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Rutgers erases UMass basketball’s 1st-half lead in rout

  • Sy Chatman, top, of UMass, shoots against Western New England defenders Kenny Flynn, left, and Mike McGuire during an exhibition game in October. Chatman had a career high 16 points against Rutgerson GAZETTE STAFF / FILE

For the Gazette
Published: 11/29/2019 7:36:22 PM

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The UMass men’s basketball team saw a six-point first-half lead evaporate as Rutgers cruised to an 82-57 win on Friday afternoon.

The Minutemen took a 15-13 lead when T.J. Weeks drained a 3-pointer at the 10:40 mark in the first half. Rutgers responded with a free throw from Geo Baker, but Weeks answered with the shot clock expiring and banked a 3-pointer off the glass near the edge of the Rutgers logo at center court. Sy Chatman stole the inbound pass and added two more with a layup to give UMass a 20-14 lead, its largest of the day.

It was all Rutgers from there.

Rutgers embarked on a 13-0 run as UMass was unable to score for six minutes. The Scarlet Knights closed the half on a 20-7 run and outscored UMass 48-30 in the second half, sending the Minutemen to their third straight loss.

“I thought that was the best Rutgers has played all year from what I’ve seen on tape,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “You have to give them an enormous amount of credit. I love their team, size and physicality and I thought it really showed in today’s game. They had us rattled on offense and we really weren’t able to overcome that. We had some unforced turnovers and we have to get that corrected because our schedule doesn’t get any easier. I thought our guys competed but we’re not at that level yet to be able to win a game like this on the road in a hostile environment.”

“They were just playing more physical,” Weeks said. “We were trying to match their physicality but eventually, they grabbed the lead and were able to run away with it.”

Chatman played a season-high 24 minutes and finished with a career-high 16 points on 7 of 11 from the floor. Eleven of those points came in the second half.

“We’re still trying to work him back in with our rotations and things like that,” McCall said. “He was productive today and he is a productive player. He’s very talented. Offensively, we struggled to get into a rhythm and you have to give Rutgers credit for that. But this is what we’re trying to build toward, to be able to win Big 10 games on the road in a hostile environment. We’re not there yet.”

Carl Pierre, who is second on the team in scoring with 12.6 points per game, had an off night with seven points. Pierre was 0-for-9 from the field before connecting with a 3-pointer with 13:15 left in the second half.

UMass shot only 36 percent from the floor and 30 percent from 3-point range. The Minutemen shot 25 percent from deep in the second half.

“We have three freshmen in the starting lineup and we got rattled at times,” McCall said. “Sometimes the ball wasn’t going in the basket for us, sometimes it was a complete lack of execution. As I told our guys, we don’t have any breakdown guys. We have to stay in offense and keep the floor moving because it works, but we have to keep it moving. When we try to go 1-on-1, that’s when we turn it over and we have to get a lot better there.”

The Minutemen had trouble generating offense in the second half. Weeks was held to just one point and was 1-for-7 from the floor after going 5-for-6 in the first half. He finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.

“It’s just a matter of getting back in the gym and making sure my legs are under me even when I’m fatigued and tired to make sure I hit those shots,” Weeks said.

Geo Baker had 17 points and four assists, and Ron Harper Jr. had 15 points and seven rebounds for Rutgers (6-1).

The Minutemen (5-3) will look to put their losing streak behind them when they return home to host South Carolina on Wednesday at 7 p.m. McCall is looking forward to getting back home in front of the home fans.

“We need a good crowd,” McCall said. “We need students, fans, and people from all the surrounding towns to be in that arena and get behind this young team because it’s not often you get an SEC opponent in your building on your home floor.”

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