The skin on the teeth of the UMass Minutemen had been enough space for UMass to win its first three Atlantic 10 games, but that tiny bit of flesh ran out on Wednesday night in Richmond as Kendall Anthony led the Spiders to a 58-55 upset of the No. 12 Minutemen. Anthony finished with a game-high 21 points and seemed to be ready with a big shot every time UMass looked like crawling back into the lead.
Much like the last three games, UMass failed to produce a wire-to-wire, total-team effort. Sampson Carter and Cady Lalanne were the other Minutemen in double digits with 15 and 10 points, respectively; but Chaz Williams and Raphiael Putney combined to shoot 4-for-19 from the field. Trey Davis opened the game shooting well, but only scored once in the second half.
This style of play -- the one where some players play well and UMass digs itself a hole -- was always going to be unsustainable. No team keeps coming back from eight-point deficits in the last five minutes against good teams. No team can yo-yo for the first 30 minutes, turn it on for the last 10 and hope to come out with a win every night.
But UMass almost did. That's what makes this team so fascinating and so unnerving to watch.
Down three with less than 10 seconds to play, Williams managed to weave through Richmond players trying to foul him and got as good a look as one can hope for at the game-tying three. That shot was inches away from tying the game, sending it to overtime, and me sitting here writing about essentially the same thing with a totally different tone. But it missed, and now I have to eulogize the three-game comeback streak that left many wondering just how good this team is while being totally certain of how good this team can be.
That's the part of it that Derek Kellogg will need to figure out: "How do I get these guys to play like they do in the last 10 minutes for the full 40?" UMass is such a veteran team that it knows plays made in the first five minutes will neither end the world nor point toward its end. These seniors have trailed -- and led -- enough times in their careers that they know no deficit is too big to overcome over the course of an entire game. In some ways, that's a good thing. In others, it's not so good.
Wednesday night was one of those no-so-good times. Richmond came out fired up and feeling it and UMass came out knowing that it could play however it wanted and still have a chance at the end. Ultimately, the game fell right into the pace and style Richmond wanted to play and UMass didn't have the momentum and rhythm it needed to pull ahead in the final minute. This loss will sting, knowing how close it was to being a win, but the world will keep on spinning and UMass will still contend for the Atlantic 10 title.
- Sampson Carter may be the most infuriating player on the roster. Some days he's present, other days he's absent. Yet he always plays 25-30 minutes. You see the issue there? When the Carter that showed up on Wednesday is meshed with the rest of the Minutemen that typically show up, UMass is nearly impossible to beat. Here's to hoping this guy shows up again real soon.
- Cady Lalanne was the most dominating player in college basketball earlier this season. Now he's back to being a double-double guy who requires a double team but ultimately doesn't scare the crap out of you. A lot of this has to do with how teams are playing him, but some of it comes down to his perennial inconsistency. I'll take 10 points and 13 rebounds every night, but when he's capable of 17 and 8 it can get frustrating to watch.
- The Raphiael Putney alley oop play is awesome, and I love that Kellogg breaks it out when he needs a basket.
- UMass got court-rushed by Richmond fans. That's an honor and should bring a smile to fans of the program even in defeat.
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