Strong bench play helps UMass men’s basketball prevail in win over George Mason

UMass scored 29 points off the bench

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Strong bench play helps UMass men’s basketball prevail in win over George Mason

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 came down to the wire once again for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, but they prevailed in the end thanks to their defensive efforts in the last couple of minutes.

The deciding factor in UMass’ (10-14, 4-7 A-10) victory over George Mason (13-10, 2-8 Atlantic 10) was the huge production that they got from the bench in the 69-67 win.

UMass coach Matt McCall was extremely impressed with the performance that Djery Baptiste had in the win.

“I’m going to soak up the next month and a half of coaching Djery,” McCall said. “He has never complained about playing time, he comes every single day with an unbelievable attitude and for a guy that is in his fifth year in college, to see him go out there and get double figures, play the way he did – I couldn’t be happier for him…. he is all about the right things.”

Baptiste had a season-high 10 points against George Mason and was a contributing piece to the offense. Alongside him was Tre Mitchell, who finished with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Mitchell knew how important this was for Baptiste and praised the center for his contributions in the win.

“I was so proud of DJ [Baptiste] for getting his confidence up a little bit because I don’t think people understand DJ is actually a very good basketball player,” Mitchell said. “He just overthinks a lot of situations. I mean I battle with this dude every single day, and just unbelievable props to him for starting to translate that to the court.”

The Minutemen benefitted from the play of Sean East and Dibaji Walker, who came up clutch at the end of the game. East got off to a hot start after getting onto the court due to McCall subbing off all five starters within the first minute of the game, and from that point forward East took over and facilitated the ball effectively. He finished with 12 points, all of those coming in the first half, but it was his presence after UMass found themselves struggling in the first five minutes that made the difference. His ability to move coast-to-coast effortlessly to get the layup to end the first half proved why he was the spark to the offense.

“Sean, as a point guard, we are hard on him, but I think Sean at times he’s got to keep things in perspective,” McCall said. “He’s had a good year, he’s had some ups and downs, but he has had some big games as a freshman, and there is a lot of freshman in the country that don’t even get in. He is producing, he’s got to keep that in perspective when he goes out there and still bring his energy, bring his great attitude every day and understand that. Him coming off the bench has been good for us, he needs to continue to work and him and Kolton need to continue to battle in practice every day and make each other better.”

When the pressure was on in the last minute or so, Walker stepped up to the occasion. The sophomore knocked down two huge free-throws for UMass that came at a time where the game looked to be going into the hands of George Mason. Walker’s two free-throws gave the Minutemen a two-point lead with less than a minute remaining. With the final score being 69-67, his free-throws helped UMass narrowly pull out the victory.

For a game that saw Carl Pierre shoot just 2-of-12 from the field and Samba Diallo commit five turnovers, UMass needed a solid night from the bench. The 29 points that the bench scored went a long way in replacing their usual production.

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