Forbes displays offensive versatility

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Massachusetts basketball coach Travis Ford describes starting point guard Chris Lowe as, “the fastest point guard in the country from end-to-end.”

With that in mind, the Minutemen could have severely struggled running the up-tempo offense in his absence – Lowe did not play with an injured ankle – against a good Wisconsin-Green Bay team Saturday night.

But senior captain Gary Forbes wouldn’t let that happen. Playing in front of his father for the first time in college, Forbes moved from his normal perch as the starting forward to run the point without Lowe in the lineup.

The most impressive part of his performance running the offense wasn’t the seven assists. It wasn’t the seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals. And it wasn’t even the 25 points he scored on impressive shooting (9-of-16 overall, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range).

It was the fact that, despite having the responsibility of being a point guard on an up-tempo offense, he also did the things that make him a terrific forward. He still shouldered the scoring load and helped out with rebounding in addition to his duties as the point guard.

After filling up the stat sheet, Forbes walked into the press conference and was immediately razzed by teammate Tony Gaffney.

“I mean, 25 [points], seven [rebounds] and seven [assists] is good, but we need that triple double,” Gaffney joked.

“You need to represent your man Stephane [Lasme],” Gaffney added, referring to the four triple-doubles Forbes’ teammate from last year recorded.

Although Forbes had perhaps his best all-around game as a member of the Minutemen, he did have some struggles. He turned the ball over four times, and it could have been at least three more had the ball not bounced favorably when Forbes was stripped and on errant passes.

But considering how fast they play on offense, the 6-foot-7 forward-guard did a solid job managing the game. So much so, that Gaffney changes his tune a little bit when talking with reporters.

“Gary did an unbelievable job filling in that role tonight,” he said. “It’s tough when you lose someone like Chris Lowe, because he runs our team. But Gary did a great job running our team.”

Ford was equally impressed with how well Forbes handled himself as the floor general, especially considering the circumstances.

“Gary was great tonight; I don’t know if you guys know, tonight was the first college game his father has ever seen him play,” Ford said. “It was special for him; I think he played a little more focused; harder. Sometimes it can go both ways, you can press a little bit. I was really excited he played well.

“And I think his mentality changes a little bit when he goes to the point,” he added. “He does look to get other guys involved a little bit more. He’s big, he really zips his passes, and he really finds open people when he wants to. He’s a great creator.”

When Forbes was on the floor, the Minutemen outscored the Phoenix by 23 points. While he was getting a breather, UMass was outscored 12-4. And when the Maroon and White needed a lift, Forbes delivered, hitting big shots and finding the open man.

His back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first half from well beyond the arc effectively ended any hope for the Phoenix to come back. Forbes mixed in his low-post game and also penetrated into the lane, sometimes driving for the lay-up while other times looking for open teammates.

“When any one of our teammates go down, we have to play a lot better,” Forbes said. “Someone has to pick up on cheering on the bench, or someone has to pick up rebounds. Today I had to play a lot of point guard.”

And he played it pretty well.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]