Inconsistency plagues UMass in Atlantic 10 tournament loss to George Washington

Thursday, April 10, 2014
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Against No. 11-seeded Rhode Island, the University of Massachusetts got away with an inconsistent performance in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. On Friday, No. 3 George Washington made the Minutemen pay for a similar performance.

The sixth-seeded Minutemen fell behind early, played from behind all game and fell, 85-77, Friday at the Barclays Center.

“George Washington outplayed us tonight,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We didn’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities that we had. ... Playing two games back to back wasn’t perfect for us. We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare.”

UMass (24-8) will learn its postseason season fate Sunday, when the NCAA releases its field of 68 at 6 p.m. The Minutemen expected to be included.

“I thought our whole staff, myself included, we were probably a little too emotional. I really wanted to win the tournament. I think our players were a little more tense than normal,” Kellogg said. “I think coming into the NCAA tournament, our guys will be ready. We’re going to calm down a little and play our game. We’re going to concentrate on defense and rebounding instead of worrying about scoring the ball.”

In his final game in his hometown of Brooklyn, UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams started slowly and tried to rally his team late. He had 16 of his 19 points in the second half and finished with seven assists and six turnovers

The Colonials (24-7) got scoring from up and down their roster with six players in double figures. They led by as may as 18 and rolled into their semifinal meeting with No. 2 Virginia Commonwealth, Saturday at 4 p.m.

In hopes of sparking something Kellogg turned to freshman Demetrius Dyson, who had a career-high six points on two 3-pointers. He even summoned rarely used Clyde Santee, who had five points, but it wasn’t enough.

The teams were even to open the game, but GW scored seven straight points to take a 14-7 lead with 12:57 remaining in the first half. The Colonials kept UMass at arm’s length the rest of the way as shooting remained a problem for Kellogg’s squad until late in the game.

Maxie Esho kept the Minutemen afloat early with 10 of his career-high 22 points before intermission. He continued his strong free-throw shooting of late making 8 of 10 in the game.

“He’s been great. When we play a little more up and down and free-wheeling, he’s fantastic,” Kellogg said. “Come NCAA tournament time if he has more energy, he’s going to play.”

The Minutemen looked like they might get some momentum heading into halftime. Trailing 35-27, Sampson Carter grabbed the rebound off Trey Davis’ missed 3-pointer and put it back with 1:53 left.

After a missed dunk by Isaiah Armwood, UMass attacked the basket. Esho missed a short jump shot on the right baseline, but Derrick Gordon tipped in the rebound with 42 seconds left to make it 35-31.

But GW seized momentum back. Joe McDonald found Nick Griffin for an open 3 to stretch its edge to 38-31. Maurice Creek stripped Esho and missed a jumper, but Armwood snared the rebound and laid it in to make it 40-31 at intermission.

“That drove me to insanity,” Kellogg said. “We had them right kind of where we wanted them and a couple non-smart basketball plays gave (GW) momentum going into halftime.”

Armwood and Patricio Garino each led GW with 15 points. Armwood was glad to beat UMass.

“Last year they ended our season which wasn’t fun,” Armwood said. “They beat us on our home court which was our only loss on our home court. It was definitely good to beat them here.”

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