Veterans provide boost for UMass in exhibition
If the Massachusetts men’s basketball team plans to be a national contender, it will need production from a stable of veterans.
Tuesday’s performance from Sampson Carter, Derrick Gordon and Cady Lalanne offered the first step—albeit a small step—in that direction.
The three starters combined for 51 points in UMass’ 89-76 victory over American International, steadying an offense that found its groove in the second half. Carter led the team with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting while adding seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in only 20 minutes.
“I just told myself before the game I was going to focus as far on offense,” Carter said. “I was gonna focus on defense and rebounding and everything to bring energy.”
Carter’s role varied throughout the night. He worked the baseline early, but was asked to step out and become the focal point of the offense in the second half while Chaz Williams and Lalanne dealt with foul trouble. His steal with 7:51 remaining in the game led to a Trey Davis 3-pointer, which pushed the Minutemen’s lead to 14.
Gordon, who was playing in his first game since transferring from Western Kentucky over a year ago, finished with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, displaying a knack for getting to the rim and a pension for getting other teammates involved, leading the team with six assists.
“I’m a slasher, so I felt that I could get to the rim at any time,” he said. “Once the big man stepped up, I got a lot of assists from Cady just dropping them off and things like that. My goal is to get my teammates involved as much as I could.”
Gordon initiated contact at the rim several times and seemed to find his rhythm as the game wore on.
For UMass coach Derek Kellogg, the game provided a chance to get better while offering room to grow.
“At times I thought we looked like the team that I’d like to be, and I thought at other times we looked like a team that never saw a fade screen before,” he said. “There’s still some work to do, but it’s a long season.”
Lalanne showed a solid command of the post area, chipping in 16 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting. Kellogg noted that he would have liked to see his center play less minutes, but that he liked what he saw, especially in the first half.
Both Gordon and Lalanne were cogs in the Minutemen’s most consistent lineup of the night. Alongside Williams, Davis and Maxie Esho, that lineup outscored AIC 21-7 over the last seven minutes of the first half and provided a boost of energy.
Curiously, Williams battled bouts of inconsistency, sitting with four fouls in the second half. He finished with just seven points in 28 minutes, adding five assists, five rebounds and four turnovers.
“I told these guys after the game, mainly Chaz, it’s time to step on the gas now,” Kellogg said. “If you go play at that level, we’re not gonna be where we need to be. You’re a potential player of the year guy in the league, so play that way. And (he) gets it. I think he’s ready for Sunday and the rest of the year.”
Focus now turns to Boston College, who the Minutemen will face Sunday in their official season opener.
“It looked pretty good at times, and then other times it looked not so good,” Kellogg said. “But there was some definitely some flashes where we looked like a good team.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli