Transition offense the key for UMass men’s basketball in its win over South Florida

Minutemen score 19 fastbreak points in the first half

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Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Pedro Gray Soares, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team wreaked havoc with its transition offense in the first half, guiding a 73-67 win on the road against South Florida.

After falling down 10-3 within four minutes, UMass (5-1) found its answer in transition and scored 19 fast break points in the first half, tying its season high (against Central Connecticut State in the season opener) and amounting almost half its points in the period. The Minutemen’s transition offense allowed them to create a cushion early on and put the Bulls on their heels. They ended the game with 21 points on the fastbreak, a new season high.

“Our transition buckets were I want to say the most crucial,” UMass forward Dyondre Dominguez said. “[South Florida is] not really a good ‘getting back and running efficiently’ team. So us doing that and getting out to run and forcing them to keep running back and forth, it just helped us a lot. Playing in transition is like starting to become one of our strengths rather than just being a civil offense. So us running in transition today, I feel like helped us get the ‘W’ a lot.”

Amidst a chaotic first half, UMass took advantage and got out in space a couple steps quicker than USF. This led to many easy baskets at the rim, including eight dunks in the game.

Despite struggling with turnovers of their own, Frank Martin’s group forced takeaways on defense then found the open runner on the other end. The Minutemen forced 17 turnovers and passed for 20 assists, but it’s hard to succeed in transition without an orchestrator to make it happen.

For UMass that catalyst was star guard Noah Fernandes, who served as the outlet in those breakaway scenarios. Fernandes impacted the game on both sides, finishing with three steals and nine assists, including six in the first half mostly off smart decisions in transition.

When the Minutemen got away from the fastbreak offense things started to go off the rails. They turned it over 20 times, most coming in a disconnected halfcourt offense, especially very early and very late in the game. They also outrebounded the Bulls 25-17 in the first half when transition played a big role, but were outrebounded 21-10 in the second half when they settled in the half court.

“Most of those fast break points – I could be wrong – came from steals, which is part of it,” Martin said. “We didn’t score off of defensive rebounds … if we hadn’t defended for 30 minutes in the middle section of the game, we lose the game, because we were able to create separation with some of those layups.”

Rim protection played a central role in neutralizing USF. UMass blocked eight shots in the win, seven coming in the first half and immediately leading to points on the opposite paint.

Defensive stops led to fastbreak points, and fastbreak points led to quick scoring runs.

After the Bulls opened with their 10-3 run, UMass went on a 13-0 run of its own. When the host went 8-0, the Minutemen closed the half on a 21-5 run. Breakaways were at the center of those runs, forcing South Florida to speed up its offense and start playing catch-up.

One of UMass’ main contributors this season has been Dominguez, and he was on fire once again on Tuesday – especially in transition and in the first half. Dominguez scored 10 fastbreak points by himself, coming from two dunks, an euro-step layup and two more finishes at the rim after taking the ball down the court himself.

His dunks, along with a 3-pointer, added to a crucial 14-2 UMass run in the first half. Dominguez finished with 15 points off the bench in 7-for-11 shooting to lead all scorers, along with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

Early in the second half UMass got away from the transition offense and immediately felt the negative effects. USF slowed the game down and shrunk the gap to single digits, but the lead the Minutemen earned through its fast-paced offense in the first half was enough to win the game.

“Coming together as a team and knowing what’s going well, what’s going right, I feel like that helped us a lot coming together and fixing the things we did wrong and making them better on the other end,” Dominguez said of the team’s response in its first true road game of the season, which also turned out to be its fourth consecutive win.

UMass goes on the road again to face Harvard on Friday, Dec. 2. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares