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 defeats Duquesne 80-61 in conference opener

Five Minutemen score in double figures
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

With the Massachusetts men’s basketball team entering Atlantic 10 conference play, UMass (10-3, 1-0 A-10) showed out and fought hard to defeat Duquesne 80-61.

The Minutemen and the Dukes (9-4, 0-1 A-10) played a competitive and close game against each other for most of the first half, as UMass led by just eight at halftime. But a 21-4 run by the Minutemen that lasted over eight minutes at the end of the second half put this game out of reach and secured the team’s first A-10 victory.

“Really proud with how we defended [Wednesday], it’s conference play so everybody takes it to a different level,” head coach Frank Martin said. “Everyone’s mind is more connected, and nobody gives in mentality to plays … but these kids have a great resolve, they root for each other.”

In the first half, UMass didn’t have two of its most experienced and impactful players so far this season, as forwards Josh Cohen and Matt Cross were both in and out of the game. Cohen had three personal fouls called and was pulled after only eight minutes, and Cross was involved in two separate collisions that had him on the bench being assessed for injuries. With both out, the rest of the Minutemen worked harder to fill the holes that they left and did not falter against the adversity.

Junior guard Rahsool Diggins led the charge in the first half, netting 11 points, one rebound, and one block for UMass. Diggins ended the night as the top scorer for the Minutemen with 16 total points and three rebounds.

Four other UMass players scored in double figures, many of these points coming in the dominant run UMass went on in the second half. Despite missing time in the first 20 minutes due to two injuries, Cross returned to the game and had 15 points, eight rebounds and one steal, his resilience on full display.

Along with Cross, freshman guard Jaylen Curry scored 15 points and had two steals. Curry’s performance marked a career-high in points for the young player who continues to perform off the bench. Keon Thompson dropped 10 points, six assists and a blocks as the sophomore continues to grow into a reliable shooter for the team. With Cohen missing significant time in the game, Daniel Hankins-Sanford played more minutes than usual and stepped up to the larger role, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds, one block and one steal.

“We out-compete a lot of teams, we play harder than a lot of guys,” Diggins said about his teammates’ abilities.

Duquesne couldn’t escape foul trouble as the team had a total of 23 personal fouls called on them, 13 of which came in the first half. These fouls provided the Minutemen with 34 free throw attempts which they made 24 of, a 71 percent free throw percentage. As UMass struggled from 3 and only made two of the team’s 10 attempts from distance, the free throw line success made up for it and helped maintain its lead over the Dukes.

The Minutemen had 42 points scored in the paint, 14 more than the Duquesne, as UMass challenged the Dukes’ physicality and continued driving towards the hoop and drew many fouls, earning the Minutemen many 3-point play opportunities.

“There’s a tenacity and a strength that this team plays with, including the freshmen … it’s fun to be around,” Martin said.

With the first conference game of the season ending in a victory for UMass, A-10 play continues as the Minutemen will travel to Dayton University to play on Jan. 7, with tip off set for 1 p.m.

Samantha Sands can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @samantha_sands_.

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