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’ heart broken again as Saint Joseph’s completes comeback at the buzzer

Minutemen lose by a second-chance basket in the final second for the second time in three games
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2024)

Last week the Massachusetts men’s basketball team lost by one at Loyola Chicago after a second-chance layup with one second left. This time at home and having led for most of the game, UMass (12-7, 3-4 Atlantic 10) lost by one to Saint Joseph’s on a nearly identical second-chance layup at the final second.

St. Joe’s (13-6, 3-3 A-10) was down by 13 with just over 10 minutes left. At the 9:42 mark, UMass  had a 90.7 percent win probability, according to ESPN’s model. From that point on, Erik Reynolds II scored as many points as UMass did (13) and the Minutemen handed the game to the Hawks on a silver platter. The final was 78-77 on Tuesday at the Mullins Center.

Once again, it looked like UMass had a close win in its hands after Rahsool Diggins scored a go-ahead bucket with a spin move into a right handed scoop, putting the Minutemen up by one with 12 seconds left. But once again, they let the opposition drive to the basket and rebound their own miss, UMass players watching as Lynn Greer III got the putback layup to go in the final play.

Between 8:45 and 1:54 in the second half, the Minutemen turned it over eight times. They gave the ball away a season-high 17 times in total, with 10 coming in the second half.

“Too many turnovers,” UMass head coach Frank Martin said. “We took that lead and we probably had seven consecutive possessions of our worse offensive possessions we’ve had all year. Just guys fumbling the ball, and they weren’t like aggressive plays, they were just ‘give them the ball, let them shoot layups’ plays. Once they got back in the game, it was a rock fight until the end and obviously we couldn’t guard them. We had no answer to [Reynolds].”

Reynolds, a top five scorer in the conference, did what he wanted all night. He started the game by hitting consecutive 3-pointers, a sign of what was to come throughout the game. Reynolds finished with 31 points and shot 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.

It didn’t really matter who UMass put on him. His quickness was too much, his clean release was too much, he didn’t need much space and when he wasn’t collapsing the Minuteman defense, he was waiting for the near-side catch-and-shoot 3. Reynolds shot 4-for-4 from deep in the first half. With one minute left, he hit one of the biggest shots of the game: a go-ahead jumper plus the foul (even though he missed the free throw).

“[Reynolds] moves with tremendous pace, doesn’t stop moving, even when he’s walking around,” Diggins said. “He sprints off screens, he just has a high motor, and he’s very aggressive. So it’s always tough to play against a player like that, that has the green light and will shoot it with any space.”

But even outside of Reynolds, UMass’ lackluster defense let Saint Joseph’s take high-quality shots for much of the second half and left Martin searching for answers.

“All they did was shoot layups,” Martin said. “They’d just take the ball, drive it and shoot layups. Our guy on the ball was no good, our help defense was no good. Then we played with a little spunk in the second half, built the lead, then we went right back to the nonsense. Get outrun down the court, guys don’t cross the half court line getting back on defense. We haven’t done that all year, I got no idea. I wasn’t in a mood to have a conversation with my team after the game.”

“We were so bad defensively [Tuesday],” he said. “Just really bad. Too many turnovers and really bad defensively. That’s two things we haven’t really done all year … if we don’t do those two things better, we’re going to lose on the road.”

For UMass, Diggins led in scoring with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting and 3-for-5 from downtown. He hit the big shot at the end, but also had four turnovers in the final stretch with 8:45 to go. Daniel Hankins-Sanford had a career night in scoring with 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting and six rebounds.

Jayden Ndjigue added eight points and a career-high 11 rebounds, and Keon Thompson put up 10 points and four assists. As a team, UMass put up strong performances at the foul line (14-of-17) and on the offensive glass, outscoring Saint Joseph’s 20 to five on second chance points.

Few teams have gone through what the Minutemen have so far this season when it comes to losing nail-biters, and the outcome doesn’t seem to change. This loss to the Hawks only adds to a long list of avoidable close defeats.

They suffered a home overtime loss against Harvard after 15 missed free throws. Then a three-point loss to Georgia Tech with 11 missed free throws. There was four-point loss at Dayton in which they got within two of the Flyers at the 1:30 mark, and also missed six free throws. Then they had the one-point loss at Loyola Chicago after a second-chance basket plus the foul with one second left. And now a carbon copy against St. Joe’s. Those account for five out of UMass’ seven losses so far this season, and all came against teams that are between competitive and extremely good.

“There’s no resilience there, man,” Martin said. “Ain’t no resilience there. You got to find courage to go get that ball there, not stand there and look at it. That’s two games we lose because we stand there and look at the guy go get the ball while we’re standing there looking at them. It’s disappointing.”

“It actually feels exactly the same [as the loss at Loyola Chicago last week],” Diggins said. “We talked about it before it happened, “It’s a sour taste in our mouth right now, but we’ll get back to practice and focus on rebounding specifically.”

On a positive note for UMass fans, the Minutemen saw senior star Matt Cross return after a three-game absence. Despite having just recovered from an ankle injury and oral surgery to repair a chipped tooth, he was one of the team’s most productive players with 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

“He was hesitant to shoot the ball,” Martin said of Cross’ return. “It’s what happens when you don’t play for three weeks, but without him, we’re in deep trouble [Tuesday]. Thank God he was willing to strap it up and go [Tuesday].”

UMass has a chance to bounce back when it faces Saint Louis on the road on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X/Twitter @P_GraySoares.

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