UMass season ends with first round NIT loss to Stony Brook



Last modified: Wednesday, May 01, 2013

AMHERST — Moments after the final buzzer had sounded on the University of Massachusetts’ season-ending 71-58 loss to Stony Brook Wednesday, a Mullins Center employee immediately ripped the National Invitational Tournament decal off the court, crumpled it and threw it in the trash, a symbolic ending to a tough night.

The Minutemen finished the season at 21-12, their second straight 20-win season and second straight NIT trip.

The UMass players were frustrated when they weren’t included in the NCAA tournament Sunday night, but at practice Monday and Tuesday, they expressed a desire to make a run in the NIT. But on Wednesday, the team didn’t have the same intensity that helped it reach the Atlantic 10 semifinals a week ago.

“I thought we played better and harder against the teams in Brooklyn (N.Y.) than we did tonight,” Kellogg said. “You know, it was a quick turnaround. A lot of emotions had flown around for a couple days and you had a hungry team (Stony Brook) that played well. That usually bodes for not being very successful.

“I’m not really one to make excuses. You could probably throw 100 things in there of why this didn’t happen, why that didn’t happen,” he continued. “I’m not sure. It could be because somebody cried because we didn’t make the (NCAA tournament). I don’t know. I do know that (Stony Brook) played better than we did today and there really aren’t excuses.”

Freddie Riley, who led UMass with 16 points, thought the Minutemen seemed ready heading into the game.

“We felt good. We had a lot of energy in the locker room. I really don’t know what happened when we got on the court,” he said. “Somewhere along the line, our energy just wasn’t where it needed to be and Stony Brook just took it to us.”

Part of the problem was the absence for much of the game of junior point guard Chaz Williams, who led UMass in scoring and assists all season. Two fouls limited him to no points in 10 first-half minutes. He then left with a mild shoulder sprain six minutes into the second half. He finished with two points, six assists and five turnovers.

“He makes us go. You could see where we struggled with some fundamentals of basketball with him not in the game. He’s our primary ball handler,” Kellogg said. “But he wasn’t playing great at the time so I thought we actually had a pretty good flow for a while without him. And any time you miss the first-team conference guy who scores 20 a game, obviously that’s going to have an effect on the ball club, which I believe it did.”

The Minutemen led 25-21 with 7 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first half, but they didn’t score again before intermission. Seawolves senior Tommy Brenton was on the receiving end of a hard illegal screen foul called on Cady Lalanne that knocked him to the ground with 6:12 left. The play seemed to ignite the visitors.

“I like hitting people and I like being hit. Physicality is part of my game,” Brenton said. “That definitely fired me up personally and I hope our team fed off it.”

Stony Brook scored the final 17 points to take a 38-25 halftime lead.

“We had all sorts of miscues and they had all sorts of good plays,” Kellogg said. “We had the ball a few times right around the rim. I think we took more tough, bad shots tonight than we had taken in a while. That contributed a lot to our scoring drought.”

UMass quickly cut its deficit to 42-36 coming out of the break and kept the Seawolves within striking distance for the early part of the second half. But Stony Brook scored six straight points to stretch its edge to 63-51 with 4:34 left to seal the win.

“We made big shots when we needed to,” Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said. “We’re a pretty good basketball team. We have a lot of players who can play. We were well prepared. I thought we executed our game plan.”

Anthony Jackson and Dave Coley each had 20 points for Stony Brook (25-7), which advanced to play Iowa, Friday at 9:30 p.m.

Kellogg hoped the disappointing finish would motivate his returning players.

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t win because I love this team, I love the guys on the team, and I wanted the season to continue. We would have loved to have gone back to New York and made a great run like we did last year. It didn’t happen and a couple guys move on and hopefully, the younger guys have a (bad) taste in their mouth. Selection Sunday and then this, even more so. It should be something that motivates you to work harder in the summer this year. It should be something that motivates you to take care of everything academically. It should be something that motivates you to eat right, to train right, to do things the right way. If it doesn’t, then you don’t have the desire to be a top-level college player, and I think these guys do have the desire.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.


 


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