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 fails to convert late in loss to St. Bonaventure

Minutemen miss final seven shot attempts
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2024)

In front of its largest crowd in nearly a decade, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team missed an opportunity to do something special.

Win, and the team inches closer to its first top-four finish in the Atlantic 10 since 2008. Lose, and UMass fails to separate itself from the pack, falling into the middle of the conference standings where seven teams are separated by just two games.

It was the latter that occurred Saturday, as the Minutemen (17-10, 8-7 A-10) fell to St. Bonaventure, 77-69.

“[I’m] disappointed for our guys,” head coach Frank Martin said. “If I were to put my head on the pillow right now, I feel like I let the team down today with my decisions. But I got to get the emotion of the game out of the way before I start reflecting on the decisions I made.”

Amidst foul trouble and sloppy offense, it took a lot of heart for UMass to make a game of things down the stretch. Frontcourt mates Daniel Hankins-Sanford and Josh Cohen each picked up their fourth fouls in the middle of the second half, forcing Frank Martin to either play things conservatively with his key pieces or to delve in and use the limited options on the bench.

“If there’s one spot against this team that we don’t need to be in foul trouble on, [it’s] at the center spot,” Martin said.

After giving early-enrollee freshman Tyler Mason a brief stretch of playing time, which proved unproductive, the two bigs were forced back in for long stretches.

“I just didn’t want to think ‘Oh, you got four fouls, don’t come in [and] be so aggressive,’” Hankins-Sanford said. “Just play the game, let the game flow.”

With adversity mounting, the Minutemen gave the crowd of 7,016 something to stick around for. As the clock wound down in the second, almost every punch St. Bonaventure delivered was received with a counter by the home team. A Matt Cross dunk electrified the Mullins Center and tied the game for UMass with 3:32 to go.

Then the Minutemen went freezing cold. UMass missed all seven of its shot attempts coming out of the final media timeout. They only reached seven attempts in the first place because, with the outcome of the game decided, Jaylen Curry shot three desperation threes in the game’s waning moments.

Four offensive rebounds from the Bonnies in that game-deciding stretch contributed to winning shots for the away side and limited the number of possessions for the fast-paced home team’s offense.

“Everyone stood and watched the ball expecting someone else to go get it,” Martin said. “We’ve been a one-man defensive rebounding team all year, back since Puerto Rico, and that’s Matt Cross. And if Matt doesn’t get those hard rebounds, everyone else watches.”

Before picking up his fourth foul, Cohen was a major reason why the Minutemen hung around with St. Bonaventure despite a poor shooting performance in the second half. Missed opportunities and loose balls found their way into the experienced forward’s hands, where he converted on multiple looks inside. Cohen led the team with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

The length of the Bonnies limited Cross, as the senior was held far below his season average of 15.5 points per game. The Beverly native finished with five points, seven rebounds and four turnovers on just 2-of-8 shooting. Cross wasn’t the only UMass player to struggle with turnovers though, as the team combined for 14 on the day, and 10 of their cough-ups came in the first half.

St. Bonaventure was led by a trio of upperclassmen, which checks out for the most experienced team in the nation per KenPom. Chad Venning, Moses Flowers and Mika Adams-Woods combined for 45 of the Bonnies’ 75 points. Venning led the way off a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. Adams-Woods scored 14 points and five assists. He went 2-of-4 from deep, boosting the Cincinnati transfer’s 3-point percentage on the season, which already ranks in the top 20 nationally.

It was Alumni Day and Senior Day at Mullins, and over 50 past players were in attendance to cheer on the Minutemen. That, coupled with UMass’ play and the game’s stakes, drew a home crowd of just over 7,000 — the largest since Nov. 14, 2014, UMass’ home opener in the season following an NCAA Tournament appearance.

“I haven’t been here long enough to understand how fans are going to manage this moment,” Martin said. “I get that they’ve been burnt in the past and I get they struggle to trust right now.”

“I hope they respect the way our players have played this season, that they’re giving them a meaningful game in late February, something that hasn’t happened around here in a while. Unfortunately, we weren’t quite ready to go win that game today…I’m extremely thankful of our fans and I’m disappointed for our players.”

The Minutemen hit the road to take on George Washington next, a team that currently sits second-to-last in the A-10 standings. That game tips off at 7 p.m. Tuesday and will air on ESPN+.

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

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