UMass coach Matt McCall benches Chris Baldwin in loss

  • UMass head coach Matt McCall gestures during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Minnesota, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in New York. Minnesota won 69-51.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) AP Photo

Saturday, December 02, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. – UMass coach Matt McCall said Chris Baldwin wasn’t injured. The sophomore forward played just 3 minutes of the Minutemen’s 76-70 loss to South Carolina because McCall wasn’t happy with his approach.

McCall, who praised Baldwin last week for his play and attitude against Minnesota, was upset with him this week and played freshman Khalea Turner-Morris 16 minutes in his place.

“He had the right mentality (in Brooklyn). I didn’t think he had the right mentality in practice on Tuesday. He definitely didn’t have it against Quinnipiac on Wednesday. When he’s injected into the game and is taking step-back jumpers the second the ball touches his hands, he’s got to be coachable,” McCall said. “Chris is a great kid. He’s a guy you love being around. He puts a smile on your face. But in the heat of the battle you have to be coachable. You have to listen to coaching and respond the right way and not make it about anything other than the next possession and what’s best for our program.”

McCall said Baldwin isn’t alone.

“We’ve talked about mentality a lot. Not enough guys are doing enough to try to get better. Guys are walking in with one second to go before practice,” he said. “That shows me you do not have the right mentality.”

FRESHMEN CONTRIBUTE – UMass’ true freshmen Carl Pierre and Khalea Turner-Morris each saw more minutes than they had before and contributed.

Pierre had 12 points on four 3-pointers and a career-high five rebounds in 30 minutes and looked poised taking big shots down the stretch.

McCall said he has to be better at scoring inside the 3-point line.

“Carl when he drives, because so many teams are worried about his 3-point shooting, has got to ball-fake and go in there and finish,” he said. “If Carl makes those two drives to the rim and the outcome of the game is different.”

McCall benching Baldwin and foul trouble for Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hines led to more playing time for Turner-Morris who had three points and two rebounds in 16 minutes.

“Khalea gave us great energy. Great effort,” McCall said. “Khalea is about the right things. He’s about the team. He’s growing and needs to continue to grow. I thought he had a chance to put his body in a couple plays and he’s got to grab a few more rebounds.”

McCall appreciated Turner-Morris’ dedication despite playing limited minutes to this point.

“We lose to BYU last Saturday. I’m in the office Sunday morning and Khalea is in there working on his game at 9 a.m. He cares. We have to continue to develop him,” McCall said. “We have to continue to develop Carl and continue to develop Khalea. We have to continue to develop everybody.”

STILL WAITING – Gamecock freshman Justin Minaya, who led South Carolina with 17 points, didn’t sign with USC until April. McCall tried to lure Minaya, who is the son of baseball executive Omar Minaya, to Amherst so watching him shine against the Minutemen was tough for the first-year coach.

“I told him after the game, I’m still waiting on my phone call back,” McCall said. “I was recruiting him in April and he never really called me back when he committed to South Carolina telling me he’s not coming to UMass. I loved him in April. I thought he was terrific. He impacted the game in so many ways. He’s going to be a guy teams are going to have to deal with here for the next four years.”

LIGHT CROWD – Last year’s Final Four appearance hasn’t led to South Carolina fans piling into the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Center. The crowd was listed at 10,852.

“There must have been some kind of a golf tournament or an evaluation of seventh-round offensive linemen or something in town because obviously our fans decided that showing up here today wasn’t that important,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.

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