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

Wendel: Takeaways from UMass’ exhibition win over AIC

Minutemen coast to 94-68 win off strong first half
Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian (2022)

On Tuesday night the Massachusetts men’s basketball team played in front of fans for the first time, notching a 94-68 exhibition victory over local Division-II squad American International College.

In the Minutemen’s lone exhibition this season, the team flexed their muscles on both sides of the floor early, jumping out to a 25-point halftime lead. While their numbers faltered in the second half, it was still a dominant showing over a D-II squad.

While it’s only an exhibition game, here were some notable takeaways from Frank Martin and his new team’s first time on the floor.



Matt Cross was everything I expected and more. The 6-foot-7 Louisville transfer came out firing in the first half, scoring nine of his 15 points in the game’s first five minutes. Cross showed throughout his previous two stops that he can be a great shooter, but the aspect of his game that was most impressive Tuesday night was his vision. Cross made unbelievable reads for a player his size, from slick post entry passes to bullets aimed towards perimeter shooters. If Cross keeps up his play from tonight, he can easily be one of UMass’ top offensive weapons.



A major selling point in the Minutemen’s lineup this season is its size. Bringing in 6-foot-7, 259-pound Isaac Kante from LIU and 6-foot-10 Wildens Leveque from South Carolina was supposed to be a difference maker for this new-look UMass team. Isaac Kante met those lofty expectations Tuesday night.

Kante led the team in points (18), rebounds (10) and also had the Minutemen’s only two blocks all game. He showed solid touch around the rim and strong rebounding skills, working over and around his smaller AIC defenders. Wildens also looked solid on defense, but his offensive play tonight shows room for improvement. His shot wasn’t clicking, and he failed to convert off some great finds from teammates. Leveque finished the game 3-of-8 from the field, not an ideal shot percentage from a starting big man.



 UMass fans saw many new faces, two of which got their first taste of college basketball tonight. Freshmen RJ Luis and Keon Thompson played their first minutes as Minutemen and both left sizable impressions.

Thompson was the main draw, entering the game at the first media timeout and racking up a steal within his first 30 seconds on the court. The freshman’s body is built like a graduate student. He made his presence known on the defensive end, wreaking havoc on AIC’s offense all night. His aggression on defense is something rarely seen across college basketball over the years, especially from freshmen. Thompson also tacked on 10 points all within the arc. If his shot develops, he could be an excellent player sooner rather than later.

“[Johnson is] making some plays that I’ve haven’t had older guards make,” Martin said of Johnson’s practice performances. “Now he’s got to start finishing those plays. But he’s making the right plays at the right time and that’s an impressive thing.”

It’s difficult to know exactly how RJ Luis slots in yet, he showcased impressive athleticism, high basketball IQ and a silky shot at times tonight. He finished with eight points and five rebounds on 4-of-10 shooting. Pretty good for a player that Martin said is currently “playing off instinct… not playing off knowledge.” Luis practiced Saturday for the first time in a month after suffering a lower body injury.

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @dmw204

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    KellanNov 2, 2022 at 5:22 pm