Not sure how many people stayed up to check out UMass take on #16 Memphis Tigers last night at midnight, but it was a better game than many would have expected. You look at the ESPN Bottomline and you see that UMass got blown out, but that certainly wasn’t the case. Memphis led the game by a constant eight to ten points, mostly because the Minutemen continued to hand them fast break baskets (UMass committed 25 turnovers). With the all the turnovers, horrendous shooting (30.3% from the field) and lack of front court depth (gave up 12 offensive rebounds), not to mention the extreme difference in talent, it’s not a surprise that UMass lost this game. With that said, the Minutemen definitely proved that they can hang with the top teams in the nation as they really were in the game up until about seven minutes remaining in the game.
The one player that should have stood out in everyone’s mind while watching the game last night was senior forward Tony Gaffney for the UMass Minutemen. Born and raised in Berkley, MA, Tony Gaffney transferred to UMass from Boston University after his sophomore season. Last year he played a small role off the bench, but with Dante Milligan and Ettienne Brower graduating and Luke Bonner now out for a month with a knee injury, Gaffney is left to man the paint for the Minutement by himself. And he gave the Memphis Tigers everything they can handle!
Gaffney brought the energy from the opening tip as he was an absolute beast on the glass and was doing his best to deter shots at the rim. The Tigers were grabbing offensive rebounds early in the game and that was because they were sending three guys to the glass and Gaffney was the only legit rebounder in the paint for the Minutemen. From about ten minutes remaining in the first half, Gaffney kept the Tigers off the glass and ended the game with a career-high 19 rebounds. He also tacked on 16 points as well as another five blocks (he had seven last game against SIU). When Coach Kellogg took him out of the game for good, the Memphis crowd actually gave him a great round of applause.
Tony Gaffney is asserting himself as the senior leader on this team (Chris Lowe’s play is really hurting his leading ability) and this big play will be needed for a few weeks with Bonner sidelined and no other legit center on this roster. Tyrell Lynch, Matt Hill (possibly injured) and Travon Wilcher are just too inexperienced and too small, to defend many big men in the Atlantic 10, let alone against Memphis. Gaffney will patrol the paint and give us nostalgia, bringing back memories of when Stephane Lasme was giving us the same energy.
Keep up the good work, Tony. Your play speaks volumes about your character.