Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass struggled to find the right rotations to play with in loss to Yale

McCall wants to shorten bench to eight to nine players
McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

An opening 7-0 run to start the game for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team failed to translate into any success in the 91-71 loss to Yale on the road Friday night.

After a thrilling win in its opening game of the season where the team fought back from a first half deficit and pulled out a win against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, UMass (1-1) struggled to find any momentum against the Bulldogs (2-0) in its first true road test since the 2019-2020 season.

The Minutemen rolled out on the floor a starting five consisting of Noah Fernandes, Rich Kelly, TJ Weeks, Dyondre Dominguez and Trent Buttrick against Yale. It was a starting lineup very similar to the opening night one with the exception of Dominguez slotting in for Cairo McCrory at the four-spot.

“I think we’ve got to shorten our bench a little bit here,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “We’ve got to get [our bench] down to eight or nine guys. We are trying to play some combinations, but we are going to find the guys that are going to give maximum effort every night and find the guys that have great attitudes.”

This is relatively unfamiliar territory for UMass in comparisons to the last couple seasons. For the last two years the Minutemen have always had a solid core of players they could rely on for consistency. This year McCall is still configuring with what rotations are working, both on the offensive and defensive end, and that showed in Friday’s loss to Yale.

The starting five McCall went with to start the game is one that seemed to bring success early in the game on Friday. Rich Kelly and Fernandes have shown that they can provide stability as a backcourt for the Minutemen. Outside of Weeks, Fernandes and Rich Kelly played the second and third most minutes for the team. The two combined for 24 points against the Bulldogs and proved that they can be a consistent combo together for the foreseeable future.

“I think [the starting five against Yale] is a good one for us,” McCall said. “Obviously we got off to a good start but again I thought our communication defensively was bad.”

Paired out on the wing for UMass with the guards was Weeks. The redshirt sophomore struggled to get into a groove offensively, going 1-for-6 from the field and 0-for-3 from deep. He played a time high 26 minutes. A player for McCall who could slide into that three-spot is C.J. Kelly. The transfer from Albany played his first minutes of the season for UMass and put up eight points while going 2-for-3 from deep.

“[C.J. Kelly] had only practiced one day and I didn’t know if it fair to him to chuck him out there [at Yale],” McCall said. “He missed probably three and a half weeks. Our trainer said he was healthy enough to go, we were struggling offensively, and I knew he could help us on the offensive end of the floor.”

McCall mixed and matched with different rotations throughout the game. The ability to go back to the original starting five throughout most of the second half was hampered by the fact that Dominguez and Buttrick were in foul trouble. They had three apiece and didn’t see time on the court until the midway mark of the second half.

Slotting in for Buttrick and Dominguez when they were out was McCrory, Greg Jones and Dibaji Walker. Each bring a different skillset that is valuable to the squad, but it’s been a matter of where they fit in on the court, and that was highlighted in the loss. Walker’s length has proved he can be an electric boost into the game defensively, but he has been a liability on offense. The senior went 2-of-6 from the free throw line against the Bulldogs and finished with two points in six minutes.

Paired with Buttrick down low in the post was Jones and McCrory. The junior transfer from Southern Connecticut State showed he could be a physical presence down low on the boards but without much post moves to work with, the Minutemen struggled to generate offense down there.

The Minutemen are going to have their work cut out in these next few games figuring out what lineups and rotations will gel. Their next test comes against Penn State on Monday with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

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

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