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UMass looks to get off to fast start vs Holy Cross

  • UMass men’s basketball coach Matt McCall is hoping his team gets off to a fast start against Holy Cross, Wednesday at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



@MattVautourDHG
Tuesday, December 05, 2017

AMHERST — With eight basketball games in the books and most of them featuring slow starts by his team, UMass coach Matt McCall planned to change up his team’s pregame routine and possibly his starting lineup for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game against Holy Cross at the Mullins Center.

“We shook (routine) up a little vs. South Carolina. We may even shake up our starting lineup a bit tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes,” McCall said. “We could stay big and shuffle some guys. We could put more shooting on the floor, going small with more guards out there.

“We’ve gotten off to a bad start in basically every game we’ve played,” he added. “It’s important for us to get off to a good start. That starts with our shoot-around and warmups. We haven’t gotten off to a good start. Maybe Niagara. We have to start getting off to better starts. We can’t wait to have our teeth knocked in before we start playing. We’re losing these close games and we’ve gotten off to bad starts.”

Starting strong can be a challenge against Holy Cross and teams often need a few minutes to get comfortable defending the Crusaders’ slow-down, cut-heavy, backdoor Princeton offense.

“When you’re playing against a Princeton team, your alertness and your communication need to be through the roof,” McCall said. “Our scout team has done a good job, but it’s hard to simulate exactly what they’re doing and the timing of their offense. It’s about us being alert and communicating.”

Even if McCall doesn’t change the starters, he said UMass would likely play small lineups a lot.

“It’s a hard game to play two traditional bigs offensively and defensively. We’ll have to look at some things there,” he said. “You can play four guards and even slide Unique (McLean) over there in a pinch because the spots are interchangeable on defense and offensively it’s all zone. It’s about stops and trying to get out on the break.”

Holy Cross (2-5) opened the year with wins over Sacred Heart and Harvard, but has gone south since with losses to Rhode Island, Fairleigh Dickinson, Albany, Manhattan and La Salle. The last two games were played in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Rebounding and ballhandling has been a problem for the Crusaders, who trail opponents by almost 10 boards per game (36.0-26.6). They’ve turned the ball over 93 times compared to just 83 assists.

Junior forward Karl Charles is HC’s top scorer at 11.5 points per game. Freshman Caleb Green is right behind him at 11.4 points to go with his 3.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Junior big man Jehyve Floyd is the team’s top rebounder with 4.9 to go with his 10.7 points.

“What’s our approach going into the game? Their back is against the wall just like ours is. They’re going to come out swinging,” McCall said. “The biggest thing is us coming out and playing hard and getting our style of play into the game and not getting into a half-court game with them.”

EASLEY VISITING – Former VCU commit Kevin Easley, a 6-foot-8 wing from Indianapolis, plans to make a visit to UMass in January, according to 247sports.com.

He’s still considering VCU and Georgia State.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage