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Minutemen Outlast Rams 81-79

by Kevin McCaskill Jr.

2/14/24 * 6:10 AM

(AMHERST, MA) - The Rams traveled from Rhode Island to The Mullins Center to take on the UMass Minutemen. Rhode Island beat UMass in January at The Ryan Center. Matt Cross didn’t play in that game for UMass; he was dealing with multiple injuries.

The Minutemen needed a win on Sunday for the A10 standings heading into the A10 Conference Championship and for New England “bragging rights”.

The Rams controlled the first half. The opening play of the game was a turnover by Matt Cross that led to a Rams layup. The Rams got a lot of shots in the paint early, which opened up 3-pt shots, thats were made by the Rams.

The Minutemen had no offensive rhythm in the first half. They shot a lot of contested 3s. They couldn’t create lanes to drive to the basket.

Towards the end of the half, UMass Freshman Guard Jaylen Curry gave the Minutemen’s offense the spark it needed. He made back-to-back 3s which narrowed the Rams lead 33-31.

The Rams led at halftime 35-32.

The second half was a rollercoaster ride 🎢.

The Minutemen began the second half on a high note. UMass Junior Guard Rahsool Diggins made a 3 to tie the game at 35. UMass Sophomore Guard Keon Thompson found a lane and made a layup to give UMass the lead 37-35. Over a four minute span, Diggins and Thompson were responsible for 10 points. The two guards are putting together a great year. They have improved their play on both ends of the floor throughout the season.

After the game, UMass HC Frank Martin said, “Without [Thompson’s] ball-screen defense, we can’t level them off the way we did. He single-handedly - with offensive rebounds, cuts to the rim, transition baskets, ball-screen defense - allowed us to build that lead…He is becoming a leader”.

The lead HC Martin mentioned got up to 68-54 around the 6 minute mark of the second half. Over the next 5 minutes, “the dip” came 🎢.

The Rams went on a 15-8 run and closed the lead to 74-69. Rams Guard Jaden House scored 8 of those 15 points. House had a game-high of 22 on Sunday afternoon.

Rams Guard Luis Kortright made two layups and Forward Brandon Weston made 1/2 FTs to close the gap to two, 74-72.

In the last minute, Diggins and Thompson came up big for the Minutemen. Diggins made his 6th three of the game; he finished with 18 points. Thompson made two FTs that put the lead at 80-72.

Kortright scored 7 points in 28 seconds. UMass led 81-79 with four seconds left. Curry was at the line and he missed the 1st FT. HC Martin called a timeout. Curry missed the second FT. Weston got the rebound for the Rams and passed it to Kortright. Kortright got a shot up but it was no good.

The Minutemen survived another close A10 battle 81-79.

Thompson finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

After the game, Thompson said there was a slight difference in how Rhode Island guarded him. “The way we practiced [was] they don’t switch. Well, today they switched. At first, there really wasn’t any gaps to attack…I just had to pace…Let the game come to me and not force anything”.

HC Martin: “You get beat [in college] because of one possession they went at you and you couldn’t defend - the season can go under. There’s repercussions for winning and losing in college basketball…”.

The Minutemen are on the road this week. Their 1st stop is on Wednesday, in Richmond, VA to play the Richmond Spiders.

The game starts @ 7 PM.

The Minutemen end the week in the “City of Brotherly Love”, Philadelphia, to take on La Salle. The game starts @ 2 PM

Both games can be seen on ESPN+.

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