Frigid second half dooms UMass basketball in loss at Saint Louis

  • Trent Buttrick, shown earlier this season against Penn State, led UMass with 17 points in a loss at Saint Louis on Sunday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/23/2022 6:57:55 PM

The UMass men’s basketball team suffered its most lopsided defeat since Feb. 1, 2020, on Sunday when it fell 90-59 to Saint Louis at Chaifetz Arena. The 31-point loss was the worst since Davidson beat the Minutemen by 35 (85-50) nearly two years ago.

Saint Louis (12-6, 3-2 Atlantic 10) held UMass to 29 percent shooting from the field and 27.3 percent from 3. 

“The ball didn’t go through the net very much for us at all,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. 

It was worse in the second half. The Minutemen only made 9-of-32 attempts after halftime and just 4-of-17 3s. The Billikens grew a six-point halftime lead to as many as 35 with 8 minutes, 15 seconds left when Gibson Jimerson hit a 3. He scored a career-high 31 and made 7-of-10 3s.

Saint Louis shot 57.1 percent in the second half. The Billikens out rebounded UMass 55-35. They had 22 offensive rebounds, the same number of defensive rebounds the Minutemen grabbed. That led to a 46-14 advantage in scoring in the paint.

“I thought in the second half that our effort dipped. I thought we got a little bit too consumed with what was going on on the offensive end of the floor, and that bled into our defense,” McCall said. “I thought that’s how the game got away from us.”

It was close for most of the first half. UMass (8-10, 1-5) led after a Rich Kelly 3 opened the scoring more than 3 minutes in. Saint Louis tied the game at 4, then built a seven-point lead over the next five minutes.

The Minutemen cut it to 1 on a Trent Buttrick 3 with 6:35 to halftime that made it 22-21. Buttrick led UMass with 17 points, 12 of which came in the first half.

That’s as close as UMass got. The Billikens ripped off a 13-3 run over the next five minutes to push the advantage to 11. They led by nine at halftime.

The Minutemen never pulled closer than that in the second frame.

“Everybody in the locker room’s disappointed,” McCall said.

The Minutemen played the final 14 minutes without leading scorer Noah Fernandes. He collided with Buttrick hard in front of UMass’ bench late in the first half and tried to give it a go for a while.

“It was significant,” McCall said. “I haven’t talked to our trainer yet. I would assume that he’s in concussion protocol now.”

Javohn Garcia handled the ball for most of the second half, notching 12 of his 14 points after halftime.

“I didn’t think he quit,” McCall said. “He kept fighting, he kept playing hard.”

UMass went deep on its bench to close out the game. Ryan Marcus played for just the second time all season and scored his first career points on four free throws. Preston Santos played a season-high nine minutes.

“It didn’t matter who was out there, [Saint Louis was] scoring at will. We were still getting back cut, we were still giving up back cuts. We were still giving up transition points,” McCall said. “In those opportunities you want guys to continue to battle and continue to play and play with effort. We’ve got a short turnaround here. We’ve got to put this one behind us.”

UMass has lost four of its last five games and is 0-5 on the road. The Minutemen are just 1-8 away from the Mullins Center. They travel to La Salle for their next game 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN-Plus).

“You’ve got to keep battling, got to keep fighting,” McCall said. “Adversity brings out the best or the worst in us. When something doesn’t go your way and you just mail it in, you don’t grow, you don’t get better.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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