Siena scrimmage gives UMass men’s basketball first live action

Seven new Minutemen get first looks

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Siena scrimmage gives UMass men’s basketball first live action

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

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For the first time since its second-round exit in the 2018 Atlantic 10 tournament, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team took the court on Saturday.

Although none of the specifics were revealed from UMass’ closed-door scrimmage against Siena, coach Matt McCall said that the game was a good first step toward opening night on Nov. 6.

“I think it was good to play against someone else and not bang against each other every single day,” McCall said. “It gives us a good barometer of what we need to do this week. This is a big week for us.”

Although McCall said he was pleased overall with the Minutemen’s showing against the Saints, one weakness he highlighted was shot selection. UMass has struggled with shot selection in the past and it continued to be an issue in the scrimmage.

“Just because you haven’t shot in a while doesn’t mean you have to crank one off,” McCall said. “The guys that shoot the highest percentages have a little bit more freedom and a little more of a green light. We’ve got to learn how to keep ourselves in offense, stay in offense and make the right play.”

Although McCall stressed the need for more discipline on defense, most of the positives for UMass came from the defensive end, where the Minutemen hit a defensive efficiency rating of .81 in the first half.

“Long twos and turnovers, that’s what we want our defense to do, to create,” McCall said. “And I think we’re going to have the ability to do that with our press and in the half-court too, just with our length and our athleticism, so we’re getting better. We’re going to keep getting better at our pick-and-roll coverage and different things like that.”

After losing six players at the end of last season, including starters Malik Hines and C.J. Anderson, UMass will be fielding a vastly different lineup this season. Junior Luwane Pipkins and sophomore Carl Pierre return for the Minutemen, but the rest of the lineup remains unclear.

“Obviously you knew what you were getting with Luwane and Carl,” McCall said. “Those two guys are really good, and they played a lot of minutes last year, and they’re going to be two guys that we’re relying on a lot this year.”

Seven players also took the court for their first competitive action with UMass, including three freshmen in Samba Diallo, Sy Chatman and Tre Wood, ss well as four redshirts in transfers Curtis Cobb, Kieran Hayward, Keon Clergeot and Jonathan Laurent.

“The four guys that sat out last year, I think were probably more nervous than the freshmen, just because they haven’t played in so long,” McCall said. “They understand it’s not going to be easy for them. They’ve got to go out and let the game come to them and they just got to focus on how they can impact the game and not necessarily just scoring the ball.”

The Minutemen have another week to work on their shot selection and defensive discipline before their first open exhibition against Westfield State on Oct. 30. UMass’ first regular season game is in two weeks, against UMass Lowell.

“We’ve got to continue to tinker with lineups and stuff, but there’s bodies out there and I thought our guys were excited to compete,” McCall said. “We’ve got a barometer of where we are and where we’ve got to get better.”

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.