Men’s Basketball Falls to UMass

Trap games (games against materially lesser opponents) are often a problem for NCAA tournament contending teams. They often catch good teams off guard and cause them to lose winnable games as a result of not putting in their best effort. This has been a particular problem for Davidson this year as 3 of the team’s 6 losses have come to teams with losing records [Wake Forest, St. Joe’s, and now UMass]. 

Davidson’s most recent loss had dropped their NET ranking to 68, meaning that if the season ended today the team would miss the NCAA Tournament when factoring in the automatic bids of conference champions. As a result, the Wildcats may very well need to win the A10 tournament in order to advance into the NCAA Tournament. 

All of this raises the question, how did we get here? More specifically, how did a UMass team that came into the game 1-9 in conference play manage to beat Davidson? First, credit needs to be given to UMass sophomore guard (and fellow BC High graduate) Carl Pierre. Pierre had 23 points on 8-12 shooting to go along with 2 assists, and his game was the lone bright-spot for a UMass team the Wildcats handled well defensively. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t bring the same success to the offensive end of the court, where Davidson managed only 51 points throughout the contest. One possible cause for this could very well have been player fatigue, as throughout the game, UMass staggered minutes between 9 players, while coach McKillop shortened the Wildcats rotation to only 7. This forced guards Kellen Grady ‘21 and Jon Axel Gudmundsson ‘20 to play a combined of 79 of a possible 80 minutes throughout the game and could be the reason behind the two combining for just 5 points [all from free-throws] in the final 10 minutes of the game. 

Another reason for the loss is one that’s become all too common to Wildcat fans over the years: rebound differential. UMass out rebounded Davidson 36-27, and turned that difference into a 10-0 advantage in second chance points. On 13 different occasions, Davidson was able to force UMass into a missed shot, but failed to come up with the rebound. Of course, a large part of this is due to the Wildcats’ loss of 3 forwards/centers from last year’s team, but excusable as it may be, rebounding has been a constant struggle for the team this year, and if it continues, perhaps Coach McKillop should consider running more traditional lineups featuring 2 forwards. 

Fortunately, Davidson avoided falling prey to another trap game against Fordham on Tuesday, and they’ll surely look to keep that momentum going this Friday in their home game against St. Joseph’s. With rumors of Davidson legend Steph Curry possibly being in attendance due to his selection to the NBA All Star Game this Sunday, the Wildcats will look to impress both Curry and the selection committee as they look to rise in the rankings and preserve their spot atop the A10 standings.

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