Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass offense goes stagnant in loss to La Salle

Minutemen shoot 36.5 percent from the field

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UMass offense goes stagnant in loss to La Salle

(Daily Collegian/Caroline O'Connor)

(Daily Collegian/Caroline O'Connor)

(Daily Collegian/Caroline O'Connor)

(Daily Collegian/Caroline O'Connor)

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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It was opposite day for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

The Minutemen (7-7, 0-1 Atlantic 10) have struggled on defense throughout the season, but have typically been bailed out by strong offensively play.

Instead, in Saturday’s A-10 opener against La Salle, it was the UMass defense which stepped up, holding La Salle to just 38.2 percent from the field, but the offense was never able to find its rhythm, ultimately leading to a 69-60 defeat.

“It would be nice to put a full game together,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I think that we’ve only played one complete game all year and that’s Southern Illinois where we played two halves of basketball on both ends of the floor the right way.”

Luwane Pipkins, the Minutemen’s leading scorer, had a rare poor showing on the offensive end of the court. The junior guard entered the game averaging 19.9 points per game, but was held to just 15 on 3-16 shooting. Seven of his points came from the free throw line.

It wasn’t just Pipkins who didn’t have it going for UMass offensively. As a team, the Minutemen shot 36.5 percent from the field and going 7-for-24 from behind the three-point arc.

“I wanted to keep two handlers in the game because of the pressure,” McCall said. “I thought they did a really good job of being physical and denying Luwane a lot of times. We have to look at what we’re doing and why we aren’t getting him cleaner looks.”

While McCall is looking for ways to better scheme up open looks for the offense, UMass will need to make those shots when they are available. Too many times were the Minutemen granted open looks, only to have them bounce out of the rim.

UMass also did a poor job spreading the ball around. Finishing the game with just eight assists, the Minutemen turned the ball over 18 times, a ratio that rarely will result in wins.

“We were getting some good shots, I just think they weren’t falling,” Curtis Cobb said. “When they didn’t start falling we started getting stagnant and kind of playing one-on-one.”

With the Explorers (3-10, 1-0 A-10) pressuring the ball hard, it made it tough for UMass to get the ball into Rashaan Holloway on the block. The big man only got off two shots in the game, making both of them, but McCall was displeased with the limited amount of touches Holloway received.

“We need to look at why the most dominant player in the Atlantic 10 only takes two shots,” McCall said. “He’s unguardable and we have to look at what we’re doing on why we aren’t getting him the ball more.

“Are we missing him? Is it what we’re running? Are we looking him off? For him to take two shots in a game where we’re really struggling to score is a major, major problem and we’ve got to get that corrected.”

While the Minutemen were able to consistently get stops on the defensive end, it didn’t translate to transition points. UMass was able to corral 30 defensive rebounds and force 15 turnovers, but only converted that into four fast break points.

With the Minutemen in a funk offensively, getting easy fast break baskets would be one way to get their rhythm back.

“That was something we’ve been working hard on the last couple days that did not translate into the game,” McCall said. “Just running wide, getting to our x’s, putting more pressure on the paint. That was another reason I liked two handlers in the game to try to get down the lane and free up some guys and open up some more offense in transition. We were getting stops but not scoring in transition.”

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

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