UMass overcomes first-half struggles to sink Springfield in exhibition, 82-60

  • UMass guard C.J. Anderson dunks during a game against Springfield College at the Mullins Center, Friday, November 3, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF / CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass coach Matt McCall looks on during an exhibition game against Springfield College at the Mullins Center, Friday, November 3, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF / CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass guard Unique McLean attacks the basket on the break against Springfield College at the Mullins Center, Friday, November 3, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF / CAROLINE O’CONNOR

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 11/3/2017 10:41:28 PM

AMHERST — It’s hard to draw much in the way of conclusions from UMass’ 82-60 exhibition win over Springfield College.

As expected, UMass was without junior center Rashaan Holloway, who is coming back from a thumb injury. Freshman guard Carl Pierre was a late scratch with flu-like symptoms.

The Minutemen struggled at times in the first half, but settled down and dominated in the second half.

“Our guys settled in. In the first half I was disappointed with our effort. We were maybe nervous, first game jitters, I don’t know. Hustle plays, we didn’t make any. We reverted back to trying to rock out and go one-on-one,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “We got away from what we’ve been working on. Hopefully we got all that out of us and the game served its purpose. ... Once we settled down I was proud of those guys.”

Some observations and revelations from the game:

— Holloway could have played according to McCall. He returned to practice Thursday, but the coach chose not to risk an injury, instead building toward having him ready for next week’s opener against UMass-Lowell (Friday 7 p.m.).

“Heaven forbid someone come down on his hand in an exhibition game and he’s out for four more weeks,” McCall said. “We didn’t want to risk that. We have a big week coming up and we want to have him in the lineup.”

— Pierre would have started if he was available. McCall planned to use four guards and Malik Hines against the much smaller Pride. Chris Baldwin started instead alongside Hines, Luwane Pipkins, Unique McLean and C.J. Anderson.

— Baldwin made the most of his start with 15 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He had nobody that could really match him physically, but he was a presence throughout and his energy helped pick up the Minutemen in the second half.

“Chris was great. He’s a guy that we’re going to feed off his energy a lot,” McCall said. “He’s got to clean some things up on offense. I’ve been impressed the last two days in practice at his vocalness, especially on defense.”

— UMass missed all nine 3-pointers in took in the first half. Outside shooting figures to be an issue as nobody on the roster is consistent from the outside. Once Pipkins (14 points, six assists, one turnover, 5-for-17 shooting) hit his first one, the whole team found the range shooting 5-for-11 in the second half.

— UMass stayed out of foul trouble. Despite the lack of depth, no player had more than three fouls in the game.

— Anyone hoping to see Unique McLean’s dunking prowess on display got their wish near the midway point in the second half. Crashing the boards from the left wing on a Rayshawn Miller miss, he skied to grab the offensive rebound and dunked it loudly all in one motion.

“I just crashed the boards,” he said. “Being as athletic as I am, I’ve always crashed the boards trying to get putback dunks.”

McLean finished with 13 points and six rebounds. He’ll likely be asked to rebound a lot when the Minutemen play smaller lineups.

— The Minutemen held Springfield scoreless for five minutes in the second half during an 11-0 run that turned the game around. Springfield coach Charlie Brock credited UMass’ ability to switch defensive screens. McCall said that would be a hallmark of his defense.

“When you can switch it can cause all kinds of problems for teams. It’s one of the biggest weapons,” McCall said. “We switched an enormous amount at Chattanooga. You look at the (Oklahoma City) Thunder and they’re switching everything. It’s hard to run offense when you’re switching. It can take you out of an offense.”

— Northampton’s Jake Ross was a focal point of the UMass defense, which held the Division III national freshman of the year to nine points on 4-for-10 shooting.

“It was a great opportunity. I always came to games here growing up. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited for sure,” he said. “When I heard it was on our schedule I was looking forward to it all summer.”

— UMass officially added walk-on Michael Gillespie, a 6-foot-3 guard from Pembroke who played at Xaverian Brothers.

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



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