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Mack Leads Harvard to Victory Over UMass  78-75

by Kevin McCaskill Jr.

11/19/23 * 1:23 PM

(AMHERST, MA) - The UMass Minutemen hosted the Harvard Crimson on Friday night at the Mullins Center. On Thursday, the two Women’s programs met and the Crimson were victorious.

Both the Men’s programs were undefeated coming into the game.

The game was very close over the first 10 minutes of the half. Neither team was getting easy shots however Harvard was more patient working their offense.

At the under 8 minute TV timeout, Harvard led 12-11. The game had slowed down completely scoring wise. Neither team could get a basket, due in part to defense and just missing easy, makeable shots.

Over the next 5 minutes, the Minutemen found some offense and went on 12-5 run that put them ahead 23-17. UMass Forward Daniel Hankins-Sanford was instrumental in the scoring run. He made a 3 and hit a shot around the basket. He has a nice touch on his shot.

The Minutemen were also forcing bad shots and turnovers from the Crimson.

UMass led at halftime 37-28. Things were falling in place for a Minutemen win.

In the second half, the Minutemen’s offense was stagnant. Josh Cohen and Matt Cross were the only two players that contributed consistently on offense in the 2nd. To add to the offensive struggles, the Minutemen were also missing FTs. They missed 5 consecutive FTs in one stretch; they went 10-25 overall at the FT-line on Friday.

UMass couldn’t put Harvard away and the Crimson continued to inch back in the game.

Harvard Freshman Malik Mack stepped up for the Crimson and made big shot after big shot. He made a 3 to cut the UMass lead to 4, 55-51. He made another 3 that tied the game at 57.

UMass Freshman Robert Davis Jr. hit a jumper from the elbow to put UMass up 59-57.

The game was tied again at 62. UMass Freshman Jaylen Curry made a 3 from the left wing to give UMass a 65-62 lead.

Thomas Batties made a 3 to tie the game @ 65.

UMass Guard Rahsool Diggins made a clutch 3 in the left corner, in front of the Minutemen bench. On the other end, Mack made another 3 to tie the game at 68. The Minutemen didn’t put the Crimson away early in the second half and now the game was on the line in the final minutes.

On the next play, Diggins missed a 3 but Cross got a rebound and got fouled. He made 2 FTs to give the Minutemen a 70-68 lead with 29 seconds left.

The ball went to Mack on Harvard’s last possession of regulation. Mack was being guarded by Curry. He passed to Batties, who was being guarded by Cross. Batties quickly passed the ball back to Mack and set a faux screen on Curry. Cross switched on to Mack.

Mack dribbled on to the baseline and stopped. He up-faked and Cross jumped. Mack ducked under and shot a floater to tie the game at 70. The Freshman had made a good move on a Senior.

On the last play of regulation, Curry went to the basket but couldn’t make the tough layup. Keon Thompson got the offensive rebound and passed to Cross. Cross quickly got it to Diggins and Diggins shot a 3 as time expired. The shot missed and the game went into OT.

In OT, Harvard Forward Louis Lesmond made a 3 to put Harvard up 73-71. The Minutemen had two consecutive turnovers, one by Cross, one by Curry. Mack hit another 3 and the Minutemen never got back even or ahead.

UMass had the ball down three, 78-75. Curry had the ball on the right wing as the seconds were ticking down. He looked for his teammates and didn’t see anyone open. He shot a 3 that missed and Harvard got the victory 78-75.

Mack scored a game high 32 points.

Cross had a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

After the game Cross and HC Frank Martin spoke to the media, respectively.

Cross said on Mack, “All the coaches gave us a really good scout on him and what he could do. We just didn’t execute on him the way we should have. We had the game-plan; there was nothing he did that we were surprised about…

I called the switch on [their] last play in regulation. He iso-ed me, up-faked, I fell for it, [he] gets the tying basket…”.

Coach Martin said, “Stick with these guys; our guys are hurting right now. The only time you hurt is when you commit. Nothing hurts if you just show up; it hurts when you commit…Disappointed in the loss, in a game we should have won”.

The Minutemen host Central Connecticut State on Wednesday afternoon at The Mullins Center. The game tips off at 2 PM and can be seen on ESPN+.


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