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UMass men’s basketball picks up fourth straight win as it tops Wagner Wednesday night at Mullins Center

(Sam Anderson/ Daily Collegian)

(Sam Anderson/ Daily Collegian)

Looking at the box score from the Massachusetts men’s basketball game against Wagner Wednesday night, any person who didn’t watch the game would have thought the Minutemen cruised to victory over the Seahawks at Mullins Center.

UMass (5-1) quadrupled Wagner (2-4) in bench points and second chance points, and tripled the Seahawks in points off turnovers.

However, the stats did not tell the full story as the Minutemen scraped away with a 62-55 win over Wagner in what was their lowest scoring output of the young season.

UMass’s biggest lead came with 3:29 left in the first half when they went up 11 on a Malik Hines free throw. The Seahawks would not falter though as they came back to cut the lead to five going into the half and even tied the game 47-47 with an 8-0 run in the second half.

Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg was impressed with the fight Wagner showed his team Wednesday night.

“That was a very well coached basketball team. I thought they did a great job of controlling tempo for most of the game and keeping it right in striking distance for them,” Kellogg said. “I give them all the credit, Wagner played a great game and we are fortunate to come away with a win in a game where we did not dominate.”

Kellogg was not thoroughly impressed with some of the effort he got from his team. He pointed to an ill-advised 3-pointer by Ty Flowers late in the first half as something that cost UMass momentum and a chance to put some distance between itself and its opponent, after gaining its largest lead of the game. Kellogg knows his young guys have a long way to go to reach their potential.

“When you get up 11 or whatever it is and take kind of an ill advised 3 and they score on the other end, it’s back to being a tight basketball game,” Kellogg said. “I think we still have a long way to go with our young guys. I think walk out there thinking ‘hey, we’re here’ and guess what, you are, and they are too. It’s one of things where we are going to build on this and learn and hopefully continue to get better and improve.”

Not all was negative in the win for the Minutemen. Their bench came up strong, outscoring the Seahawks’ second unit 40-7. A big part of that was the play of guard C.J. Anderson and forward Malik Hines. Anderson had a career-high 19 points, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range, while Hines scored 14 points and added eight rebounds, five of which on the offensive end.

Anderson admitted he felt good during warm-ups and that carried over into the game.

“We got some early open floor runs and that got me the feel of the game. I caught the one on the wing I think, it was the first three I made, you know I was feeling it,” Anderson said. “So I made that one and I was like you know what I’m feeling the game. Other guys, they were doing their thing, but the shots that they missed are the shots that they hit all the time.”

Wagner was paced by Rhode Island transfer Mike Aaman who had 17 points and controlled the paint with eight rebounds. Guard Corey Henson had a strong game as well going for 14 points and six assists.

Freshman Brison Gresham made his collegiate debut Wednesday night after being cleared by the NCAA to play due to his academic standing.

Or at least, he was going to until Mother Nature made her presence known as water dripped from Mullins Center ceiling, delaying the game for about 10 minutes.

Once game play resumed, Gresham struggled as he fumbled the first pass thrown to him and missed two free throws. The forward/center had two turnovers in his three minutes of play.

Sitting at 5-1 and on a four-game winning streak, one would think Kellogg is happy with what he has seen out his team in the early stages of the season. While Kellogg is happy they have a good record, in no way is he content with UMass’ play and he knows they will need to step up their game if they want to find success later in the season.

“I’m not super, super happy with them right this second to be honest with you because I think we got more to give,” Kellogg said. “We’re going to go from there. I think you’re going to see this team get better and defensively. Like if you guys want to be a press and run team than you guys need to press and run, if you don’t than let me know and I’ll play half court basketball and do whatever.”

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.

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