Balanced offense drives UMass men’s basketball in win over George Mason

By Anthony Chiusano

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

Usually when the Massachusetts men’s basketball team has found success, it’s relied on one or two players to carry the offensive load.

Whether it’s been Trey Davis’ 40 and Donte Clark’s 30 points to will the Minutemen to a 103-95 overtime victory against New Orleans Dec. 16 or Jabarie Hinds’ 37-point eruption off the bench in their 108-99 overtime win over Duquesne Feb. 14, the hot hand has often led the way.

But that wasn’t the case in UMass’ 70-64 victory over George Mason Sunday at Mullins Center.

Three Minutemen reached double figures in the win in Hinds (17 points), Davis (16) and Antwan Space (15). Clark added nine in a balanced scoring sheet for UMass (12-14, 5-9 Atlantic 10).

“We’re a better team if we’re a little more balanced instead of one guy having 30-something (points) and others with nine or 10. We should be with four or five guys in double digits just about every night out,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said after the win.

UMass led the entirety of Sunday’s matchup, leading by as much as 16 with five minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half, but the Patriots (9-18, 3-11 A-10) continued to fight its way back in the second half and trimmed it to three with 2:32 left on the clock.

But six combined free throws from Davis and Hinds clinched the Minutemen’s third win in their last four games.

Kellogg said he was happy with UMass’ shot selection and patience on the offensive end, where it finished 42.4 percent from the floor. He added that it allowed the Minutemen to better set up defensively heading the other way.

“We did a better job tonight of running our offense and not settling for looks early in the shot clock. Sometimes, that’s why our defense has been a little suspect, because we’re taking tough shots on offense and we’re getting into adverse defensive positions,” Kellogg said. “I think our offense was a little better. We shared the ball and moved them some. That led to good defense.”

In particular, Kellogg noted Space’s shot selection and success in 1-on-1 plays in the post Sunday.

“He knows, (he can’t take) that one-legged Kobe Bryant fade away. Hopefully we won’t see that the rest of the year,” Kellogg said. “He gave us a good presence in the mid-post, driving to the rim where he gave us some good buckets.”

Space added: “I think I’m a better player when I’m more aggressive and not settling. Just being aggressive makes those kind of outcomes. If I can just get to the rim and make my shots easier, not taking tough shots and fadeaways and stuff like that.”

Davis, UMass’ leading scorer for the season, reached his 16 points behind a team-high three 3-pointers, including one leading to a four-point play in the final minute of the first half. Hinds scored his team-high total in 24 minutes off the bench.

For Clark, Sunday’s game started off slow with two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half. But with UMass’ lead down to four with 6:39 left, Clark buried a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down and went on to score seven straight points for the Minutemen to set up their game-clinching free throws in the final two minutes.

Clark said he wasn’t bothered by his early struggles to find the scoresheet, which is a mentality he said he’s been working on.

“I don’t think I was struggling, I was just missing shots. Everybody misses shots. I just stayed the course and was playing my game,” Clark said. “We’ve been working a lot, myself personally with getting over things, like if I miss a shot I just thing about the next one.”

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