Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball cruises to a victory over Pacific behind a strong second half

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

For the first six and a half minutes of the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s game against Pacific Thursday night, it looked as if the Minutemen were well on their way to loss in a highly winnable game and that their shooting struggles would continue.

UMass (6-2) was shooting just 2-for-11 from the field at that point. Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg knew something was wrong, so he called a 30-second timeout. On the ensuing offensive possession guard Donte Clark knocked down a 3-pointer, something UMass would do a lot from that point forward.

The Minutemen would not look back and a dominating second-half performance led them to a 72-48 win over the Tigers (3-5) at the Mullins Center.

UMass took five-point lead into the halftime, but it didn’t take long for the Minutemen to take control coming out of the locker room for the final 20 minutes. UMass outscored Pacific 40-21 in the second half.

Kellogg was impressed with the maturity the Minutemen showed in the second half.

“The shots were just better especially on offense,” Kellogg said. “Just a little bit of the finer points of the game that you can just preaching and talking about in practice and even at halftime I thought those were big, when they come out and execute and do those things. To have a full roster and to see some of the guys come around was good.”

Not one player in particular took over the game offensively for UMass. Instead, the Minutemen opted for a more balanced scoring attack with five players having eight or more points. Clark led UMass with 12 points on the day.

“I’m trying to establish our kind of style of play for how 40 minutes you keep coming at him with different players. But that hasn’t really been able to come about yet but for just one reason or another,” Kellogg said. “When it starts moving in the right direction than you can kind of get the next wave in and that was really one of the first halves when it looked the way it’s supposed to on both ends of the floor.”

Point guard DeJon Jarreau, who played in his second game Thursday since coming back from having an inflamed callous on his foot, played a large part in the ball movement that led to Minutemen’s balanced attack.

“I’m just trying to get that spark back, so everything can ride out and we’ll be good,” Jarreau said. “I’m getting connections with all the big men and that’s a good thing because most of the time I have the ball in my hands, so I’ve got to distribute it throughout the whole team.”

After missing two weeks, Jarreau is just looking to get back into the flow of the game.

“I felt good coming into the second half,” the freshman said. “I just have to work on getting my wind back, so I can do the things I am supposed to do to help us win. I just have to keep working.”

The Tigers struggled to get much going offensively throughout the game. Pacific shot just 17-for-54 in Thursday’s matchup, including a 6-for-28 mark in the second half.

Forwards Ray Bowles and Jack Williams led the way for the Tigers on offense as both scored 11 points in the game.

Pacific had a strong effort on the boards, out rebounding UMass 42-29 in the game, including an 11-2 advantage on the offensive boards.

With the game against the Tigers now in the rear-view mirror, the Minutemen will have a quick turnaround as they prepare to take on Providence Saturday at noon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

UMass has lost to the Friars by 20 points or more the past two seasons.

Clark is hoping the results are different Saturday.

“They always say ‘third time’s a charm,’ so they got us the first two, we’ll see how we do this time,” Clark said.

Kellogg expects his team to be ready for Saturday and doesn’t put too much stock into the Minutemen’s struggles against Providence in the past.

“We’re a completely different team and they’re a different team also,” Kellogg said. “The one thing I think with this year’s group is we may not win, we may not go perfect, but these guys are going to compete. They’re going to play for 40 minutes and if you can do that for over a 30-game schedule, you get some wins out of it.”

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.

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