Basketball: Virginia hands UMass its first loss of the season

Tre Mitchell was met with double teams from Virginia's stout defense

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The Massachusetts men’s basketball team fell to No. 7 Virginia by a score of 58-46 in the opening game of the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

The Minutemen had their worst shooting performance of the season, shooting just 30% from the field and 19% from three. Carl Pierre and Tre Mitchell combined for 10 of the team’s 15 total made field goals, finishing with 14 and 10 points respectively.

After falling behind by 16 points in the first half, UMass went on an 11-0 run to close the half, in part due to three straight buckets from Mitchell. A jumper from Pierre to start the half cut the deficit to three, but the Minutemen didn’t make another field goal over a 14-minute stretch and fell into another 16-point hole that they couldn’t climb out of.

“I thought that Tre in the first half was cooking there,” UMass head coach Matt McCall said. “They (Virginia) adjusted and started double teaming him. He made some good passes out of those double teams and we got wide open looks that normally go down for us…if you kick in three or four more of those, we’re sitting here in a one, two-point game, one, two possession game. We’re not gonna have too many nights where we go 5-of-26 from the three-point line.”

During the second half, double teams forced Mitchell to alter his playstyle and pass to his perimeter shooters. He agreed that the team had some abnormal misses.

“I’m more than capable of passing the ball and finding the open man. It’s just tonight we just weren’t hitting our shots. That’s all it is,” he said. “(If) we hit those shots, I think it’s an interesting game.”

Missing those open looks proved to be the deciding factor. Virginia didn’t have a great second half shot wise, but they were able to keep their lead due to stellar defensive play, holding UMass to just five made field goals.

Despite the loss, the Minutemen gained confidence from hanging with one of the best college basketball teams in the country.

“I think there were things in our control that we just didn’t do or things didn’t go our way that really decided the game,” Pierre said. “If a few more of those shots fell, it would’ve been a much closer game. And to know that is the difference, and we played hard and our style of play is having an effect, I think we leave here with a little bit more confidence than we came in with.”

The Minutemen (5-1) will look to rebound tomorrow in their consolation game against St. John’s University (4-2).

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