Preseason games serve a purpose and anyone who watched the UMass Minutemen slug out an 89-76 win over AIC on Tuesday night are quite aware of that now. The Minutemen, for the most part, looked very sloppy and put forth a performance that simply would not have gotten it done against a Division I foe. But, such is the purpose of these games and some of the lessons learned will go a long way towards shaping the product Derek Kellogg puts on the floor every night this winter.
Sampson Carter led all scorers with 20 points and added seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in 20 minutes of action. He was active getting into the lane and got to the line several times. A consistent player throughout his career, plus performances like this are exactly what UMass will need from him in his final season. Carter's frontcourt mate, Cady Lalanne, dropped in 16 points with eight rebounds and at times looked like the best player on the court. He was physical, confident, and scored almost at will.
I say he looked like the best player at times because that distinction is reserved for Derrick Gordon. The Western Kentucky transfer flew all over the court, finishing at the rim several times and mixing in some mid-range jumpers. A do-it-all guard, he showed off his athleticism early with an offensive rebound that led to free throws, then late with a coast-to-coast lay up off a steal. He connected with Maxie Esho on an alley-oop play for one of his five assists and generally looked in total control of the game whenever he was on the court.
Chaz Williams, typically the do-it-all guy for the Minutemen, seemed content to hand over some of the offense to his teammates. Williams managed the offense, distributed the ball well and finished with a 7/5/5 line that is representative of his presence for this team. He traded off primary ball-handling duties with Trey Davis when they shared the court and generally looked totally in control of the game.
Moving down his stat line is one of the more revealing stats of the game and one that was also indicative of how the Minutemen played. Williams turned the ball over four times and as a team, UMass had 17 turnovers. Combine that with a lack of effectiveness from three (3-for-19) and its hard to imagine UMass managed 89 points. Still, the Minutemen had a plus-6 assist/turnover ratio and were able to find ways into the paint for two-point baskets all day.
On the defensive end, UMass "held" AIC to 12-for-34 shooting from three. I say "held" because AIC missed more open shots than they made due to late rotations. The three-point game is going to swing a lot of games in college basketball this season and the Minutemen will need to do a better job defending the arc. Like, a lot better.
At the end of the day, this was a game for knocking off the cobwebs, getting out on the court and seeing what works and what doesn't. Saturday marks the beginning of another season of UMass basketball and while expectations are very high, this could be the team to finally deliver on them.
Other things of note
- The starting lineup of Williams, Gordon, Putney, Carter and Lalanne looked solid in the few minutes it managed to play together. Unofficially, the starting unit was +6, outscoring AIC 21-15.
- Esho and Davis plugged in for Putney and Carter to form a dynamic lineup that spent huge chunks of time scoring the basketball. As Steve Hewitt of 247sports Maroon Musket pointed out, that lineup outscored AIC 21-7 from the 7:47 mark of the first half until there were just 28.8 seconds left. Killer unit.
- Demetrius Dyson was the first freshman off the bench and ended up scoring six points later in the game. Clyde Santee and Seth Berger also got some run, leaving Zach Coleman as the only unused player on the night. Preliminary Rookie Rankings: Dyson, Santee, Berger, Coleman. More on this next week.