Cady Lalanne accustomed to dealing with increased attention

By Mark Chiarelli

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Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

On most trips down the floor, Cady Lalanne knows its coming.

As he anchors his 6-foot-10, 253-pound frame around the paint offensively, it’s not uncommon to see the Massachusetts men’s basketball center raise one hand and call for a pass. Typically, the guard handling the ball obliges, lobbing a pass into the post and allowing Lalanne to attempt to bulldoze his way toward the basket.

That’s when opposing defenses attack.

It’s rare that Lalanne makes an offensive move without two, sometimes even three, defenders awaiting him. Double teams are the usual for Lalanne, who has become the first source of offense for the Minutemen this season and often commands the ball on multiple possessions in a row.

Sometimes, teams will send two defenders right away. Other times it’s staggered, the opposing guard waiting for Lalanne to dribble before swarming him in the post. It’s a strategy that’s been employed against UMass since last year.

“It’s not as frustrating as it was last season,” Lalanne said.

“Because last season it came in the middle of the season. I wasn’t really expecting it to come like that, so I wasn’t really prepared for it. Now I’m prepared for it.”

The defensive strategy became commonplace in conference play last year, as most team’s in the Atlantic 10 don’t have a center physically capable of guarding Lalanne individually. His performance tapered considerably in the second half of last season as he dealt with increased attention and labored with his conditioning physically.

While he now feels his conditioning is in a better place, the defensive attention isn’t going away.

“I don’t think I was (in the post) last year as much as I am now,” Lalanne said. “Last year, I feel like I’d probably get tired. Right now, after the summer workouts, I’ve been taking care of my body … it doesn’t really affect me as much.”

So far in 2015, he’s off to mixed results.

Lalanne is averaging career-high’s in points (14.3), rebounds (9.9) and blocks (2.6) per game. Yet his efficiency numbers are trending in the opposite direction. He’s shooting 49 percent from the floor and 65 percent from the free throw line, both numbers that are slightly down from his 55 percent and 67 percent marks, respectively, a season ago.

Yet what’s most concerning for Lalanne is his 2.8 turnovers per game mark, a number that’s a full turnover higher than any other career average. The reason? As teams swarm Lalanne, he’s still struggling to make the correct decisions.

“He just needs to know where his reads are and guys have to get to their spots when he’s doubled,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

“He’s got to get a little more comfortable just handling the ball in those double teams, being a little more patient, sitting down and being more physical.”

Lalanne said he relies on his teammates to aid him when double teams strike.

“Now, I’m prepared for it,” Lalanne said. “I’ve been working with coaches a lot to find other guys out of the double team and my teammates have been doing a wonderful job cutting and getting open so I can find them. It’s maybe been a little bit easier this year because they’ve been moving around and helping me out.”

The Minutemen use Lalanne on a substantial amount of offensive possessions. It’s not uncommon for UMass to operate through Lalanne for stretches at a time. It’s something Kellogg said he’s making a point to do, as long as Lalanne remains physical and generates offensive opportunities, whether via shots or at the free throw line.

“He’s our senior big guy who’s proven over time he’s capable of doing that,” Kellogg said. “He’s got to make good decisions down there and we’ve got to help him know where everybody’s going to be when they’re coming at him.”

For Kellogg, the goal this week as the team prepares for a Saturday tilt with Canisius is to fine-tune the half court offense in the hopes of breaking the Minutemen’s three-game losing streak.

Lalanne’s an integral part of those plans.

“I’d like to establish him down there,” Kellogg said. “Early on, he was getting to the free throw line a bunch, getting physical and scoring down there. As of late he hasn’t gotten to the line quite as much so we’re going to have to reestablish him down there.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.