So that sucked, eh?
Tonight’s home loss to George Mason was pretty brutal viewing, and the numbers all back that up. 39.7% shooting. 7-of-25 from downtown. 11 missed free throws. 1-8 shooting for 8 points for Chaz. Three turnovers and just one hoop for DG. 91 points allowed. Yeesh. It’s like the half of the Mullins Center that didn’t show up got some kind of advanced notice.
And the late-game magic of recent memory? Absent tonight, thanks to clutch shooting from Sherrod Wright (one of the conference’s most underrated players) and UMass’s continued free-throw shortcomings. All of the good will from a coast-to-coast home win vs. La Salle followed by a gritty game on the road with URI dissipates with a loss like this. A few short weeks ago UMass was a lock for the NCAAs. Now, the odds are still ever in our favor, just with some added land mines that we’ve now planted for ourselves.
Dropping this one sends UMass’s RPI from 10 to 20, still in that fun “double dollar sign” range to which we look good on other teams’ resumes. Obviously, there’s now an uphill battle for that coveted top-four positioning that avoids a dangerous Thursday first-rounder in Brooklyn against an underachiever. But all is not lost! UMass can control its own destiny down the stretch with those head-to-head meetings with VCU, SLU and GW. The former two of those three are all at home, and will see sell-out crowds and a more energized Mullins Center where playing down to the competition like tonight won’t be an option. Plus, you can take the revenge factor out of it – both VCU and SLU beat UMass last year, the Rams getting us twice. GW on Saturday may be looking for revenge from Brooklyn last year (not to mention to bounce back from getting routed by VCU tonight), but you get the picture. Mason was hungry to avenge what happened in Fairfax a few weeks back, just like the Bonnies and Hawks before them. The difference being UMass shouldn’t lose games like this at home, but what’s done is done. Nothing to do but try to bounce back.
If anything, the 2 1/2 years of the Chaz era have taught us the following:
1) UMass is capable of losing to anyone, anywhere,
2) There is next to zero momentum or continuity from game to game, either positively or negatively,
3) This crew brings their best efforts to the conference tourney.
So yeah, sixth place for the moment kinda bites, sure. Just the same, the next George on the schedule doesn’t scare me one bit. Let’s see what these guys are made of after their first home loss.