Carter shines on Senior Day

By Jackson Alexander

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Sean Carter certainly saved his best for last.

On Saturday, the senior scored a career-high 22 points and collected 10 rebounds in the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s 89-83 win over Rhode Island on Senior Day.

Carter, Matt Hill and Trey Lang were recognized as the three Minutemen (20-10, 9-7 Atlantic 10) taking part in their last regular season game at the Mullins Center.

Carter was the lone senior to perform well as Hill started the game, but played just two minutes, going 0-for-1 from the field, while Lang did not dress for the game.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt senior scored his 22 points – surpassing his previous career-high of 18 points – on 7-for-11 shooting from the field and an unusually efficient 8-for-11 from the free throw line. As usual, Carter did all of his work right under the basket. His seven field goals consisted of five layups and two dunks.

“Sean was unreal,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “That was the best game he’s played since he’s been here.”

Carter, who on the season shoots a better percentage from the field (60.3 percent) than from the free throw line (52.2 percent), said that improving at the charity stripe has been something he’s worked on this season.

“I’ve been working on it a lot, we get a lot of free throw shooting in every day,” said Carter. “I always feel confident shooting free throws.”

While shooting 52 percent from the line is subpar, it’s a career-best mark for Carter.

“He’s really improved his game, he’s improved every year he’s been here,” said Kellogg.

Carter came up with a number of huge plays in the waning moments of the second half.

With nine minutes remaining, and the score tied at 66, Carter scored five points in a 26-second span to extend the lead to five.

Then, with six minutes, 13 seconds left in the game, and the Minutemen leading 73-72, Carter came up with a huge block on URI’s Anthony Malhoit to preserve the lead. The block led to a 12-0 run for the Minutemen.

“Especially what I liked was that last block … that kind of sealed the victory,” said Kellogg.

He converted his second three-point play of the game with 4:36 remaining to secure the first 20-point game of his collegiate career.

When asked about whether Saturday’s performance was what he dreamed of on Senior Day, Carter joked that he wished he had scored more.

“Almost,” said Carter. “Not enough points, but it was pretty much what I thought of.”

While Carter will leave next season, his influence on the team should last for years to come. Kellogg praised him for mentoring freshman center Cady Lalanne.

“Early in the year before Cady got hurt I loved the way he was taking him under his wing,” said Kellogg. “He saw the potential of a kid like Cady and thought ‘you know what, when I’m gone, this is the next guy.’”

Lalanne showed offensive skills this season, but looked lost on defense at times. If anyone can impart defensive advice onto Lalanne, it will be Carter.

His defensive prowess may be the greatest aspect of his game that the Minutemen will miss next season. He’s averaging 1.1 blocks per game, but it’s the intangibles like his ability to defend multiple positions and his defensive rotations that the Minutemen will have a difficult time replicating next season.

While Carter understands that the end is near, he’s more focused on making a run in the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament.

“I’m trying to win and keep it moving down to Atlantic City and try to make this run and win this A-10 championship down there,” said Carter.

The Minutemen suffer a huge loss next season with the departure of Carter, not only from a performance standpoint, but a leadership standpoint.

“I love how he is around the campus, he’s on the Student Athletic Council, he spends time with a lot of different people, he’s really genuinely a good guy and the type of person I like in the program,” said Kellogg.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.