Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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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

Diggins’ 21-point performance not enough in UMass’ loss to VCU

Diggins scores 20 of his 21 points in the second half
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2023)

Despite the Atlantic 10 quarterfinal loss that the Massachusetts men’s basketball team suffered against VCU, Rahsool Diggins’ 21-point performance was one for the books, as he was the sole reason why UMass stayed alive in the game.

When down 17 points at halftime, the Minutemen (20-11, 11-7 A-10) came back on to the court with a chance to change the narrative, and it all went through Diggins’ hands. Right out of the gate, Diggins scored eight points over three minutes and quickly set the tone for how the rest of the half would go.

“Alertness, being down 17, I know we had to push the pace and I just wanted to run and try to create the opportunities for my teammates and myself to get us out of the hole,” Diggins said of how his mentality changed in the second half.

Diggins scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half, shooting 7-of-12 from the field and going 4-for-7 from behind the arch. The junior was hitting everything, and UMass continued to feed the hot hand. Diggins had a second half performance where he showed off some of the most unstoppable shooting he’s had all season.

Playing from behind for most of the game, the Minutemen cut VCU’s (21-12, 11-7 A-10) lead to six with a little over four minutes left to play, which came from Diggins’ fourth 3-pointer of the game. But UMass kept sending VCU to the foul line and Diggins’ strong performance was not enough to completely erase the deficit.

Down by double digits at half, head coach Frank Martin did his best to motivate the team, no matter the score.

“We created the problem,” Martin said. “We’re not trying to win the game at the 16-minute mark or at halftime or we’ve just got to figure out a way to get us to where we can win the game in the last media segment of the game, and that’s what we did.”

Diggins was a major part of setting up the rest of the team for a chance to come back and win it but consequences from the team’s poor first half shooting performance continued to linger.

In the first half, Diggins only netted one point, going 0-of-4 from the field, and missing all three of his 3-pointers. At the free throw line, he only made one of three shots.

But with so much on the line, the junior refused to go out of the tournament without giving it one last fight.

“Trust in the process, trust in coach [Martin] and his staff, and not letting go of the rope and wanting to come back and win the game,” Diggins said.

Diggins led all scorers and was one of two UMass players to score in double digits. The Rams couldn’t stop Diggins from creating separation on the perimeter, and the guard didn’t back away from contested shots.

With the A-10 Co-Most Improved Player of the Year award under his belt, Diggins has been a go-to shooter for the Minutemen, averaging 12.8 points a game, as the junior had his third-highest scoring game of the season against the Rams and his third game of the year with over 20 points.

In the last seven games for UMass, Diggins has scored in double figures. On the season, he’s made 75 3-pointers at a 36.8 percent rate.

The 2023-2024 season has been a year of growth for the junior, stepping into a starting role that he did not have the year before. Diggins went from starting in 10 games for the Minutemen last season to starting in all 30 regular season games and in tournament play this year while leading the team in minutes.

With the 73-59 loss, UMass exits the A-10 Tournament, but Diggins deserves credit as the reason why the Minutemen kept competing against VCU.

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

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