Column: Minutemen somehow find a way to beat Boston College at Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

By Andrew Cyr

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

BOSTON — By the time the season is over I’m sure Massachusetts’s men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg will have a few more gray hairs than he would like to admit.

There was no hiding that for the first 20 minutes, the Minutemen played bad – no, terrible – basketball. UMass shot just 4-for-15 from the field, with one assist to 10 turnovers.

After one half, it looked like the only hope for the Minutemen’s offense was if Chaz Williams could come out of a time machine to take control.

But if there is one thing that UMass will have to grasp and appreciate more than ever, it will be patience, as the Minutemen prevailed in a 71-62 win over Boston College in the second game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the TD Garden.

As poorly as it played in the first half, UMass miraculously only trailed by eight heading into the locker room.

“They all spoke along the lines of staying positive. That was about as bad as you can play (in the half),” Kellogg said. “Any time we got some momentum we did something that was a bad basketball play, as well as we were not as energetic as I would have liked.”

All it took was a steal from Derrick Gordon that led to a fast break layup to spark the Minutemen, as they started the second half on a 13-4 run in the first four minutes, 28 seconds to give it the lead for good.

UMass outscored the Eagles 47-30 in the second half, as it was able to create easy baskets the old fashioned way – with defense. The Minutemen began ramping up the defensive pressure with a full-court press that prevented Boston College from preventing a field goal in the first seven minutes, 11 seconds in the second half.

Maxie Esho once again proved that he was more than just an energy guy, finishing with a career-high 23 points to go with nine rebounds. Although it’s been a very small sample size, Esho has not only made the biggest jump from last season, but has been the Minutemen’s leading scorer and has logged the most minutes.

As noted in the press conference, Kellogg can’t keep relying on Esho’s production throughout the entire season. Bergantino played the most minutes of any forward off the bench (seven) while Zach Coleman only played three. Seth Berger – UMass’ only other player above 6-foot-5 – started once again at small forward, but was held to just seven minutes because of foul trouble.

Cady Lalanne finished with another double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) to go along with his five blocks. Eagle’s head coach Jim Christian credited Lalanne’s presence on the back end of the press that made the Minutemen’s press so efficient.

Jabarie Hinds and Donte Clarke each solidified their roles as key reserves for Kellogg and will have an increased role as the season progresses. Clarke finished with five points while Hinds finished with eight. The two connected on the biggest play of the night on an alley-oop that erupted the Minutemen faithful that made the trip to Boston.

It’s going to take Kellogg a while to get his team to string together a complete 40-minute performance, if it happens at all. But for the time being, he’s just going to have to sit back and watch his young team grow up. There are plenty of building blocks, but it’s discovering which ones go in the right places that will lead this team to the promised land.

“This one was personal,” Esho said. “We wanted to prove that we were the best team in Massachusetts.

It looks like Nov. 29 game against Harvard will be the deciding factor on that one.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.