UMass basketball continues to get valuable contribution from bench
The Massachusetts men’s basketball team may not have the deepest bench in the country, but the players that coach Derek Kellogg does use, contribute in a big way.
Saturday night’s 73-65 win over Miami (Ohio) was once again a clear indication of how this year’s UMass squad doesn’t miss a beat when starters are sitting on the sidelines.
On paper, the Minutemen looked to be sizable favorites playing against the four-win RedHawks, but UMass had trouble shaking Miami off its tails, finding itself in more of a battle than expected. Like so many times this season, Kellogg had to go to his bench to exert some energy into his team and, like usual, it worked.
“The one thing I liked, we made our runs with our subs in,” Kellogg said. “With Tyler (Bergantino), Trey (Davis) and Maxie (Esho), that was our best lineup with Chaz (Williams) and I’m not sure who else was out there, so it’s good to see that our bench is getting a little bit deeper.”
Once Kellogg went to his bench it was hard to take those players out. Esho and Davis brought more than just an added intensity to the game, contributing offensively with big baskets.
With the RedHawks sticking around late in the first half, Davis knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to open up a nine-point lead for the Minutemen.
“It’s good to see him making shots because the kid works hard,” Williams said. “You come into the gym early and you’ll see him in here shooting and it shows tonight, so I’m really happy for him and hope he continues this play.”
In the second half, it was Esho’s turn to shine.
He finished the game with 15 points, second on the team, with 11 of them coming in the second half. He constantly got himself to the rim, creating easy lay-up opportunities or drawing fouls on the Miami big men.
Esho’s stat line of 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists is indicative to the type of all or nothing game that he brings every night that pays huge dividends for UMass.
“I mean, Maxie brings energy every time he plays,” Kellogg said. “Sometimes, the game doesn’t fit his style perfectly, so there’s games where it’s not perfect for him, but he’s the one guy off the bench who brings energy consistently, which is why I like him being out there and playing.”
While Davis and Esho will get the glory as contributors offensively off the bench, one player that didn’t go unnoticed by Kellogg was Bergantino. Despite not registering a single point in the win, Bergantino’s contribution to the team was one that is better measured by impact, rather than stats.
He played valuable minutes in the second half, giving starting center Cady Lalanne a chance to rest on the sidelines, while not sacrificing anything defensively. On back-to-back positions, Bergantino forced two traveling turnovers by the RedHawks and moments later snuffed out what looked to be an easy basket for Miami with a block.
His two rebounds and one block in nine minutes of play may not light up the boxscore, but it proved crucial in the win.
“Tyler, I feel very confident with,” Kellogg said. “I think he’s been great in practice. Defensively, his energy and enthusiasm is fantastic. He’s a guy I like to be around and he actually probably would’ve played more if he wasn’t tired.”
The performance by the bench on Saturday is nothing new for the Minutemen, who have gotten these types of efforts from bench guys in other games this season. Moving forward, Kellogg hopes to get more guys into the rotation, but right now, is excited to see the production that he’s getting outside of his starting five.
“Trey Davis is starting to fit in,” he said. “I think Tyler Bergantino is playing well, Maxie is stepping up, so our bench has been solidified now… we have to get one or two of the younger guys involved.”
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @P_Strohecker.