Saint Joseph’s hands UMass basketball another A 10 road loss

  • UMass forward Matt Cross, shown earlier this season against Rhode Island, posted his second double-double in a row Saturday at Saint Joseph’s. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2023 5:05:16 PM

An identity crisis cost the UMass men’s basketball team another Atlantic 10 road game.

The Minutemen fell 74-68 at Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia on Saturday, squandering late opportunities in a tight game.

“Our individual attention to detail on games has been really bad. We’ve got no personality right now. I don’t have a single guard on our team that’s willing to talk or communicate,” UMass coach Frank Martin said. “When your guards don’t talk, they take on that personality. You get into games and they’re hard, especially road games, you’ve got to defend, and you’ve got to communicate, and that didn’t happen again, and that’s disappointing.”

The Minutemen (11-8, 2-5 A-10) lost their fifth game in a row away from the Mullins Center and second overall. They trailed just two possessions 68-64 with 2 minutes, 31 seconds left after a jumper in the lane by hometown hero Rahsool Diggins, the sophomore UConn transfer who scored a career-high 15 points.

But UMass allowed a 3-pointer from Saint Joe’s sophomore Kacper Klaczek –  a 30 percent 3-point shooter – 15 seconds later to push the lead back to seven and put the game out of reach over the final 75 seconds. The Minutemen also turned the ball over earlier with a six-point deficit when they could have shaved the deficit earlier to create a larger margin of error.

“We were battling at the end and had four massive mistakes that you can’t have in a two-possession game with three minutes to go,” Martin said. “Three of them were freshmen mistakes. That’s the world you live in. Great energy. No voice and a lack of execution.”

UMass relied heavily on its freshmen Keon Thompson (24 minutes) and RJ Luis (22 minutes), making his return from injury after missing the past two games.  Luis poured in 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Thompson had three assists.

“When you play with personality good things happen. When you play with no personality, bad things happen,” Martin said. “You’ve got to understand when you’re playing freshmen you’re not going to win.”

Louisville transfer Matt Cross continued his torrid pace, scoring in double digits for the fourth game in a row for UMass with 14. The Beverly native also registered his second double-double in a row with 10 rebounds.

He splashed a turnaround jumper with 13:49 left that gave UMass its latest lead 52-51. The Minutemen erased a seven-point deficit in the second half to claw back.

But the Hawks (9-10, 3-4) ripped off 10 points straight as part of a 13-2 run. Saint Joseph’s shot 43.9 percent from the field, 45.83 percent in the second half.

"It’s the guy guarding the basketball. As a coach all you can do is prepare the team for the structure you’re going to have to defend, so they understand where they’re coming from. Then it’s accountability. The hardest part of the year is when you get into league play. Now there’s a whole lot of film on your team. It’s the teams that know who you are. Teams are going at us,” Martin said. “We need guys that take ownership and guard the dribble. It’s hard to help if the guy guarding the ball has no fight in him. People are attacking us from every guard spot.”

The Minutemen turned the ball over 17 times, which led to 23 Saint Joe’s points. The Hawks scored 30 points in the paint.

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