Johnston: Observations from Westfield State scrimmage

Minutemen win by 24

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Johnston: Observations from Westfield State scrimmage

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts men’s basketball team had its first and only open door scrimmage Tuesday, defeating Westfield State 84-60.

Here are some observations from the game.

Luwane Pipkins looked like his usual self

Not that this is any surprise, but the returning Atlantic 10 Co-Most Improved Player looked like he was far and away the best player on the court Tuesday night. The junior finished with 21 points on 6-for-9 shooting in just 20 minutes of action.

“That’s what he does,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “The one thing I love about Luwane, I said this for 33 games last year and the one this year, the guy wants to win. The guy wants to play.”

Pipkins looked confident in his shot, pulling up multiple times with the defenders in his face and draining the shot. After averaging 21.2 points per game a season ago, Pipkins looks poised to break that mark this year, even with the added scorers to the lineup.

UMass pressed entire first half

The Minutemen have talked a lot this offseason about playing faster this year, and it was on full display in the first half of play, where they picked up full court off of every made basket or out-of-bounds play.

While UMass was able to turn Westfield over 27 times in the game, McCall was disappointed in his team’s execution of the press, feeling like they were late on rotations.

What threw the Minutemen for a loop was the Owls having their five man bring the ball out of bounds, which took UMass out of position and forcing big man Sy Chatman to guard a smaller man.

McCall hopes to see improvement from the defense in the season opener next Tuesday.

“I was really, really disappointed in us defensively, especially in the first half,” McCall said. “I thought we were way too consumed with offense. I thought we were too consumed offensively to where we didn’t guard. That was the disappointing piece.”

Curtis Cobb shows shooting touch 

Cobb, the redshirt junior, was in the starting lineup besides Pipkins and Carl Pierre in the backcourt and showed his offensive ability early in the game, hitting three three-pointers and finishing with 11 points.

“The one thing I love about Curtis is he knows the right play to make,” McCall said. “You can put Curtis in a pick and roll and he knows the right play to make. I thought he was playing the game the right way, especially early. I didn’t think he forced anything.”

With defenses putting the majority of their focus on Pipkins and Pierre, Cobb should see plenty of opportunities to beat his man one-on-one with minimal help waiting to stop him. If he can continue to score the way he did tonight, it will add a third element to the UMass offense that defenses will have to account for.

Carl Pierre has quiet night 

Pierre exploded onto the scene last season as a freshman, scoring 12.3 points a game. He is expected to take another big leap this year, but was unable to show it in the exhibition, where he shot the ball just five times in 18 minutes of action.

McCall was not pleased with the way Pierre was utilized offensively.

“Carl Pierre took three shots in the first half,” McCall said. “That can’t happen. He has to get way, way more shots than that. Like I said before, shooting is not equal opportunity. Carl shoots 47 percent from three. We have to find him.”

Look for Pierre to be a focal point in the season opener, as McCall will look to get him touches early and often, letting his talented shooter be creative with the ball.

Holloway stays on the bench

Senior Rashaan Holloway had been practicing all week after suffering a hamstring injury, but the coaching staff decided that it wasn’t worth the risk putting him out there for the scrimmage, choosing to get him to 100 percent by next Tuesday.

Holloway warmed up with the team, and will most likely take freshman Sy Chatman’s spot in the starting lineup, where he will join Pipkins, Pierre, Cobb and Jonathan Laurent.

Freshmen see big minutes

McCall was pleased with the way his three freshman played in their first action under the Mullins Center lights. Tre Wood handled point guard duty in his 20 minutes of action, flashing his speed and finishing with 10 points while Sy Chatman and Samba Diallo more than held their own in the paint, both playing over 20 minutes.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.