UMass basketball: Minutemen look to keep momentum going at St. Bonaventure – where they haven’t won since 2015

UMass men’s basketball coach Frank Martin brings his Minutemen to Olean, N.Y. on Wednesday for a road game at St. Bonaventure. The Minutemen haven’t won there since 2011.

UMass men’s basketball coach Frank Martin brings his Minutemen to Olean, N.Y. on Wednesday for a road game at St. Bonaventure. The Minutemen haven’t won there since 2011. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-06-2024 5:01 PM

Modified: 02-07-2024 9:56 AM


The UMass men’s basketball team is coming off arguably its most important win of the season, as the Minutemen finally found themselves on the plus side of a thrilling finish when they beat George Mason 66-65 on Saturday at the Mullins Center.

For the first time in conference play, UMass won consecutive games. And now, with a huge cluster of teams in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10, every game becomes absolutely essential with the conference tournament looming large just a month away.

The Minutemen (14-7, 5-4 A-10) can continue to climb the proverbial conference ladder on Wednesday night, but they’ll have to go through a rugged St. Bonaventure team – which is coming off a five-point road defeat at Dayton – that hasn’t lost at home in Olean, N.Y. in nearly a month.

UMass has won three of its last four games after losing three of its previous four. Frank Martin’s group seems to be playing its best basketball right now, and each individual has bought in to what he’s preaching – defense and hustle.

In order to pick up consecutive win No. 3, the Minutemen need to shut down a Bonnies offense that may not put up a lot of points (averaging 72 per game over their last 10 games), but can certainly score in bunches when they get hot – especially on their home floor. St. Bonaventure is averaging 86 points per game in its last three home contests, including scoring 90-plus on two occasions.

The Bonnies (13-8, 4-5 A-10) are led by a plethora of capable scorers, spearheaded by junior forward Chad Venning, who is averaging north of 12.5 points per game for the second straight season (14 ppg this year). The 6-foot-10 big played a pivotal role in St. Bonaventure’s last two wins over Saint Joseph’s (21 points) and VCU (11 points, eight rebounds, three blocks). 

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Williamsburg’s Burgy Brews fizzles: Owners closing kitchen Sunday and taproom next weekend; also pulling plug on brewery
UMass Hall of Famer, ESPN broadcaster Rene Ingoglia on move to MAC: “for some years now, there’s a bus, and football drives the bus”
Speaker for the whales: Indigenous artist interprets endangered right whale’s legacy and meaning
Area news briefs: Mt. Tom universal access trail closure; South Hadley Dems to caucus; HCC extends scholarship deadline
Thomas Stark named South Hadley’s District 1 fire chief
UMass basketball: Matt Cross, Daniel Hankins-Sanford make plays late as Minutemen win at Davidson for first time since 1998

Guards Mika Adams-Woods (13.6 ppg), Charles Pride (11.3 ppg), Moses Flowers (9.8 ppg) and Daryl Banks III (8.8 ppg) are skilled backcourt players who have all scored at least 25 points in a game this season. Any of these proven, experienced players can torch a defense if given space to operate.

The Minutemen haven’t fared well against the Bonnies historically, as St. Bonaventure holds an all-time 20-10 edge in the series. UMass is just 1-9 in its last 10 against their conference foes, and haven’t won in Olean since 2015.

As for UMass, a win – to no surprise – is likely to stem from the play of Josh Cohen and Matt Cross. The two seniors control almost all facets of the game. Cohen leads the team in points and field goal percentage (min. 25 FGA) while Cross leads in rebounds, assists, steals and free-throw percentage (80.7). Against the Patriots last weekend, Cohen scored a team-high 17 points, Cross pulled down a team-high nine rebounds and collected two steals.

On top of the frontcourt dominance, the Minutemen have also continued to receive terrific production from their backcourt – specifically Rahsool Diggins and Keon Thompson.

Over Diggins’ last four games, he’s averaged 18 points and has drilled 14 3-pointers during that stretch. Thompson has scored double digits in five of his last six, and he’s turned the ball over only five times in those six contests. The strides these two have taken compared to where they were a year ago is a huge reason why UMass is in the position it’s in.

Tip-off for Wednesday’s game with St. Bonaventure is slated for 7 p.m. and it is available for streaming on the NBC Sports app.

Minutewomen host Duquesne at 6 p.m.

After losing on the road at Atlantic 10-leading Saint Joseph’s, the UMass women’s basketball team is now one loss away from its streak of consecutive losses reaching double digits.

The Minutewomen (3-20, 1-10) welcome the Dukes (13-9, 8-3) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, with the visitors having won five of their last six games – including impressive victories over Rhode Island, Richmond and Davidson. 

Guards Megan McConnell (12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds per game) and Amaya Hamilton (1o.8/4.9 per game) lead Duquesne into the Mullins Center. Given the fact that the Dukes are in the midst of a regular season Atlantic 10 title race, only two games back from the Hawks for first place, they are likely going to be ready to go against a UMass team who hasn’t won a game since Jan. 2.

UMass does play three of the bottom four teams (excluding itself) in the conference over its last seven regular season games, so there is a chance to build some momentum heading into the postseason.