Living and dying by the 3-pointer can be a backbreaker for any basketball team.
The Massachusetts men’s basketball team went 9-for-22 from beyond the arc in the first half of its contest against New Jersey Institute of Technology last night, but got a bit complacent in the second half, converting 3-of-15 from downtown the rest of the way.
“They packed in the lane and the 3-point shot was open,” said guard Javorn Farrell. “After shooting pretty well in the first half, I guess we thought that would still happen in the second half.”
While the Minutemen pulled away from the Highlanders to improve their record to 3-0, UMass coach Derek Kellogg wasn’t pleased with his team’s shot selection.
“I thought we settled for way too many threes throughout the contest,” said Kellogg.
NJIT kept the game tight for the majority of the first half, but the Minutemen went bombs away from three in the closing minutes and started pulling away.
After missing Monday’s contest against Northeastern nursing a head and elbow injury sustained in the season opener, Raphiael Putney returned and helped spark an 18-2 run with three 3-pointers of his own. And during the run, UMass converted five 3-pointers to extend the lead to 16 points by halftime.
“I was happy that we were up 16, and if Chaz [Williams] would have made that wide-open one to end the half, 19 would have been a comfortable lead,” said Kellogg. “I think we were shooting too many threes, but they were going in and sometimes, as coach [John Calipari] used to say, they can be fool’s gold, that you keep shooting them and at some point they stop falling.”
The three balls did stop falling for the Minutemen, as they went ice cold to begin the second half. Seemingly on every possession, UMass tried to build off of its 3-point success in the early going by throwing up three after three. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, they just wouldn’t fall, as they started the half going 0-for-10 from 3-point range, a far cry from its first half output.
It wasn’t until just under eight minutes to go in the game when UMass ended its drought, as Chaz Williams converted his first of three 3-pointers in the half to improve the Minutemen to 12-of-37 shooting from three for the game.
The 3-point scoring difficulties were particularly frustrating for Kellogg as UMass commanded a very favorable size advantage against the Highlanders inside. NJIT’s starting lineup featured four guards and its tallest starter came in the form of 6-foot-6 Ryan Regis.
While UMass freshman forward Cady Lalanne had his first breakout game of his career on the glass, finishing with a game-high 14 rebounds, and the Minutemen were able to get the ball inside to try and take advantage of its noticeable height advantage, Kellogg was unhappy with the execution in that aspect and all-around on offense.
“We got it in there and we couldn’t capitalize,” said Kellogg. “We turned it over a few times on a couple of not-so-great plays, and then a few times in the second half I thought we got it in there and kicked it out for open shots, but really against teams that you’re bigger than you need to kill them on the boards and I thought we did that.
“As a coach, we probably need to come up with a couple sets or things to get the ball inside and say ‘It’s going inside,’” added Kellogg. “And with a new style, new defense and new players, there’s only so much on my play card right now and I’m trying to slowly add things as we go, but right now what we have is what we have and we’re trying to do our best with where we are.”
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Hewitt.