March 4, 2021 –
The University of Massachusetts Minutemen eliminated the Saint Joseph’s Hawks from the tournament in the second round by a score of 100 – 66. UMass three-point shooting propelled them to victory. It was the fourth time in tournament history that a team scored at or over one hundred points.
The Minutemen saw the Hawks focus on defense was going to be on center Tre Mitchell, but the ball went to open wing players and pull-up shots from distance on the break. UMass hit 15 from beyond the arc, the second most in Atlantic 10 Tournament history set by St. Bonaventure with 17 in 2002. Overall, the Minutemen made 15 of 38 and were led by Carl Pierre and T.J. Weeks who 4 from three-point land each. The 15 threes were the most given up by the Hawks this season eclipsing the number of 14 set by Davidson.
“Their best player was Tre Mitchell and we didn’t want him to beat us,” said Hawks guard Ryan Daly. “In turn we gave up a lot of threes. They were shooting 15 of 27 at one point which is an absolutely ridiculous percentage. We weren’t locked in defensively.”
Saint Joe’s got a dunk from Cameron Brown to start the game, but it would be their only lead. UMass led 15 – 10 just under 5 minutes into the game, then exploded scoring 18 consecutive points to take command. It was a hill too steep for the Hawks to climb.
“They made a lot of shots, more than we expected,” Daly said. “It was really tough to look up and know you were down. It wasn’t a two to four point deficit. It was more like twelve to fifteen at the minimum and it blew up.”
At halftime the Minutemen posted 59 points, the most points given up in a half by Saint Joe’s. this season. Trailing 59 – 36 going into the second half, any thoughts of an SJU comeback were squelched when Pierre sank three consecutive from distance to start the stanza that began with UMass scoring the first 11 points.
The margin of victory of 34 points was the largest in tournament history.
Six Massachusetts players scored in double-figures led by Ronnie DeGray III who scored 19 points. Javohn Garcia added 17 and Mitchell chipped in with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Three players, Noah Fernandes, Pierre, and Weeks all contributed 14 points. Overall the Minutemen made 40 field goals of 72 shots.
Jordan Hall led the Hawks with 18 points making 5 of 9 field goal attempts, 3 three-point baskets, and a perfect 5 for 5 from the free throw line. Taylor Funk got 14 points. Brown and Dahmir Bishop scored 11 each. Daly, playing in his final collegiate game, was limited to 7 points.
Saint Joe’s finishes the season 5 – 15. The Hawks have a young nucleolus returning along with Funk. Coach Billy Lange provided the team with a picture of what he saw and what he sees in the locker room.
“I look around that room and I see a level of humility that was grown into some of these guys,” said Lange. “I see a level of fight for Saint Joe’s that some of them didn’t have. I see optimism, I see faith, I see persistence, I see resilience, I see coachability. I see leadership. I’ve seen an ability to handle adversity. There is nowhere in life as these guys go to be husbands and fathers that’s not equally as important as having a winning season. It stings in the moment right now, but the character growth and representation of our program and our university is second to none.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian