Virginia Commonwealth pulls away from UMass men's hoop
Coach Derek Kellogg and the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team lost 86-68 to Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, Va., on Thursday. Purchase photo reprints »
RICHMOND, Va. — In the first half, the University of Massachusetts not only survived against Virginia Commonwealth’s patented “Havoc” full-court pressure, but thrived and led by five at intermission.
But in the second half, the Rams adjusted and extended their defense and UMass couldn’t handle it. The Rams opened the second half on a 21-1 run and took the game over from there en route to an 86-68 final.
“Their depth got to us a little bit,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I thought they did a very good job getting in the press a little quicker. I thought their pressure got to us some and so did the crowd.”
The Minutemen have had plenty of slow starts coming out of intermission this year, but this one was different. UMass had six fouls and seven turnovers before Cady Lalanne dunked home the team’s first field goal 6 minutes, 23 seconds after intermission with UMass trailing 58-45.
The rattled Minutemen never recovered. Used to wearing down opponents with its own tempo, UMass was on the receiving end of a similar approach. The Minutemen missed injured guard Jesse Morgan as much as they have in any game this season as they could have used another ball handler, another shooter and more perimeter depth.
The Minutemen had 13 turnovers in the second half and 24 in the game, their worst total this season. They shot 6 for 22 from the floor in the second half, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range.
The VCU lead surpassed 20 when Troy Daniels airballed a 3-point try, but Melvin Johnson caught it driving the baseline and laid it in to make it 74-53 with 7:39 left. Moments later during a timeout, Rams fans started pouring out of the building as the combination of the game’s 9 p.m. tipoff and the comfortable lead was enough to send them home.
UMass turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, but it did other things well enough to overcome it en route to a 42-37 lead at the break. Raphiael Putney led the charge with 15 first-half points on 6-for-7 shooting, while Freddie Riley added 12. The Minutemen shot 15 for 29 from the floor using sharp ball movement to get 10 assists on the 15 baskets.
Putney finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to lead UMass (16-7, 6-4 Atlantic 10). Treveon Graham led VCU (20-5, 8-2 A-10) with 19 points and six rebounds, while Johnson added 18.
The Minutemen host Temple, Saturday at 6 p.m. With the game less than 48 hours away, Kellogg elected to rest point guard Chaz Williams (six points, nine rebounds, seven assists, six turnovers) after the game got out of hand.
“Those guys truly play 40 minutes of hard-nosed basketball,” Williams said. “That’s a great atmosphere and a great team, but that was a winnable game.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.