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UMass Minutemen vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams final: VCU holds off a second half UMass rally to win 78-72

Treveon Graham showed why he is one of the best in the A-10 as he led the way with 24 points.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Massachusetts Minutemen ran out of gas down the stretch. Not surprising after the giant hole they put themselves in from the opening tip.

The game started off about as bad as Derek Kellogg could have imagined. The Virginia Commonwealth Rams patented "Havoc defense" was on full display forcing 12 first half turnovers.

UMass consistently threw the ball into the corner against the press and Trey Davis struggled to advance the ball.

The Minutemen were held scoreless until Derrick Gordon broke the seal at the 14:12 mark with a layup. That didn't stop the VCU run though as they looked to run UMass right out of the building as they had a 27-11 lead with just under seven minutes left in the first half.

Then the bench took over for UMass. Demetrius Dyson nailed a three pointer that reinvigorated the team. UMass started to push the ball faster and seemed to figure out the VCU press. Jabarie Hinds and Trey Davis went on their own mini eight point run that ended as Hinds hit a pull-up jumper to close the gap to just 35-30 at the half.

The press wasn't the only that UMass had to battle. The crowd at the Siegel Center was not acting like it was noon on a Saturday. They were feeding off VCU's energy and were deafening.

Mo Alie-Cox was one player who gave them A LOT to cheer about. The big fella should have his own spot on SportsCenter with all the monstrous dunks he had. He ended up with 12 points and two rebounds but his most important stat was his three blocks. He consistently denied many Minutemen from the rim and was an intimidating presence.

The second half started much like the first. VCU got after it defensively and got a double digit lead back thanks to Treveon Graham. Graham was a beast and finished with a double double of 24 points and 10 rebounds. His 3-4 effort from behind the arc was a problem UMass had no answer for.

Just as it looked like VCU was going to put the game out of reach Jabarie Hinds turned it on once again. He played the most efficient and beautiful one minute of basketball as he hit a three, assisted on a transition dunk for Maxie Esho and hit another pull-up jumper to give UMass its only lead of the day at 48-47 with 12:26 to go in the game.

Hinds is easily the player of the game for UMass as he led them in scoring with 16 points on 50 percent shooting.

That effort seemed to drain the Minutemen of their ability to keep up the fast pace. UMass went away from the up-and-down game that had got them that lead and went to a slowed down half court offense.

VCU took full advantage as they went on a 11-2 and kept UMass at arms length.

UMass was able to cut it to three with 41 seconds left as Trey Davis hit a triple after two missed free throws from VCU. That would be the last mistake for the Rams as they hit their next eight from the line to put it away.

Free throws were the only thing keeping UMass in the game. VCU was just 20-31 and could have put away the game earlier if they had made a few more. UMass on the other hand was much more efficient going 15-20.

Cady Lalanne finished with decent stats of 13 points and eight rebounds. But the big man looked lost for much of the second half. Alie-Cox got the best of him and Lalanne just did not have an answer. Maxie Esho also struggled with just eight points and six boards despite his highlight plays.

A nice surprise for UMass though was Demetrius Dyson. The sporadically used bench player had his first double double of the season with 12 points and 10 boards. His six offensive rebounds was a huge factor and allowed UMass to stay in the game.

Despite the loss you have to like the fight UMass showed if you are a Minutemen fan even if they couldn't pull off the upset. But as Jesse Allen pointed out:

This isn't a death blow for the Minutemen by any means. They do drop to 16-11 (9-5) but have a nice three game home stand coming up against the lesser part of the A-10. VCU moves to 21-6 (11-3) and is in poised position to win the A-10 regular season title.

Game Leaders

Player UMass VCU
Points J. Hinds (16) T. Graham (24)
Rebounds D. Dyson (10) T. Graham (10)
Assists J. Hinds (5) J. Lewis (3)
Blocks M. Esho (1) M. Alie-Cox (3)
Steals D. Gordon & M. Esho (2) J. Lewis (3)