UMass men’s basketball finishes first week of season 3-0 before heading to MGM Grand Main Event tournament

By Andrew Cyr

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Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

Prior to the start of the season, the Massachusetts men’s basketball made it its goal to head into its trip to Las Vegas and the MGM Grand Main Event tournament at a perfect 3-0 record.

Mission accomplished.

UMass (3-0) capped off its first week of the year with an 89-62 blowout win over Central Arkansas Thursday night at Mullins Center.

Despite the undefeated start to the season, in which the Minutemen finished with three wins over a six-day period, UMass coach Derek Kellogg still thinks there is still plenty to improve on.

“I’m happy to be 3-0, but I’m not content. I think this team has a lot of runway left in it,” Kellogg said. “I feel like these guys are committed to getting better and working hard. This can be a fun team to ride with this year and see how far we can take things.”

“I’m definitely happy with the three wins. Like coach said, we still got some mistakes and stuff that we need to correct that when we play against better teams we can’t do,” Jabarie Hinds said. “But we’ve been playing hard, we played with a lot of energy tonight and that started at the defensive end.”

The Minutemen tied a program record with 16 3-pointers behind Hinds’ six and Donte Clark’s five. UMass made a total of five 3-point shots in each of its first two games against Howard and Harvard. Entering Thursday, it was shooting 24.4 percent from deep range.

Hinds led all scorers with 24 points and finished the game with nine assists to just one turnover. Clark finished close behind with 19 points after shooting a poor 2-for-11 against the Crimson Tuesday night. Trey Davis also added 17 points as well.

However it hasn’t been Hinds, Davis or Clark’s ability to score in spurts that has surprised Kellogg the most after the first week of the season.

It’s been how Zach Coleman and Seth Berger have filled into their roles.

“Those guys have kind of won us a couple of games to a certain extent the way they’ve played. Their energy and their competitiveness I thought were contagious to this team,” Kellogg said.

He added: “You don’t need everyone to be the king or the ace. You need a couple guys to be the 10s, the jacks where you do the things that help you win and I’ve thought that at times over my career we’ve missed that at times, a guy like a Seth Berger who can be tough and physical and doesn’t care about scoring. Zach Coleman, he’ll just rebound and play that way.”

Coleman scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in the win over the Bears (0-2) while Berger contributed with five points and four rebounds. Coleman leads the team with 24 total rebounds this season.

Although only 6-foot-7, with freshmen Malik Hines and Rashaan Holloway both still learning the ropes of college basketball and dealing with foul trouble in every game this season, Coleman has been the de facto center when UMass has had to shorten its already small rotation.

“When you’re playing two freshmen big guys who have to play major minutes, sometimes the game plan doesn’t work out the way maybe you’d like it to so we’re going to have to keep an eye out for that,” Kellogg said. “But I do like the way Zach Coleman’s been, I think he’s become like a steadying force.

“The reality is I think that Jabarie is playing at a level that we need him to play all season. I always expected Donte and Trey to score the ball and give us that kind of stuff. I really like the intangibles that Zach Coleman and Seth Berger are bringing,”

The Minutemen are off this weekend before taking on Clemson in Las Vegas Monday. Tip off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. eastern time.

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