Minutemen overcome poor play to defeat LIU Brooklyn 83-79

By Andrew Cyr

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Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

It wasn’t easy, nor was it pretty, but it was enough for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team to come away with a win in its final non-conference tune-up before Atlantic 10 play.

Despite a lackluster first half and an even worse start to the second, UMass (7-5) escaped with a 83-79 win against LIU Brooklyn 83-79 Tuesday night thanks in large part to the play of the Minutemen seniors.

Trailing by as many as 10 in the second half, Trey Davis, Jabarie Hinds and Tyler Bergantino each played a significant role down the stretch as the trio scored 17 of UMass’ final 21 points after Donte Clark made a deep 3-pointer to tie the game at 62 with five minutes, 18 seconds remaining.

“We just need some senior leadership. We need some seniors out there; some older guys that have been through it and can play hard,” Minutemen head coach Derek Kellogg said.

The three combined for 48 points while forward Antwan Space added five points and five assists in 13 minutes played in his second game back in action.

After UMass led 39-36 after an ugly first half, the Blackbirds (6-5) opened the second half on a 14-2 run over the first 4:13 before the Minutemen countered with a 13-3 run of their own to regain a 54-53 lead with 11:53 remaining.

Although the numbers don’t speak much volume, Bergantino finished with six points and seven rebounds, but his energy and defense helped jump-start UMass during that stretch as the senior played 15 minutes in the second half.

Before Bergantino could answer if he was proud or not of his performance, Davis immediately jumped in and answered for him.

“I am. I’m very proud of what he did. I just want to let you all know that. I’m very proud,” Davis said.

“There’s always room to build, but like Trey said, I’m proud,” Bergantino echoed.

The Minutemen took their largest lead of the night with 6:47 left in the first half after Clark (21 points) hit Hinds with a no-look pass on a fast break to give them a nine-point lead. However, LIU answered quickly after UMass ended the half with sloppy play.

“I thought we didn’t take advantage in the first half. We stepped off the gas a little but and they played well. We made a few mistakes and let them back in the game. We aren’t so overwhelming that we can do that. I think we have to play a full 40 (minutes) of good basketball,” Kellogg said.

Jerome Frink led the Blackbirds with 21 points with Martin Hermannsson added 18 and Joel Hernandez added 13.

With starting forward Zach Coleman inactive with a knee injury – his MRI is scheduled for Wednesday – Seth Berger slid into the starting role finishing with a team-high 10 rebounds and added four points and two blocks in a career-high 34 minutes.

“Seth probably deserved to start at some position anyway. It just worked out for him where Zach has been injured. Seth has been an energy guy and does all the things that I like as a head coach,” Kellogg said.

“He gives me the intangibles that I like. He had 10 rebounds, deflected a ton of balls and had a couple that he almost stole and had a couple calls against him. I think he’s going to continue to evolve into a good player.”

With non-conference play now complete, the Minutemen begin A-10 play Sunday at La Salle. UMass was projected 10th out of 14 teams in the conference.

“I guess we will make it interesting,” Kellogg said. “I don’t know how many games out of our 12 have come down to the last two or three minutes, so I’d say put your seat belts on for a season and let’s get ready for a lot of close games.

Kellogg added: “Good learning curve for a win, but we are going to have to play a little better as the A-10 conference starts coming if we are going to have some success.”

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