UMass men’s basketball gets complementary play from frontcourt in win over Kennesaw State

By Andrew Cyr

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)
(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

Given the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s guard-centric, dribble-drive offense combined with the constant rotation of its big men, there aren’t going to be too many games where one player from the frontcourt dominates in the box score.

Saturday’s 95-77 win over Kennesaw State was no different for UMass (8-3). The Minutemen did, however, get their most complete and well-rounded performance from their bigs, especially with the bench play of Chris Baldwin, Brison Gresham, Malik Hines and Ty Flowers.

Unlike in recent games where each primarily played center, Kellogg played Baldwin and Gresham at power forward, alongside Hines and Rashaan Holloway. Each played their best game in a UMass uniform as Baldwin had six points and four rebounds while Gresham added six points and a team-high eight rebounds.

“It gives us some post presence,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said of putting Baldwin and Gresham at power forward. “I was a little frustrated that we didn’t get every rebound when those guys are in because we’re big, physical and kind of strong.”

The Minutemen narrowly outrebounded the Owls 33-32, and held the edge in offensive rebounds 12-11.

“I like Brison at the four because he’s long and athletic,” Kellogg added. “He covered a lot of ground on defense and then Chris gives us a little versatility at the spot. He can make mid-range shots, finish around the rim. It’s a work in progress. I think every game’s going to look a little different, but I did like that that game had some flow to it for us offensively.”

Baldwin scored all three of his baskets in the first half as the freshman made two layups and a mid-range jumper, converting on three of four shooting attempts. He also added a nice assist on a drop-down pass to Holloway with five minutes, five seconds remaining in the first half when KSU (3-8) double-teamed him.

“I just felt it was important to go out there and give my team my all,” Baldwin said. “If I was in there for a minute or if I was in there for 10, just giving effort.”

Baldwin didn’t play in the Minutemen’s last game against North Carolina A&T Tuesday night. In UMass’ 75-69 loss to Providence the game before, he logged only four minutes on the court.

“I just had to make the call, like ‘Chris, you’re going in,’” Kellogg said “If it’s two bigs, if its not, at some point I just have to say I’m playing him.”

The 48 points in the paint were the most the Minutemen have scored this season.

Despite playing only 10 minutes, Holloway led all big men with 14 points, shooting 6-for-9 from the field including back-to-back and-one’s to start the second half. Flowers was the only other UMass big to finish with double-digits as he added 10 points including two made 3-pointers.

Kellogg went with a lineup of five freshmen at the under-four media timeout of the seconds half consisting of Baldwin, Gresham, Flowers, DeJon Jarreau and Luwane Pipkins for the final 3:08 of play. This was the first time Baldwin, Gresham and Flowers had played together, while also being Flowers’ first minutes at small forward.

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