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 at Rhode Island

Rams shoot lights out from deep, Minutemen far from it
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome a three-point storm from Rhode Island en route to an 89-77 loss on the road Saturday. The Rams shot 14-for-23 from beyond the arc, erasing any possibility of a UMass comeback as the Minutemen were without Matt Cross.

The rivalry game came down to shotmaking at the Ryan Center, with URI (9-7, 3-0 Atlantic 10) maintaining incredible shooting splits all game. The Rams shot 52 percent from the field and an outstanding 61 percent from three. UMass (11-5, 2-2 A-10) had no answer to such inspired shooting, as the Minutemen struggled to put the ball in the basket themselves. A 3-for-15 performance from three didn’t help their comeback bid.

“Much credit to Archie [Miller] and his staff, and his guys,” UMass coach Frank Martin said. “It’s day and night watching them play on film and then obviously competing against them in person … They come out and shoot the ball the way that they did today, good luck to whoever plays against them. We made some mistakes, but every time we made a mistake they made us pay.

“Hard game, can’t go on the road and miss layups and threes and expect to win, especially on a day where someone’s making shots the way they were.”

In the absence of Cross (ankle injury), Josh Cohen took on scoring and rebounding responsibilities, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds on 7-for-12 shooting. It was Cohen’s eighth game with over 20 points this season, and his second straight with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Behind him, UMass had four other double-digit scorers, including Jaylen Curry’s 14-point, four-assist game.

Still, it was far from enough to stop Rhode Island’s offensive firepower on the day, as Jaden House exploded for 29 points, six rebounds and four assists on 7-for-11 shooting, including 5-for-7 from deep and 10-for-11 from the foul line. David Green scored 24 points and got to his spots at will, and freshman Cam Estevez dropped 16 on 4-of-5 from three. The Rams have won four straight games since Green joined the lineup, and he’s averaging 15.2 points per game.

Daniel Hankins-Sanford stepped into the starting lineup in Cross’ place. Coming off a double-double, he finished with 10 points and six rebounds against the Rams, but suffered from foul trouble throughout the contest which hurt the Minutemen’s depth. Freshmen forwards Tarique Foster and Tyler Mason played a few minutes each, but weren’t ready to contribute.

“If you ask [Cross], he would’ve fought two tigers today,” Martin said of Cross’ status after getting injured during Wednesday’s win over La Salle. “It’s who he is. It’s my job to keep them out of harm’s way. I’ve never have, never will play [an injured player] to win a game. Winning a game to me is irrelevant compared to protecting young people from themselves.”

Cross chipped half his tooth in a loss against Dayton before the La Salle game and has been undergoing dental work. Thus, he didn’t practice ahead of the matchup against the Explorers in which he hurt his ankle. Still, Martin said “his ankle is not bad.”

His absence was noticed heavily, especially on the defensive end. Cross will have a chance to get back to action on Wednesday, Jan. 17 when UMass faces Loyola Chicago on the road — a difficult game and an attempt to bounce back from the loss at Rhode Island.

Open or contested, the ball went into the basket more often than not for Rhode Island. The Minutemen ranked 83rd nationally in 3-point percentage defense going into the game, allowing 31.2 percent from deep. Rhode Island’s 60.9 percent (14-23) from three is the highest by a UMass opponent since Davidson shot 64.7 percent (11-17) from deep on Feb. 1, 2020, nearly four years ago. UMass lost that game 85-50.

Miller now has his Rams at 3-0 in conference play for their first 3-0 start in the A-10 since 2018; Martin has a young team climbing up the ranks for best teams in the conference. After the Minutemen blew out URI on the road last year, the Rams returned the favor this year. One of the A-10’s best rivalries may be getting back on track.

“Archie and I both knew, when he took the job [at URI] and I took the job at [UMass] — we’re friends, and we’re both really competitive — that it’s coming, and it’s good for this league,” Martin said of the rivalry. “You look at the history of this league, those are the Rhode Island-UMass games. Absolute fights, with two teams that don’t get out of the way. I hope for the goodness of basketball in our pocket of the world up here, that Archie can build it, and I hope we can build it and we can sustain it.”

“Let’s get this rivalry going again, huh?” Martin said before leaving the postgame press conference. “It’s good for the league, good for the schools.”

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

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