UMass basketball struggles in Atlantic 10 ‘street fight’ against St. Bonaventure

  • St. Bonaventure's Denzel Gregg, left, keeps the ball from UMass' Brison Gresham Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Donte Clark goes in for a shot under pressure from St. Bonaventure's Jaylen Adams Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. UMass' Luwane Pipkins and Dejon Jarreau are shown, at back. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Zach Lewis, left, goes in for a shot under pressure from St. Bonaventure's David Andoh Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Seth Berger, left, struggles to control the ball under pressure from St. Bonaventure's Denzel Gregg Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. UMass' Rashaan Holloway is shown, at right. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Dejon Jarreau, center, goes in for a shot under pressure from St. Bonaventure's Idris Taqqee, left, and Matt Mobley Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Chris Baldwin dunks the ball under pressure from St. Bonaventure's Matt Mobley Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • St. Bonaventure's Jaylen Adams, left, struggles to control the ball under pressure from UMass' Rashaan Holloway Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. St. Bonaventure's Denzel Gregg looks on, at right. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Donte Clark is knocked to the ground Dec. 30, 2016 during a men's basketball game against St. Bonaventure at the Mullins Center in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 12/30/2016 8:42:17 PM

AMHERST — The young UMass basketball team found out quickly that conference play figures to be a little tougher than what it had seen so far.

St. Bonaventure’s veteran backcourt outplayed the Minutemen’s young guards, and UMass couldn’t keep up in a 89-77 loss Friday in both teams’ Atlantic 10 opener at the Mullins Center.

“That was one of those street fight, Atlantic 10 opening night games. I think it was a little bit of a wake up call for some of the guys that hadn’t been through that before about how rough and physical those games can be,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We didn’t make some plays when things were going well; we didn’t capitalize at a few different times. … We’ve always had pretty hard-fought, tough fights with them, and this was no different. I’m hoping our guys realize how tough and physical these A-10 games are.”

Bonnies junior point guard Jaylen Adams, whose production is reminiscent of former Minuteman Chaz Williams, entered the game among the nation’s leaders in points and assists per game. UMass contained his passing (two assists, six turnovers), but he scored 29 points and grabbed five rebounds before fouling out.

His running mate, junior guard Matt Mobley, a Worcester native and transfer from Central Connecticut , was almost as good, scoring 23 points. He had 15 of those in the second half and made nine of 10 free throws after intermission.

Freshman point guard DeJon Jarreau had an uneven game for the Minutemen. He had 13 points but just one assist and four turnovers. Fellow rookie Luwane Pipkins missed all seven shots he took and was held scoreless. He had five assists, no turnovers and two steals.

“These conference games, they’re bigger than non-conference games, so every game you just have to bring it. You can’t take plays off,” Jarreau said. “I felt that we didn’t play bad, we just didn’t play defense. We scored 77 points, but they scored 89, so we just have to get in the lab and just work on defense and work on pick-and-roll defense.”

St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt thought the UMass guards were better than they looked.

“Relying on freshman is difficult, but those two kids, Pipkins and Jarreau are really talented,” Schmidt said. “The more they play, the better they’re going to get. They’re going to be a really good backcourt going forward. They’re good now. They just lack experience.”

Against a Bonnies defense that has struggled to stop people, UMass had a hard time finding offense at several junctures in the game. The Minuteman defense, which had allowed the opponents the lowest field goal percentage in the conference heading into this game, gave up its second most points of the season.

While St. Bonaventure led for almost the entire first half, the game was tight for most of it. A scuffle between St. Bonaventure’s Josh Ayeni and UMass’ Brison Gresham led to both players earning double technicals and ejections with 7 minutes, 29 seconds left.

Shortly after, a layup by Donte Clark (19 points) tied the game 27-27. But the Bonnies scored the next six points and put the Minutemen back on their heels down 33-27 with 4:28 left. St. Bonaventure stretched its edge to 43-35 at halftime.

The Minuteman offense short-circuited out of intermission. Other than Rashaan Holloway, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds, no player could make a shot. The sophomore big man scored UMass’ first eight points of the second half. But nobody else had a point for the first 7:34 of the half, as the rest of the roster was 0-for-7 with three turnovers.

The Bonnies lead reached 19 at 69-50 with 8:35 remaining. Sparked by Chris Baldwin and Ty Flowers’ energy off the bench, UMass cut its deficit to 79-70 with 2:09 left, but St. Bonaventure made enough free throws to keep UMass from truly threatening. The Bonnies shot 25-for-27 (92.6 percent) in the second half and 33-for-38 in the game.

UMass (10-4, 0-1 A-10) will travels to George Mason on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Minutemen and Bonnies (9-4, 1-0 A-10) play each other again on March 4, the last regular season game of the season.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage




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