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Diggins Leads Minutemen to Victory over GW 81-67

by Kevin McCaskill Jr.

1/21/24 * 1:44 PM

(AMHERST, MA) - UMass hosted George Washington yesterday at The Mullins Center, in Amherst, MA. The Minutemen entered the game after losing two consecutive road contests, @ Rhode Island and @ Loyola Chicago.

UMass Forward, and arguably best player, Matt Cross missed his 3rd consecutive game.

I spoke with someone familiar with the Men’s 🏀 program. They said that Cross is “day-to-day” and that Cross’ absence was due more to recent dental surgery than the lower leg injury. He will more than likely return to action this Tuesday against Saint Joseph’s or this upcoming Saturday @ Saint Louis.

The Minutemen needed at least one player to step up their offensive production. In the first half, the Minutemen were stagnant on offense. They weren’t getting easy shots and they were attempting tough, contested shots. The same was true of GW. Their offense was “stuck in the mud”.

The game was tied at 31 at halftime.

In the second half, UMass Guard Rahsool Diggins emerged as the scorer the Minutemen needed. In two minutes, early in the 2nd half, Diggins scored 8 consecutive points. He made 2 FTs and hit back-to-back threes.

Before the La Salle game, Diggins was getting up 3s more than two hours before the game. It’s anecdotal, but you can infer that Diggins practices his 3-pt shot a lot and more of his attempts should start to fall.

UMass Guard Keon Thompson also chipped in with some timely baskets. HC Frank Martin previously said they try to create gaps or lanes so that Thompson can get to the basket. They were successful against GW getting Thompson in the paint and Thompson finished, most importantly.

Diggins caught fire again in the middle of the second, scoring 7 straight points for the Minutemen.

GW’s leader on the floor, Guard James Bishop IV, had a bad game. He couldn’t get into the rhythm of the game due in part to the on-ball defense by Thompson and the collective Minutemen team defense. Bishop finished with 8 points and 5 turnovers.

The Minutemen opened the gap wider as the half went along. UMass Forward Daniel Hankins-Sanford had multiple open dunks in the second half, sparked by the Minutemen forcing turnovers.

GW didn’t have a run in them. The Minutemen beat GW 81-67 for their 12th win of the season.

Diggins scored a career-high 25 points, shooting 5/11 from 3-pt range. He also tallied 5 assists.

UMass Freshman Guard Jaylen Curry continued his solid play in A10 conference games with 17 points and 4 assists.

Josh Cohen registered another double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Garrett Johnson led GW in scoring with 16 points.

Maximus Edwards had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

After the game, GW HC Chris Caputo, UMass Guards Diggins & Curry and UMass HC Frank Martin spoke with the media.

Diggins: “Last couple games, shots haven’t been fallin’. I just wanted to get some up and  see some through. It’s good to see some go in today”.

Curry: “I just been tryin’ to work on my game everyday. Coach is gonna call your name at any moment so I know I just need to stay ready”.

Martin: “There’s a right of passage to be good”; “I like team-basketball, offensively”; [on containing James Bishop] “Prayed a lot”.

The Minutemen improve to 12-6 overall and 3-3 in A10 conference play. They host Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday night @ The Mullins Center. The game tips @ 7 PM.


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