. “Our ball screen defense was not bad, it was pathetic… and we got outrebounded, we got [out-shot on free throws] and when you do that on the road, you got no chance.”

It was a tough start for the UMass offense, and Towson pounced on those early struggles. The Tigers’ 11-point lead occurred thanks to a 3-of-9 start from the field for the Minutemen. Meanwhile, seven early points from sophomore guard Christian May helped Towson score 21 points before the contest had even reached its second media timeout.

From there, the game’s momentum slowly tilted back and forth, with both teams having a series of small runs spread out over the next 32 minutes. Within four minutes of the Tigers’ lead reaching 12, a Robert Davis Jr. three brought the game back to within six for UMass. Towson extend its lead to double digits, only to lose a grip on the game moments later.

Regardless, every Minutemen punch was countered by the home team. With 8:11 to play, UMass sophomore guard Keon Thompson nailed a 3-pointer to bring the Tigers’ lead down to four. After encountering a series of cold shooting stretches, it felt as if the Minutemen had finally found an offensive groove.

From there, it was Towson’s turn to go on a scoring run. In just under three minutes, the Tigers scored eleven unanswered points to form a game-high 15-point lead, a dagger for UMass’ chances.

Leading scorer Josh Cohen was largely held in check by Charles Thompson, a 2022-23 CAA All-Defensive Team member, and the Minutemen needed another reliable scorer to step up. That somebody was the other Thompson playing in Wednesday night’s game, as Keon scored a career-high 19 points for UMass on 5-of-10 shooting. All 19 of the sophomore guard’s points came in the second half.

With the Minutemen facing an 11-point deficit early in the second, it was Thompson who went on a small run of his own to bring the team back into the thick of things. On back-to-back UMass possessions, two hard-nosed drives from the sophomore led to two baskets and two fouls. Wednesday was a promising sign for Thompson’s development, showing the strides that the guard has made specifically on offense.

“I challenged [Thompson] at halftime,” Martin said. “You can’t go on the road and be passive and I thought he was too passive…He saw the angles that we talked about in practice to attack, he attacked them in the second half. Give him credit. He gave us life, he gave us spirit and [he] gave us a chance to get back in that game.”

In addition to Thompson, three other Minutemen scored in double figures. Matt Cross got into early foul trouble but shook it off to finish with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Davis Jr. scored 11 points, the most in his young career, while Rahsool Diggins contributed with 10.

Towson had two players of its own reach career-highs in points, including May. In addition to the sophomore’s 27-point performance, freshman guard Dylan Williamson scored 17 points in 32 minutes of play.

“I don’t care how much better we play offensively, we never matched the physicality of the game,” Martin said. “At this time of year more than at any time of the year, the most physical team’s going to win the game…they were definitely the more physical team today.”

The Minutemen lost the rebounding battle 39-27, allowing 15 offensive rebounds to the Tigers.

UMass heads back home Saturday to take on in-state foe UMass Lowell. Tip-off is set for 12:00 p.m. on ESPN+.

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

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