UMass basketball encouraged after weekend scrimmage

  • Samba Diallo, left, and Curtis Cobb run a drill during UMass basketball practice, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 at the Champions Center.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2018 10:53:12 PM

AMHERST — While the UMass football team was preparing to face Coastal Carolina, the men’s basketball team was in the middle of its own tough game.

The Minutemen held a closed-door scrimmage against Siena on Saturday, the specifics of which were not released publicly. Coach Matt McCall called the scrimmage an important benchmark for UMass as it prepares for its season opener against UMass-Lowell on Nov. 6 at Mullins Center.

“We’ve got a barometer now of where exactly we are and where we need to get better,” McCall said. “It’s crazy to think about it, and I know it’s not that long, but we still have two weeks left before we play a game for real.”

Where the Minutemen seemed to shine the most was on defense as McCall dialed up his pressure for most of the scrimmage. He said the team charted out at a 0.8 defensive efficiency rating in one half, an excellent mark for a team that didn’t have any scouting report.

Sophomore Carl Pierre said he thought the Minutemen’s enthusiasm fueled the spirited performance on the defensive end.

“We just came out with a lot of energy,” Pierre said. “We really bought into that side of the floor. The key to the game is stopping the other team, so we came out with a lot of energy, competed just like we do in practice, and it showed.”

The scrimmage also gave McCall time to tinker with lineups and figure out which five players jell as a unit. The second-year coach is trying to figure out how to integrate four transfers who sat out last year and three freshmen into the core that returned from last season.

Pierre said there was a lot of learning on the floor as the players worked to complement one another.

“It helps us a lot in terms of chemistry,” Pierre said. “Just getting a game under our belt helps us understand how we play on the floor and how we react to how adversity hits, and I think it’ll help us just continue to build toward the future.”

Where the Minutemen still showcased some issues was on offense. McCall said he still wasn’t satisfied with his team’s shot selection and handling of the ball, issues that point to a team still trying to come together.

However, McCall said the offensive woes were outweighed to some extent by how hard the Minutemen competed.

“They’re hungry to compete, we just got to find a way to stay in our offense more and (improve) our shot selection,” McCall said. “From a competitive standpoint, we took like seven or eight charges, and that’s just unheard of. And it wasn’t one guy, it was a collection of guys.”

The Minutemen have one more exhibition to play — Oct. 30 against Westfield State — before the season tips off. McCall said these final two weeks are important as UMass prepares for a packed slate of games in November.

“We’ve got a long way to go, there’s no question about that,” McCall said. “This is a big week for us, these next two are critical. We play eight games in the first 22 days of the season, and there’s going to be some growing pains that we have to go through as a group, but we’ll get there.”

MINUTEMEN RANKED: For the first time in eight years, UMass is ranked in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll.

The Minutemen climbed to No. 16 in the nation Monday after earning a split with then-No. 1 Ohio State over the weekend. It was the first time UMass had been ranked in the poll since Feb. 2010.

In the USA Hockey poll, UMass received the most votes of the teams that didn’t crack the top 15, finishing 14 points shy of Quinnipiac.

MAKAR ADDS ACCOLADE: Sophomore Cale Makar was named the Hockey East Player of the Week for the second straight week.

The defenseman scored three of his four points of the weekend in Friday’s 6-3 win over Ohio State. He scored a goal and added a pair of assists in the victory before assisting on UMass’ only goal in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Buckeyes.

LOUW HONORED: UMass junior Antonet Louw was named the Atlantic 10 Field Hockey co-Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week.

The South African forward scored all five goals in the Minutewomen’s improbable comeback victory over Northeastern on Friday. She tallied four times in the final 26:04 of regulation to rally UMass from a 4-0 deficit and then scored the game-winner in double overtime.

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