UMass men’s basketball pulls off huge win against Duquesne

Tre Mitchell and Preston Santos lead the way for the Minutemen

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UMass men’s basketball pulls off huge win against Duquesne

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Collegian Staff

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It’s the biggest win of the season for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, and comes at a crucial time in the season when things haven’t been going so smooth.

Losers of four straight, UMass (8-12, 2-5 A-10) came into Saturday’s game against Duquesne (15-4, 5-2 A-10) looking to set the tone early for the whole game, and strong afternoons from freshmen Preston Santos and Tre Mitchell keyed a 73-64 win over a very good Duquesne team.

“I thought the resiliency and the toughness that our guys showed just the second the ball was thrown in the air was through the roof,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “To see guys like Kolton [Mitchell] and Preston respond the right way when they do get challenged was what you want. Those guys responded the right way after George Mason.”

Preston Santos made his impact the minute he stepped onto the court. It was the freshman’s third time playing 25-plus minutes for the Minutemen and he capitalized on the ability to make his mark on the court. Santos finished with 15 points to go along with 12 rebounds, his first career double-double, and a season high in rebounds and points. His two steals were key for UMass along with his defense which proved to be crucial for the Minutemen down the stretch.

“Coming in here I didn’t really care about my minutes I just wanted to do all I can to help my team win,” Santos said. “When coach said I was a starter I was shocked, so it was a little overwhelming, but I stood up to the challenge and did whatever I could.”

Along with Santos, Samba Diallo pitched in with another double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds. Diallo only shot 1-of-7 from the field but managed to get to the line several times and was huge for UMass on the glass.

UMass had three players in double digits, and aside from Santos and Diallo, Tre Mitchell was the leading scorer finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds. The freshman lit up the first half with 17 points and was the only scorer for the Minutemen to finish in double digits before halftime, with the next closest scorer finishing with four. Mitchell’s presence was felt throughout the game and his ball movement proved to be an important part of the game that UMass needed. Mitchell facilitated the ball nicely down low in the paint, and even though only finishing with two assists, he managed to create opportunities for UMass.

But Santos was the star of the show, as he and fellow debuting starter Kolton Mitchell made the most of their opportunity.

“[Santos and Kolton Mitchell] stood up to the challenge when their name got called and they made some tough plays causing Duquesne to turn the ball over early,” McCall said. “It just benefited for us and got our energy going. Even though things weren’t going for us offensively we stayed locked in. I think this is the first time we really responded the right way mentally, so I am extremely proud of these guys.”

The Minutemen were able to make up for the lack of shooting offensively with their dominant presence being felt on the glass. UMass accounted for 52 rebounds compared to Duquesne’s 34. Diallo and Santos attributed for 25 total rebounds, and it was something that was of particular importance to focus on leading up to the game against the Dukes.

“Samba’s been making me get better at rebounding,” Santos said. “Obviously, I’m known as a rebounder, but being able to grab it and finish, grab it with contact and come down with it without losing it, that’s all because of him. Coming in at full speed, he would knock me down, I would get right back up and go right at him again, so that’s all thanks to him.”

The Minutemen next take on Saint Joseph’s Wednesday with tip off scheduled for 7 p.m.

Frederick Hanna III can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @FrederickHIII