UMass basketball notebook: Tre Mitchell, Noah Fernandes ease into returns

  • Noah Fernandes played hist first game in almost a month Tuesday at Richmond.  SIDELINE MEDIA

  • Tre Mitchell’s 32-game double-digit scoring streak ended when the sophomore center had nine points against Richmond on Tuesday. It was his first game back since suffering a shoulder injury Jan. 24 against Davidson. SIDELINE MEDIA

By KYLE GRABOWSKI
Published: 2/24/2021 6:49:00 PM

Neither Tre Mitchell nor Noah Fernandes started Tuesday’s loss at Richmond. Both were playing their first game since Jan. 24 and only had two five-on-five practices under their belts since the UMass men’s basketball team returned from a pause over the weekend.

UMass coach Matt McCall also wanted to reward the starting group that beat Rhode Island in the Minutemen’s previous game: TJ Weeks Jr., Javohn Garcia, Carl Pierre, Ronnie DeGray III and Mark Gasperini.

Mitchell entered the game 2 minutes, 53 seconds after tip off, and Fernandes checked in with 13:43 left until halftime. 

“It was good to be back out there with them. We were missing them a bit. Sometimes we get stagnant and no points will be scored or no rebounds or stops, and that’s when they come in,” Weeks said. “It felt good seeing them back out there with us again.”

Both took some time to adjust to game action again. Mitchell picked up two fouls in five minutes of action in the first half. The Minutemen held pace with Richmond during his time on the floor, as the Spiders only outscored them 11-10. They outpaced the Minutemen 25-17 for the rest of the half while Mitchell sat.

He started the second half and ultimately played a season-low 22 minutes. It was the third-fewest minutes of Mitchell’s career. The sophomore averages 30.8 minutes per game. Mitchell scored a season-low nine points, breaking a 32-game double-digit streak. He added four rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

Fernandes saw the floor for 20 minutes, his fewest since UMass’ opener against Northeastern. The Wichita State transfer went 1-for-5 from the field and scored just three points. He added two assists and three rebounds.

“Both those guys are capable of going off any night they want to, so as soon as they get back into shape and get back in rhythm with the team I feel fully confident in those two,” Weeks said.

UMass returned to campus after the game and will have nearly a full week to practice before facing Saint Louis on the road Monday.

“The fact that we don’t play until Monday gives us time to work with both guys times being back, which is what we need right now,” McCall said.

VENUE CHANGE – The UMass women’s basketball team was scheduled to host VCU and Richmond this weekend. Due to the university prohibiting home contests until mid-March, the Minutewomen will play those games at Rhode Island as part of doubleheaders with the Rams.

UMass will face VCU at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Richmond at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the earliest. Since the UMass games are set to begin after Rhode Island’s contests, there will be a 30-minute warm up period after the first game ends before the Minutewomen take the floor.

GOOD THINGS IN SMALL PACKAGES – Both Mitchell and Gasperini picked up two first-half fouls, so McCall had to turn to a small lineup for most of the first half’s final 5:33. Freshmen Cairo McCrory and Dyondre Dominguez manned the front court with Ronnie Degray III, while Fernandes, Pierre and Garcia rotated in the guard spots.

They switched on defense and doubled Richmond center Grant Golden in the post.

Richmond held a 10-7 advantage during those minutes, but UMass assisted both of its baskets and pushed the pace.

“It’s another weapon for us to be able to play small like that,” McCall said. “It gives us depth, it gives the luxury to play a lot of different lineups, and we’re going to need to work on that these next four five days of practice.”

PRINCETON EDUCATED – Richmond shot 47.5 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from deep, finishing with 17 assists. The senior-laden Spiders executed the Princeton system to great effect, using back cuts to crack UMass’ defense whether that was man-to-man or zone.

“We were struggling in man to man, played some zone. We were struggling zone, understanding how the floor looked and where we were supposed to be,” McCall said. “If you’re missing shots that can sometimes bleed into your defense and your overall effort defensively.”

The Minutemen only made 7-of-27 3-pointers and shot 43.6 percent from the field with 13 turnovers.

T’D UP – McCall earned his first technical foul of the season with 1:01 remaining. He was arguing a block by Richmond’s Nathan Cayo against Fernandes on the fast break should have been goaltending.

UMass trailed by nine at the time, and the Spiders hit a 3 on their next possession following the block.

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


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