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 survives Fordham 66-64 in regular season finale

Minutemen still alive for A-10 double-bye
Jonathan Shi
Daily Collegian (2024)

In the regular season finale, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team capped off its best season in 10 years with a hard-fought 66-64 victory over Fordham. Heading into the Atlantic 10 conference tournament, the win advances the Minutemen (20-10, 11-7 A-10) to a 20-win season, which they haven’t achieved since 2013-14, and keeps them alive for a double-bye in the tournament.

The Rams (12-18, 6-11 A-10) had a chance to steal the game away after a poor pass by the Minutemen gave the Rams the ball with three seconds left and up by two. It all came down to a missed wide-open 3-pointer by Kyle Rose. Before that, Matt Cross hit one of the shots of the season for UMass, draining a catch-and-shoot three that put the Minutemen six points ahead with just one minute left.

“These kids…deserve something good to happen to them and today something good happened because we were forgiven for our mistakes coming down the stretch,” head coach Frank Martin said.

UMass trailed for almost all of the first half, but settled down coming out of halftime. The Minutemen matched Fordham’s physicality and took care of the basketball. The absences of Keon Thompson — who had started every game this season — and Robert Davis Jr. forced UMass to manage a short rotation with unusual lineups.

However, the Minutemen’s three most productive players came up big when the team needed them most. Josh Cohen led all scorers for the Minutemen with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

Rahsool Diggins put up a 16-point performance on 4-of-9 from three. His 3-point shooting has been a strong weapon this season and he was a key piece to the defense with Thompson out.

Cross has been known for clutch performances and Wednesday night’s game was no exception. After a quiet first half, the senior scored 10 points in the second half, including back-to-back late buckets — one of which being the crucial 3-pointer with a minute left to play. Cross ended the game with 15 points and nine rebounds.

“When a couple of your guys are down, you need your older guys to step up and… be more connected mentally, stronger, more disciplined and then obviously, if they can score and rebound, that would really help,” Martin said. “[Cohen] got us the lead and then [Cross] and [Diggins] won the game for us offensively.”

Fordham outrebounded the Minutemen 40 to 37, with the Rams getting 17 offensive boards to UMass’ nine. The Minutemen struggled to contain Fordham’s effort and physicality, allowing the Rams to score 15 second chance points.

The two teams played each other evenly all game; the largest lead of the night belonged to the Rams when they were up by eight in the first half.

The biggest reason Fordham got off to a strong start was Rose, who led the Rams with 15 points, five assists and three steals. Abdou Tsimbila added a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.

With the 20-win season in the books, both Cross and Cohen expressed how neither of them had been on a 20-win team in their careers before. “I’m so happy that this group is able to do it,” Cohen said.

“This group works hard, it feels good, but it also feels earned with this group,” Cross added.

Looking ahead to the A-10 tournament, the win over Fordham keeps UMass’ chances for a double-bye alive. The Minutemen currently sit as the fifth seed, with the possibility of moving up to four with a VCU loss at Dayton. As the team travels to Brooklyn, New York, all eyes are set on this weekend’s upcoming games in the A-10 to finally determine UMass’ path in the tournament.

As the five seed, the Minutemen would play on Wednesday, March 13 at 2 p.m. against the winner of the No. 12 and No. 13 game. And as the four seed, UMass would skip the first two rounds and play on Thursday, March 14 at 2 p.m. versus the winner of a game between No. 5 and either No. 12 or 13.

“I don’t really care who we play, every game has been so close, I think it doesn’t matter either way because I think we can beat anybody. So, I’m just excited to try and go win this thing,” Cross said.

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

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