NEW YORK — A male UMass fan, upset over a missed 3-pointer by the Minutemen or a missed free throw or another George Washington offensive rebound — it had to be one of those, right? — accidentally spilled his adult beverage all over the shoe of the female fan seated next to him. They weren’t together. She didn’t appreciate it.
It was that kind of night for the UMass camp.
Digging a hole they couldn’t get out of, the Minutemen were bounced from the Atlantic 10 tournament, losing to George Washington, 85-77, in a quarterfinal game Friday at the Barclays Center.
Avenging a 67-61 home loss to UMass in the regular season, the Colonials had the advantage in hustle plays, earned more 50/50 balls, capitalized on UMass miscues, and trailed for all of 16 seconds. GW (24-7), seeded third, looked like the fresher, hungrier team, and the one that had a bye into the quarterfinals. The Colonials will face Virginia Commonwealth in a Saturday semifinal. UMass had played Thursday night, beating Rhode Island with an emotional, hard-fought, second-half comeback.
The sixth-seeded Minutemen (24-8) now wait for Sunday night, to see where they’ll be seeded and sent in the NCAA Tournament. They’re expected to receive an at-large bid, but had dreams of an automatic bid swallowed up and swatted away by the Colonials.
“GW, I thought, outplayed us tonight,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We didn’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities that we actually had, we didn’t make the shots or the plays.”
GW made nine 3-pointers in 21 attempts, forced 17 turnovers, and whenever UMass got relatively close, always seemed to have an answer. The only lead for the Minutemen was 5-4, on a deep 3-pointer from Chaz Williams.
GW raced out to an 18-9 lead nine minutes in, helped by three 3-pointers from Nemanja Mikic. A reserve who came in averaging only 4.4 points per game, Mikic had a pair of baseline 3-pointers in a 21-second span then added another from the right corner. He had 9 first-half points, and finished with 14. The Colonials had six players finish with at least 12.
UMass started just 5 for 17 from the field, falling behind by as many as 12, before Maxie Esho led a charge off the bench. Esho had 10 points in the first half (he had a team-high 15 the night before) and had with a career-high 22. Williams was the only other player in double figures with 19.
It was 35-31 in the final minute of the half after a tip-in by Derrick Gordon, a deficit that the Minutemen likely would have been pleased with, considering their poor shooting percentage and 10 first-half turnovers. But GW scored the final 5 points, all in the last 18 seconds. A 3-pointer from the left corner was followed by a sloppy turnover by UMass on the inbounds pass.
Although the Colonials missed the layup, Isaiah Armwood split a pair of Minutemen, grabbed the rebound, and laid it in. In an eight-second span, GW pushed the lead from 35-31 to 40-31 at halftime.
“That drew me to insanity, actually,” Kellogg said. “We cut it to 4, the flow of the game was our way, I thought we had them right kind of where we wanted them, and a couple of non-smart basketball plays gave them the momentum going into halftime.”
The closest UMass could get in the second half was 8 points, on three late occasions. The Minutemen now wait for Sunday. The Colonials hope to be playing for the A-10 title that day, but relished the win over UMass for at least two reasons.
“Last year they ended our season, and they beat us earlier [this] season, on our home court, the only loss we had on our home court this year,” said Armwood, who scored 15 points. “Getting them back here was definitely a good thing.”