Despite win over Albany, Frank Martin is far from happy with his team

Minutemen coast to 87-73 win behind balanced scoring effort

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Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Dean Wendel, Collegian Correspondent

Few coaches will be as upset as Frank Martin after a win.

“We got a team that’s not listening right now. That’s a major problem. They’re content with showing up. They’re not content with the discipline and the relentless effort that it takes to be good. And unfortunately, we’re going to have to learn the lesson the hard way because they’re not listening and our leadership stinks.”

Despite Martin’s post-game words, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team won its sixth straight game comfortably Monday night, securing an 87-73 victory over Albany. UMass shot 53 percent from the floor, had 23 fastbreak points, and forced the Great Danes (3-7) to commit 19 turnovers, one of their highest marks on the season. The Minutemen (7-1) looked as comfortable as they’ve ever been in half-court offense, making crisp passes and finding open shooters for easy shots.

The night wasn’t entirely positive for UMass. After an impressive first half that saw the Minutemen shoot 68 percent, Albany clawed its way back to respectability. The Great Danes scored 52 points in the second half en route to becoming the first team this season to hang 70 points on UMass. Senior Gerald Drumgoole Jr. led the way for Albany, scoring 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting with 13 of those attempts coming from three.

“We got no enthusiasm for what we do,” Martin said. “We got no discipline for what we do… I didn’t get hired to win a game on a Monday, I got hired to build a program. That’s got to get fixed and that’s part of the deal.”

As the Minutemen look ahead to a challenging 3-game stretch, the team’s leadership, as stressed by Martin, could offer an avenue for improvement. Based on their play Monday night, there are multiple candidates on this team who could all become the locker room leader that Martin’s looking for.

Emerging as a main candidate to lead the Minutemen this season could be one of their youngest players, true freshman Keon Thompson. The guard played well on both ends, showcasing his two-way capabilities to the tune of 13 points. Thompson showed toughness and grit, frustrating opposing guards while simultaneously being the main facilitator of the UMass offense. He played a season-high 31 minutes off the bench in the absence of Noah Fernandes.

Thompson’s play on Monday offered up rave reviews from Martin. In seemingly his only positive comment of the night.

“[Thompson is] the only one talking in the huddles,” Martin said. “Credit him, he tried really hard today. He was the only guy that played with any kind of defensive presence out there that gave us the ability to try to defend a certain way.”

“At least when I put my head on the pillow today, I feel like [Thompson] actually cared and tried.”

UMass’ main contributor was Tafara Gapare, who dazzled on both ends. Gapare led the team with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including some awe-inspiring dunks, but his defense was arguably even better. The true freshman added in two blocks and five steals. After logging a season-high 21 minutes, more playing time is expected for the 4-star prospect in the future.

Another player who could be a cornerstone is Isaac Kante. Kante offers the pedigree that’s often seen among team captains, as this year is his fifth season of collegiate basketball. Kante continued his solid play against Albany, scoring 14 points on perfect shooting (5-of-5 from the floor, 4-of- 4 from the free throw line) in addition to impacting multiple Great Dane shots around the rim. Kante’s been a steady frontcourt piece for the Minutemen all season, and that kind of consistent play can lead the Minutemen’s youth in a long season.

There’s no doubt that UMass has plenty of talent on the court. Despite their successes, once games are over it’s been made clear that something needs to change, and Martin believes it will happen the hard way.

The Minutemen will face UMass Lowell on Thursday, Dec. 8 at the Mullins Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @DeanWende1