Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Antwan Space logs significant minutes in UMass season debut

Courtesy of Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics
(Courtesy of Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s 90-66 loss to No. 10 Providence Monday night presented those who have watched the Minutemen play this season with plenty of what they already knew.

UMass was outmatched from the beginning. The Minutemen never led, never had an answer for Friars forward Ben Bentil and watched as all-world point guard Kris Dunn carved them up to the tune of 14 points and 11 assists in only 24 minutes.

UMass didn’t need Monday night’s blowout to know it wasn’t yet at the level of a nationally-ranked team on a crash course with the NCAA tournament.

But the loss did offer the Minutemen a glimpse – and potentially the beginning of an answer – into one of the few unknowns remaining: forward Antwan Space.

Space made his season debut Monday night, coming off the bench to play 31 minutes in the loss. The 6-foot-9 graduate student transfer from Texas A&M, who arrived this summer and was expected to play a significant role for the Minutemen, missed the first 10 games of the season after taking a leave of absence for what UMass described as a personal matter.

His debut wasn’t perfect, but it was promising.

He scored 11 points (3-of-12 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and added two blocks and a steal. UMass coach Derek Kellogg played Space with the starters often and gave him extended run in the second half.

Both Space and Kellogg offered similar takeaways on Space’s play following the game.

“I have to work on getting back into shape so I can do the things I know I can do on the court,” Space said. “It’s a start. It’s not exactly how I wanted to start but it just shows me I have a lot of work to do.”

“He showed us what I’ve known and seen,” Kellogg said. “He’s a versatile guy that can cover some different positions. I think we have to get more comfortable now with him in the lineup.”

Space’s first impact play came on the defensive end. He chased down Dunn, who was leading a fast break, and blocked his layup attempt from behind. Space was rewarded two offensive possessions later, driving baseline and drawing a foul, which led to his first UMass point on a free throw.

As the game progressed – and Providence’s lead swelled – Space’s impact was a mixed bag.

He showed signs of his ability to stretch the floor as a jump shooter when he hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 36-23, and said he felt confidence in his teammates and wasn’t worried about gelling with new lineups.

But Space did look tentative on certain offensive possessions. Likewise, his teammates didn’t appear to always know Space’s tendency either. Space also did little more than his other Minutemen teammates in stopping Providence forward Ben Bentil, who scored 32 points and tallied 12 rebounds.

Kellogg said it was a product of a lack of familiarity in the different lineups on the floor.

“I just have to figure out now with (Space) in the lineup where he fits in and also that everybody is comfortable with our style of play,” Kellogg said.

Kellogg also said the team’s floor balance with Space in the lineup needed improvement. He said Providence caught the Minutemen in odd-man fast-breaks because UMass had too many players near the basket to rebound. The Friars finished with 14 fast break points to the Minutemen’s two.

Kellogg noted it was helpful to see Space in action now before UMass begins Atlantic 10 Conference play and praised Space’s versatility. When asked if he believed Space would be a key piece moving forward in conference play, Kellogg sounded cautiously hopeful.

“We’ll see,” he said. “He did some good stuff. I think he’s a versatile body.”

UMass has one non-conference game remaining against LIU-Brooklyn before it begins conference play against La Salle Jan. 3. It gives Kellogg roughly two weeks to experiment with lineups, and he said he expects to continue to use Space off the bench.

Few know Space’s potential impact better than UMass guard Trey Davis, who is a longtime friend and tied Space for a team high in minutes Monday night. Like his coach, Davis sounded eager to have the forward on the floor moving forward.

“I’m happy to have him on the court, but it’s not how you start it’s how you finish,” Davis said. “I’m looking forward to the finish line to see what we can do.”

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

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