Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball turns in lackadaisical performance against Howard

Minutemen fall 68-63

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UMass men’s basketball turns in lackadaisical performance against Howard

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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It was a performance to forget for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

The Minutemen (2-2) were dominated in just about every area of the game on Friday, never holding a lead and falling to Howard 68-63.

“That’s as disappointing of a performance that I’ve ever been apart of as a coach,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “It starts with me. I did a poor job of getting our team prepared to play because the better team won tonight. We play the game disconnected, we play the game for ourselves on both ends of the floor and we think we’re just going to shoot our way to victory.”

It was apparent early on that the Bison (4-0) were the team that came to play, opening the game on a 12-2 run. That fire Howard played with would continue throughout the first half, with UMass falling behind by as much as 19 with 3:49 remaining in the first half.

The Minutemen would go on a small run to cut the lead to 13 at the halftime break and showed some fire when they came out of the locker room to open the second period, going on a 9-0 run to make it a four-point game.

UMass would continue to keep it close, never out of striking distance, but the Bison refused to surrender their lead.

With 2:03 remaining, Carl Pierre dished the ball to Curtis Cobb, who drove to the bucket and finished to cut the Howard lead to three. A foul on the next possession put Chad Lott at the line for the Bison, who would make both to make it a two possession game.

The two teams would then trade baskets before Jonathan Laurent cut to the rim and slammed home a dunk to make it a three-point game again with 59 seconds left.

Howard would miss on its next possession, giving the ball back to the Minutemen for a chance to tie the game, but a Luwane Pipkins three was off the mark and the Bison grabbed the rebound and got fouled, making two of their last four free throws to seal the win.

“What lost us the game was our inability to rebound,” McCall said. “That’s really, really disappointing. We have no physicality at the basket. We’re going to have to do some searching here as a program, as a staff, as players to who’s going to buy in to be about the right things.”

It was a poor offensive game for UMass, who shot just 35.5 percent from the field and a lowly 21 percent from three. The poor shooting translated to the free throw line, where the Minutemen went 13-23.

McCall feels that the offense has a lot of improvements to make, and expects his team to turn it around on that end of the court.

“Continuing to harp on ball movement, player movement, try to look at different screening actions to free up shooters,” McCall said. “Just different things like that. We took some questionable [shots]. We have to play faster, we have to score more in transition, there’s a lot of things we have to do right now.”

Where McCall is more concerned is on the defensive end of the court. Howard shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and were able to get just about whatever look they wanted. UMass was also dominated on the glass, being outrebounded by 13 on the game.

While it’s one thing to miss shots on the offensive end, defense and rebounding are both effort areas of the game, and the fact that the Minutemen didn’t do well in either category has McCall concerned.

“It goes back to being delusional,” McCall said. “You think things are going to be easy because we have more bodies; that’s not the case. There were times last year where I thought we hit rock bottom and we’re there right now. We have to find ourselves as a basketball program and it starts with myself as a coach and our coaching staff.”

UMass will look to turn things around Monday, taking on Arkansas-Pine Bluff at the Mullins Center.

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

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