A 2-0 start for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team has generated plenty of reasons for optimism. That being said, the sloppy, complacent style of basketball implored at times Monday night left pessimists with plenty to doubt about the team.
UMass defeated Northeastern in its second game of the season by a score of 83-67 in a game that was filled with careless turnovers and fouls by each team.
The teams combined for 69 free-throw attempts, 41 turnovers and 55 fouls in a sloppy, fast-paced game.
The Minutemen had a majority of those miscues accumulating 20 turnovers, committing 32 fouls and allowed the visiting Huskies to shoot a whopping 40 free throws.
“I’m going to watch the tape and just see where we were making those mistakes and then kind of go from there,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg.
The lackadaisical play by the Minutemen nearly allowed Northeastern back into the game in the second half.
With 13 minutes remaining, UMass held a commanding 55-38 second half lead. However, over the next two minutes, the lead nearly vanished as a plethora of fouls led to easy buckets for the Huskies and the Minutemen lead shrunk to six.
“When they cut it to six I was a little concerned because the game didn’t have any flow, it seemed like they were just marching to the free throw line,” said Kellogg.
During that two-minute stretch, the Minutemen committed four fouls and sent NU to the free throw line eight times, while adding a turnover to combat matters.
“I think we got complacent,” said Kellogg. “A few guys had a couple turnovers apiece and that let them back into the game, a really good college team closes the game out and puts them away a little earlier.”
A few of the culprits were Cady Lalanne and Sampson Carter, two players that provided a spark off the bench but also lead the team with four turnovers each. In addition, Jesse Morgan, Chaz Williams and Javorn Farrell all had three turnovers apiece.
While some of the turnovers could be blamed on the up-and-down pace of the game, Kellogg saw far too many unforced errors.
“I thought that quite a few of them were sloppy and unforced to a certain extent and driving the ball to places [where] there was nothing there,” said Kellogg.
However, UMass’ turnover-infested play finally ceased with 12 minutes remaining in the game. During those final minutes, their six-point lead ballooned to a 16-point lead thanks to an obvious effort to take care of the ball.
The fouling continued for the most part, as the Minutemen committed eight more fouls, but the turnovers all but stopped at the 12-minute mark. To that point, UMass had 19 turnovers, but gave the ball away just once during its 26-16 run to end the game.
Their sloppy play carried over into Monday night’s game from their season opener versus Elon. The Minutemen won the game easily but a number of first half turnovers left them in a 43-39 halftime hole.
Talent helped them erase a second half deficit as UMass eased to victory against Elon, but as the non-conference schedule toughens up, Kellogg knows these blunders will start to cost them.
“I may break out every turnover from our tape and tell the guys ‘if you guys want to be a good basketball team this cannot happen,’” said Kellogg.
For now, the Minutemen have all the right in the world to boast about their 2-0 record. However, they’ll have little room for error when they face the likes of Boston College, Florida State and Miami, three ACC schools, and schools that unlike Elon and Northeastern, will surely take advantage of any UMass errors.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Alexander.