After trailing by 14 points at halftime, the Minutemen brought the game to its final seconds, but last-second attempts from TJ Weeks and Isaac Kante rimmed out to give the Ramblers the win.Loyola found themselves up 61-43 with just under ten minutes remaining in the second half. They failed to score again for the next seven minutes as UMass steadily crawled back into the game. TJ Weeks hit a massive three-pointer to bring UMass within one possession before Keon Thompson converted on a jump shot with 37.8 left to make it 63-62 Loyola. After the Ramblers’ Philip Alston made one of his two free throw attempts with 10 seconds to play, UMass had a chance to tie or win the game.
Photo Cred: Umass Athletics
The Mullins Center crowd believed that Weeks was fouled at the rim just before the buzzer sounded, but the officials disagreed. Guard Braden Morris led Loyola with 17 points and five assists, with 14 of those points and all five assists coming before halftime. Morris made four of his seven three-point attempts before the break as the Ramblers marched to a 41-27 halftime lead.
Photo Cred: MassLive.com
Forward Matt Cross was assisted to the locker room after just five minutes of action. Cross had scored six of UMass’ eight points when he got injured. It was clear the Minutemen were missing him in the first half. After the game, UMass head coach Frank Martin spoke highly of Cross “Matt’s the guy that provides the toughness on our team, and without him out there, we had some guys looking around asking who was going to do it.”
In the second half, Weeks was able to pick up most of the scoring load that Cross left behind on his way to the locker room. Weeks finished with 18 points and was the only Minuteman in double figures. He hit all four of his three-pointers in the second half to keep the game close. Weeks said after the game. “I feel like in the first half we didn’t play to our abilities at all.”
Photo Cred: Umass Athletics
Each team turned the ball over 17 times. The shooting stats were almost identical; UMass shot 42% from the field, and Loyola finished at 41%. From three, each team finished at 35%. The similarities in shooting percentages explain why the score was so close. Those numbers seem a lot closer than how it felt in Amherst. Loyola led for 37 minutes of the 40. The crowd didn’t really get excited until UMass started to pull within striking range in the final eight minutes. It was simply a tale of two halves, with Loyola dominating the first and the UMass defense making things hard on the Ramblers in the second.
Photo Cred: UmassLive.com
Martin gave insight on Cross’ injury, saying, “It’s something to do with his MCL.” This could mean that Cross could miss a few games. Martin mentioned postgame that Cross’ injury opens more playing time for Freshman Tafara Gapare. The New Zealand native Gapare is the most promising talent on the UMass roster. But he has struggled to find much playing time as of late.
With the victory, Loyola moves to 3-10 in the Atlantic-10 while UMass drops to 4-10 in the league. Both teams are sitting at the bottom of the conference and need to improve. Over the next few weeks they need to avoid playing in the First Round of the A-10 tournament. Six teams at the bottom of the league square off. UMass travels to Rhode Island on Saturday to meet rival URI (4-8 A-10). The Ramblers look to add to Tuesday’s win over the Minutemen when they play host to Dayton (9-4) on Friday.