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Maine 68, UMass 56

UMass reaches new low

Loss to Maine worst effort of the season

By Marty Dobrow
Globe Correspondent / December 9, 2010

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AMHERST — Following seven straight wins to start the season, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen suffered their first loss of the season last Saturday to Boston College, and the big question was this: How would they respond?

The most charitable answer would be, not well.

Not well at all.

In by far the worst effort of the season, and arguably the worst in the three-year tenure of coach Derek Kellogg, the Minutemen laid an ostrich-sized egg last night in a 68-56 loss to the University of Maine.

“That was ugly for UMass basketball,’’ said Kellogg. “I thought our defense was average at best. I thought our offense was terrible . . . I thought we looked unenthused and not really into the game across the board.’’

UMass shot a woeful 29.5 percent from the floor, and just 22.9 percent in the second half. Against a team that had had rebounding troubles all season, UMass was outboarded, 44-37.

The Black Bears came into the game with a 2-5 record. Their lone Div. 1 victory came in overtime against an outfit known as Utah Valley State. In their most recent contest, the Bears had lost by 19 to Delaware State. At home.

But last night they completely outplayed the Minutemen. After falling behind early by 9 points, the Black Bears fought back to a 32-32 stalemate at the half, then dominated the rest of the way. They flustered UMass with a packed-in 2-3 zone defense, and seemed to gain confidence all night in a balanced and opportunistic offense.

“We knew coming in here we had to play great,’’ said coach Ted Woodward, who clearly felt that mission had been accomplished.

Gerald McLemore led the Black Bears with 12 points. Malachi Peay and Terrance Mitchell had 10 apiece. Mitchell’s 3-pointer midway through the second half put the Black Bears ahead to stay.

Maine is coming off a 19-win season that included a victory over BC, but even so, the Minutemen could barely conceal their disgust.

“Pretty much everything went wrong,’’ said senior guard Anthony Gurley. “We didn’t come out with the intensity we needed to win the ballgame. We’ve got to put it behind us.’’

Gurley led the Minutemen with 12 points, but he accomplished it on 4-of-16 shooting. He fouled out with 1:31 left, his third charge of the night. By then, the game was long over.

Maine packed in its zone all night and thwarted UMass penetration. The Black Bears identified the Minutemen’s top perimeter threats (Gurley and Freddie Riley) and hounded them into forgettable evenings (a combined 3 for 17 from behind the arc). UMass’s lack of post presence was exploited. There was no legitimate back-to-the-basket scoring. Kellogg felt the Minutemen lacked sufficient aggressiveness, allowing the Black Bears to set up defensively and not forcing the action.

He watched much of the second half with his arms folded, his face painted with disgust as the Minutemen put forth a parade of air balls, charges, and missed blockouts on the defensive end. The crowd of 2,776 sounded as if they were attending a Quaker meeting. The early-season excitement, at least for one night, was nowhere to be found.

The Minutemen will try to find their fire on Saturday night when they host Seton Hall. Maine is back in action Sunday against Norfolk State.