The Massachusetts men’s basketball team hosted its first game at the Mullins Center last Friday, scrimmaging against Springfield College.
While on paper it was a lopsided matchup, the Division III squad gave the Minutemen all they could ask for in the first half, as UMass had just a three-point lead going into the break.
One of the main reasons the Minutemen were struggling was their lack of outside shooting, going 0-9 from downtown in the opening 20 minutes. With the lack of an outside presence, the Pride were able to pack their defense in, not allowing open drives to the rim.
The flip switched in the second half, as the Minutemen began to hit shots from outside. UMass shot 45.5 percent from three in the final portion of play, hitting 5-11 from deep.
By hitting the outside shots, the Minutemen were able to begin feeding the post, and guards like Luwane Pipkins and C.J. Anderson were able to get to the rim without much traffic.
UMass outscored Springfield 44 to 25 in the second half, leading the team to an 82-60 victory. Minutemen coach Matt McCall said he understands that his team will need much better first half performances going forward if they want to win games.
“In the first half, I was disappointed in them for the effort,” McCall said. “Maybe it was jitters, first game nerves, I don’t know. Just our overall effort, loose ball, hustle plays, we didn’t make any attempted charges, we were missing assignments. We reverted to just trying to rock out and go one-on-one. We got away from what we’ve been working on for whatever reason.”
“Maybe it was the lights, maybe it was the real game atmosphere,” he continued. “But hopefully we got that out of us.”
McLean makes home debut
Friday night was the first game that Unique McLean put on a UMass uniform at the Mullins Center. McLean was redshirted last year as a freshman, but will see significant minutes at the off-guard position for the Minutemen this season.
The Brooklyn, New York native finished the game an efficient 6-of-8 from the floor, totaling 13 points. He also added a pair of assists, a block and a steal in 35 minutes of action.
McLean is known for his superb athleticism, which he put on display for the crowd in Amherst Friday when he crashed in a Rayshawn Miller missed jumper from the weak side, vaulting over a Pride defender to slam it home.
“It was pretty cool,” McLean said after the scrimmage. “I didn’t play last year so it was a good chance to get on the court and show my talent, show everybody what I can do. Everybody doubted what I could do not knowing anything.”
McLean feels that he can not only use his athleticism while attacking the rim, but also on defense where he feels he has a lot to prove.
“I could have done way better defensively,” McLean said. “I wasn’t in the right spot on a couple plays. It’s watching film and making sure I’m in those spots, being on the white line, keeping my eye on the ball and my man. I have to be better.”
UMass was forced to play Friday’s scrimmage without one of its best players. Center Rashaan Holloway dressed and warmed up, but was held out of the game as he had just began practicing the day before after recovering from a thumb injury.
McCall said after the game that Holloway could have played in the scrimmage, but they sat him out for precautionary reasons.
Holloway will be a key player for the Minutemen this year. The 6’11, 310 pound center presents a matchup problem for just about every opponent UMass faces.
“I think everybody, including myself, is ready to have (Holloway) back out there,” McCall said. “It’s been four weeks. He’s behind. We have to get him up to speed. Is he going to be all the way up to speed by Friday? Probably not. We have to get him up to speed enough where he will have an impact on the game.”
While it is easy to just feed the ball to Holloway in the post, McCall hopes his team continues to move the ball around and not remain stagnant on the perimeter.
“My only concern with (Holloway) coming back is we can’t stare the post down,” McCall said. “We have to move the ball. I thought in the first half we got back to one pass and rocking out. That’s not how we play. It’s predicated on unselfishness. We have to do a much better job with the ball.”
As a freshman, Holloway averaged 5.2 points while adding 3.1 boards playing for an average of 11.7 minutes per game.
Holloway improved his minute total to 19 per game last season. With the increase in court time, he doubled his points-per-game average to 10.4 and secured nearly six boards a game.
Holloway’s health and ability to play extended minutes will be keys to watch for during the early portion of the season.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.