UMass is outscored 42-16 in paint in loss to Yale

Minutemen made 34.5 percent of their 2-pointers

McKenna+Premus%2FDaily+Collegian

McKenna Premus/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts basketball team was outscored 42-16 in the paint by Yale in its 91-71 loss on the road Friday night.

Big men Trent Buttrick and Greg Jones were unable to impose a threat defensively in the paint, leading to a major weakness in the loss to the Bulldogs (2-0). Dyondre Dominguez collected three blocks for UMass (1-1), but that did not stop Yale from scoring inside. The Bulldogs shot 23-of-38 (60.5 percent) on two-point attempts.

“I thought our communication defensively was bad,” head coach Matt McCall said. “We’re switching one through four and guys are just slipping to the basket and [we are] giving up layups… You go on the road and give up 91 points, you’re not going to win the game I don’t care how many points you score.”

“We should be able to win games scoring in the 60’s and relying on our defense and our defense was not good enough today.”

The rebound battle was won by the Minutemen Friday night 36-32, but rebounds did not have to play as much of a factor since Yale shot 54 percent from the field, 42 percent from deep and 90 percent from the line. A major upgrade in comparison to UMass’ 35, 35 and 60 percent marks in the same categories.

“They like to take a lot of threes, so we were trying to take away the three-point ball and make them score in the paint, but we definitely do have to have a lot more resistance on that end of the floor,” point guard Noah Fernandes said. “We just got to put more emphasis on [paint defense].”

The Minutemen had one non-overtime game last season that they allowed over 90 points (Bryant, 93). Yale scored 88 points against Division III Vassar in its season opener, three less than what UMass allowed Friday night.

In the absence of Tre Mitchell and Ronnie DeGray III, the Minutemen have been forced to switch to an outside-in identity. In the 2020-2021 season, Mitchell averaged 18.8 points per game and DeGray III averaged 8.7. With those two off to Texas and Missouri, head coach Matt McCall brought in Buttrick, Michael Steadman and Jones as replacements through the transfer portal.

Mitchell warranted a double and sometimes triple team in the post in his time with UMass. The three new additions do not impose a similar threat, leading to the team garnering most of its paint opportunities through offensive rebounds and not being able to have as much success trying to force the issue of consistent paint presence. The Minutemen made 10-of-29 (34.5 percent) of their two-point attempts.

“We missed a bunch of layups the other night versus UMBC and we missed a bunch tonight, ” McCall said. “We got to make layups. We got to finish in and around the basket. We got to get Michael Steadman healthy, he can finish in and around the basket.”

Steadman has yet to make his UMass debut, as he missed his second consecutive game due to an ankle injury. The big man averaged 5.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game at Montana last season. McCall told media that Steadman would start at the five if healthy.

Buttrick specializes as more of a stretch big and as one who prefers to put the ball on the floor rather than a post-minded player. Through this point in the season, he has taken more three-point attempts (10) than he has two-point attempts (six). While Buttrick has been effective in his approach — as he leads the Minutemen in scoring so far with 13.5 points per game — it makes it difficult to be effective on the perimeter. Defenses can hone in on denying 3-pointers and outside shots since the paint has not proven to be a primary factor through the first two games.

The Minutemen will return to their home court at 7 p.m. Monday night to take on Penn State.

Joey Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1.