Minutemen stuck in Spiders’ web: UMass falls in return to hardwood, 79-65

  • UMass’ Javohn Garcia, left, tries to gain control of the ball against Richmond’s Tyler Burton during the Minutemen’s 79-65 loss on the road Tuesday night. Keith Lucas/SIDELINE MEDIA

  • Dyodre Dominguez scored a career-high 15 points against Richmond on Tuesday in just 18 minutes. SIDELINE MEDIA

Staff Writer
Published: 2/23/2021 9:38:42 PM

Tre Mitchell attacked the basket, stepping through Richmond’s defense after a frustrating first half back. The UMass sophomore absorbed contact and finished a layup with a free throw to come. He sank that to cut the Minutemen’s deficit to seven with 7 minutes, 28 seconds left.

The UMass men’s basketball team trailed the Spiders by as many as 18 in the second half, and Mitchell’s old-fashioned three-point play was part of a 10-2 run that pulled the game back to single digits. But the Spiders showed their veteran savvy all night. Richmond senior Jacob Gilyard drew a foul against UMass freshman Javohn Garcia in the open floor and sank two free throws to restore balance and begin a 9-2 spurt.

The Spiders held UMass at arms length for most of the game Tuesday at the Robins Center and prevailed 79-65. It was the Minutemen’s first game since beating Rhode Island on Feb. 6.

“We got outworked in a lot of different ways got out coached for sure,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “Everyone wants to talk about the layoff, we’re not gonna make excuses.”

Richmond never trailed. The Spiders scored the game’s first five points and built a double-digit lead in 11 minutes. Senior guard Jacob Gilyard plundered UMass ballhandlers all game, swiping three of his four steals in the first half.

“He’s a little scrappy. You may not know he’s there, but he’s always there for a deflection or steal,” UMass redshirt freshman TJ Weeks Jr. said.

Richmond (13-5, 6-3 A-10) forced eight turnovers in the first half, which led to 12 points. The Minutemen trailed by 11 at the break. 

“Those guys are as good of on-ball defenders as there is in our league,” McCall said. “They set the tone for their team’s defense. They were disruptive and took us out of a lot of things.”

Weeks kept UMass in shouting distance in the first half. He made two 3s and scored 11 of his 14 points before halftime. Weeks finished with five rebounds and a block.

“We love when he’s making shots and he’s shooting the ball well and impacting the game defensively,” McCall said. “One thing he’s done well al year is putting his body in plays and taking charges, not afraid to be physical.”

Richmond proved the more physical team throughout. The Spiders outrebounded UMass 37-31, a rarity for Richmond. They rank 13th in the A-10 in rebounds and 12th in rebounding margin. Richmond also attempted nine more free throws (24) than the Minutemen (15).

“To me that’s getting out worked and out toughed,” McCall said.

Freshman Dyondre Dominguez led the Minutemen with a career-high 15 points in just 18 minutes. He shot 5-of-7 from the floor, working well in the post around Spiders double-teaming Mitchell.

“I thought Dyondre’s effort was through the roof,” McCall said. “That’s a large reason he was in there. He didn’t fold late in the game and tried to make a run at it.”

Dominguez made back to back layups with 8:55 and 8:14 left to bring UMass within eight. He also cut the Richmond lead to 7 with another layup with 5:41 left. The Spiders outscored UMass 14-7 to close the game.

“We just needed a couple more stops. We needed that next rebound or we needed that next stop or that next charge,” Weeks said. “They did a good job of getting to the free throw line or getting a bucket to cut our run off.”

Six players saw the floor for more minutes than Dominguez despite his efficiency. Mitchell only played 22 minutes working his way back from the shoulder injury that kept him out of UMass’ last two games, and the sophomore’s 32-game double-digit streak ended with nine points. Senior captain Carl Pierre played 36 of the 40 minutes but shot 3-of-13 from the field, missing all six 3s.

“I thought he was doing some good things early in the game getting to the rim and finishing, but obviously he didn’t shoot the ball well behind the three-point line,” McCall said. “I was proud of Dyondre, I was proud of his effort more than anything. With him playing that way, it gives us more depth, and we’ve got to roll with the guys there that are playing well.”

Weeks was second with 31 minutes, while Garcia scored 10 points in his 29 minutes.

The loss ended UMass’ two-game winning streak and ended a run of six wins in seven games. The Minutemen will close the regular season Monday at Saint Louis, which lost at VCU on Tuesday.

“Lucky for us we have some time to improve right now, and that’s what we need to do,” McCall said.

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