UMass basketball: St. Bonaventure beats Minutemen at own game, scores 75-67 win in front of largest crowd of the season at Mullins Center

UMass sophomore forward Daniel Hankins-Sanford (1) jams home fast-break dunk in the first half of the Minutemen’s 75-67 loss to St. Bonaventure on Saturday afternoon at the Mullins Center.

UMass sophomore forward Daniel Hankins-Sanford (1) jams home fast-break dunk in the first half of the Minutemen’s 75-67 loss to St. Bonaventure on Saturday afternoon at the Mullins Center. PHOTO BY CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-24-2024 7:32 PM

AMHERST — Throughout the season, it’s clear the UMass men’s basketball team has built its identity doing the dirty work. Following several conference matchups over the past month, most coaches took the time to say the Minutemen are the most resilient and physical team in the Atlantic 10 – most of that alluding to their relentless work on the glass and aggressive style of play.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday afternoon.

Tied at 66 apiece after a ferocious flush by Matt Cross with 3 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the game, it was St. Bonaventure that out-toughed the tough guys the rest of the way.

Over the Bonnies’ next two possessions, they combined for four offensive rebounds – stealing a page out of the Frank Martin handbook – which led to five crucial second-chance points and a 71-66 lead with under two minutes to go.

Trying to rally behind a handful of alumni and 7,016 fans – the highest mark since the 2014-15 season opener – at the Mullins Center, UMass’ wind disappeared from its sails as the Minutemen fell 75-67 in a crucial A-10 bout.

“I’m disappointed for our guys. They’ve worked really hard to get people to believe in them,” UMass head coach Frank Martin said. “I’m extremely thankful for our fans that they continue to come out and support our guys in bigger and bigger numbers. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet [as a team]… We’re still in the process of trying to learn how to be a winning program, and I’m disappointed because those kids care. They’ve worked hard to play a certain way to give our fans hope that we can be good again. And we had an opportunity, tie game with three minutes to go, to create a special moment, and instead we have heartache.”

Over those final three minutes, the Minutemen scored just one point – a Josh Cohen free throw – and were held without a field goal. Following Cross’ dunk, Bonnies guard Moses Flowers came down the other end and rimmed out a jumper. He grabbed his own miss and put home a layup to give St. Bonaventure a two-point edge.

Keon Thompson missed a contested off-hand layup on UMass’ next trip down the floor, the Bonnies cleaned up the glass and came back the other way. Three more offensive rebounds ensued on that possession, capped off by a Mika Adams-Woods triple from the top of the key to give St. Bonaventure a two-possession lead at the 1:54 mark of regulation.

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The Minutemen were out-rebounded 36-32 and made just one of their last 10 field goal attempts.

“Everybody stood and watched the ball expecting everybody else to go get it,” Martin said. “We’ve been a one-man defensive rebounding team all year, and that’s Matt Cross. If Matt doesn’t go get those hard rebounds, everyone else watches. That bug bit us today. Coming out of that timeout it’s 66-66, and they get three offensive rebounds and score… It came down to defensive rebounds and we couldn’t. If we’re not gonna score, and we weren’t scoring, then you gotta get rebounds and not give people extra shots. We didn’t do that at the end of the game.”

Josh Cohen scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, Rahsool Diggins added 12 points and Jaylen Curry tossed in 11. Daniel Hankins-Sanford (nine) and Keon Thompson (seven) combined for 16 points while Cross – UMass’ second leading scorer, tallied just five points in the loss.

Cross had been playing some of the best basketball of his career of late, and Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt ensured to take him out of the game as best he could. The senior shot 25 percent from the field (1-for-4 from 3) and coughed up four turnovers.

Mission accomplished for the longtime St. Bonaventure coach.

“Cross has been playing really, really well, almost like he’s the MVP of the team,” Schmidt said. “He goes 2-for-8 from the field, keeping him to seven rebounds, only two offensive rebounds, I thought that was a big key as well. But we made the plays when we needed to make the plays.”

While it’s undeniable that the over 7,000 fans at the Mullins Center were upset with Saturday’s result, Martin challenged them to continue showing up for his team.

With still three games left on the schedule, UMass (17-10, 8-7 A-10) has its most wins in a season since the 2014-15 campaign (also 17), and has a chance at 20 wins if it can go 3-0 to finish out the year. Regardless, the strides taken this season can’t be ignored, and that’s why the second-year head coach hopes to see fans back in the stands at the last home game on March 6.

“I haven’t been here long enough to understand how fans are gonna manage this moment,” Martin said. “I get that they’ve been burnt in the past, and I get they struggle to trust right now. I understand all that. I hope they respect the way our players have played this season, that [the players] are giving [the fans] a meaningful game in late February, something that hasn’t happened here in awhile. Unfortunately we weren’t quite ready to go win that game today… These kids fight. I hope our fans stick with our kids. It’s late in the year, and we’ve still got a chance to still do some special things.”

The Minutemen travel to George Washington next Tuesday for their first of two consecutive road games before returning home to wrap up the regular season slate. UMass defeated the Revolutionaries 81-67 at home back in late January. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. and the game can be streamed on ESPN-plus.

Minutewomen fight hard, drop close battle at George Washington

The UMass women’s basketball team’s losing streak now stands at 15 after the Minutewomen traveled to Washington, D.C. and dropped a tight 59-55 Atlantic 10 contest on Saturday afternoon.

After trailing by four at halftime, UMass scored 21 points in the third quarter to enter the final frame knotted up at 46. But a dry spell offensively hit the Minutewomen at the wrong time as they put up just nine points in the quarter en route to consecutive loss No. 15.

Stefanie Kulesza turned in a strong all-around performance with 16 points, eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks, while Alexsia Rose added 14 points, three assists and three steals for UMass.

The Minutewomen (3-26, 1-16) finish up the regular season against St. Bonaventure next Wednesday at the Mullins Center at 6 p.m.