Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Baldwin’s floor-spacing sparks UMass men’s basketball against Georgia

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

With five different players notching double-digit point totals on Saturday, it’s tough to choose the most impressive contributor to the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s 72-62 win over Georgia.

Chris Baldwin, however, was certainly the least expected.

Stuck in a dismal stretch of games in which he had just six points across four games, Baldwin came out firing on Saturday, going 3-5 from three-point range to the tune of 11 points, helping space the floor for his teammates and adding a new dimension to the UMass offense.

“I knew Chris Baldwin was going to have a good day,” said UMass coach Matt McCall. “I knew he was going to have a good day based on shoot around, based on how his energy level was in warm-ups, and that’s back-to-back games where he’s had the right focus and we got to build on that for him, and he’s got to continue to be that way going forward.”

Baldwin’s impressive day from downtown was part of a team-wide assault from beyond the arc, as the Minutemen went 12-22 for 54.5 percent shooting.

Long-distance shooting has become the forte of guards like Luwane Pipkins and Carl Pierre, who had 17 and 15 points respectively on Saturday, but a 6-foot-8 forward like Baldwin stepping back and hitting threes is a different weapon entirely. Baldwin never hit from deep last season—going 0-3 on the year—but he’s added the range to his game this year, hitting 37 percent of his triples this season.

“It’s done a lot [for my game],” Baldwin said. “Obviously I’ve taken a lot more threes this year than I did previously, so I think it’s expanding my game.”

Baldwin is the third forward on this team, often behind Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hines in the minutes rotation, but he brings an element that his partners in the paint can’t, and McCall has trusted him in that floor-spacing role—as long as his shot selection stays sharp.

“When he can do that—we’ve been on him about taking good [threes],” said McCall. “Not early in the clock, but when the floor turns over and we can get some movement and he gets his feet set. Listen, he works at it. Once the floor turns over and we’ve gotten some movement, I’m okay with him shooting as long as he’s shooting with confidence.”

Baldwin had plenty of confidence on Wednesday, and his impressive shooting is only part of the package. Along with his abilities as a rebounder and his catalogue of emphatic blocks on the defensive end—he batted back two shots against Georgia—Baldwin flashed an inside game on Saturday, hitting a little jump hook in the post between his attempts from the outside.

McCall is glad to have Baldwin back on his game after that paltry stretch of games to begin the month, as he and his coaching staff have been trying to get the most out of their most versatile big man.

“No question [he’s responded],” McCall said. “I think it’s been just his mindset, and in practice and getting better, and I’ve been proud of him now. We’ll continue to stay on him, he can’t relax for a single second, because when he does and he’s not into it, he’s just okay. He’s being more coachable, and that’s important for us.”

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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