UMass men’s basketball uses 3-point touch to blow out Central Arkansas Thursday night

By Anthony Chiusano

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian
Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts basketball team gave its home fans a scare last Saturday when it had to overcome a 14-point second half deficit to beat Howard in its season opener.

In the Minutemen’s second home game of the year against Central Arkansas, no late second half surge was necessary in their 89-62 over the Bears at the Mullins Center Thursday night.

Jabarie Hinds and Donte Clark each took turns carrying the offense, scoring 24 and 19 points respectively while combining for 11 3-pointers. UMass (3-0) made 16 total 3-pointers to tie a program record.

“I think our guys have really found a way to just play UMass basketball,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said. “And when you start making a few 3s, it becomes fun. I thought it was fun second half for us. We never really got them, in the first half, turned over enough and we didn’t make enough shots to really get it going.

“On a couple of those 3s, our guys executed plays out of a timeout. It was good to see that we were capable of doing some of that,” Kellogg added.

After a back-and-forth beginning to the game, the Minutemen retook a 13-12 lead with 13 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first half. It was the final lead change of the game as UMass built up an 11-point advantage by halftime.

The Minutemen then opened the floodgates in the second half, outscoring Central Arkansas 48-32 over the final 20 minutes behind 8-of-11 3-point shooting.

For Hinds, Thursday marked the point guard’s third straight game to open the season with a team-high point total. He catalyzed UMass’ offense early with 10 points over the first 10 minutes, including back-to-back 3-pointers at the midway mark.

Hinds would cool down a little and stand pat at 10 points heading into the break, but Clark (7-for-15 from the field) said it helped jumpstart the rest of the team’s shooting success. Four Minutemen finished with double-digit points Thursday and all nine players who dressed found the score sheet.

“It’s definitely contagious,” Clark said. “Seeing your guard playing as hard as he is, it’s definitely contagious to everybody else.”

Clark’s 19 points is a season-high and comes off a 2-for-11 shooting performance at Harvard Tuesday night. However, Kellogg said he’s still looking for greater consistency and aggressiveness from the sophomore guard.

“He’s the one guy on our team that I would tell to be overaggressive. Some of the guys I’d like them to move it more but I think he’s capable of being overaggressive and trying to attack the basket to make plays almost every time he touches it,” Kellogg said.

“I thought his defensive effort wasn’t where it needed to be at times tonight. He locked up on their leading scorer a little bit down the stretch but I think he’s capable of being a lockdown defender, kind of a deflection guy and defensive rebounder and a guy who can put up 20 a night.

Kellogg added: “My expectations for him are probably way higher than he realizes at this point and I’m going to stay on him every day until I get it.”

With a lead hovering between 20 and as much as 31 points in the final five minutes, Kellogg subbed in walk-on Zach Turcotte, who added four points in four minutes of action.

With a thin frontcourt and the challenge of keeping freshmen big men Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hines out of foul trouble, Kellogg acknowledged that giving Turcotte playing time in Thursday’s blowout was an optimal opportunity to prepare for future games where he may be needed for extended minutes in closer games.

Turcotte, a junior, played in one minute of one game last season. He said Thursday’s situation felt noticeably different than last year’s short stint but provided little added pressure.

“It felt a little different. We were still up a by a lot of points, so obviously, it wasn’t too much pressure,” he said. “But it felt a little more real than last year because I was in there for a little bit longer. I could kind of get into the flow of the game a little bit.”

UMass now heads to Las Vegas to take part in the MGM Grand Main Event next week. The Minutemen will face Clemson (3-0) in Monday’s first round before playing either Creighton (2-1) or Rutgers (2-1) on Wednesday.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.