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 dominates Albany in season opener

Cohen leads Minutemen with 22 points in 92-71 win
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team started off hot in its season opener against the University at Albany, 92-71. UMass (1-0) took an early double-digit lead with an aggressive play style on the offensive and defensive sides, as the Great Danes (0-1) struggled to claw their way back from the deficit.

The Minutemen and their starting five went on a 12-0 run to open the first half. With three-pointers by guards Rahsool Diggins and Jayden Ndjigue, UMass quickly gained some momentum. Along with some physical and highly intense defense to keep the Great Danes scoreless at the start, the Minutemen set the tone for the rest of the night.

“These guys are fun to be around, they play really hard, they play together, they play for each other,” second-year head coach Frank Martin said.

The biggest headline of the night was the effect senior transfer Josh Cohen had on the court on Tuesday. Cohen had an immediate impact in his first regular season game for UMass as he put up 22 points, had eight rebounds and three steals and was 9-for-15 from the field.

Right behind Cohen among point leaders were returning players, Diggins with 14, sophomore guard Keon Thompson with 13, and sophomore transfer Daniel Hankins-Sanford with 14 points off the bench.

UMass dominated Albany offensively and defensively all night. The Minutemen out-shot the Great Danes as they had 20 more field goal attempts and came out with a physical defensive playstyle that won them the turnover battle. The Minutemen only had five turnovers to Albany’s 18, and off those 18 turnovers, UMass scored 21 points.

“It’s the way I want to build this program…those guys are committed to defending and committing to defending together and not just individually,” Martin said.

UMass never trailed once in this game, as the closest the score got was when the teams were tied for only one minute and three seconds early in the first half. Since then, the Great Danes struggled to come up with any solution to combat the defensive stop the Minutemen were putting on them.

In the first half, UMass was shooting 61 percent for three-point shots, propelling them to a 20-point lead at halftime, a large deficit that held strong until the final buzzer as the Great Danes couldn’t make any headway in cutting the lead.

It was a homecoming party of sorts for Albany coach Dwayne Killings, who is from Amherst and went to the flagship for three years. His team couldn’t hang with his alma mater, however, as the Minutemen beat them for the second straight year after a 87-73 win in 2022.

With a roster including seven freshmen and two transfers, the new faces in the UMass threads complemented the returning players well and the energy translated onto the court, aiding in the speed, agility, and aggressive edge the Minutemen had over the Great Danes.

Everyone got considerable minutes, with Martin relying on deep rotations per usual. Ten different players played between 13 and 25 minutes in the game.

“We are not trying to win just one game in November, we are trying to make a long run,” Cohen said. “Our identity is we are going to play as hard as we can and we are going to play harder than every single team we play.”

Looking ahead, UMass will continue its home slate of games as they host Quinnipiac University on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.

Samantha Sands can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @samantha_sands_

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    Fay FlanaryNov 9, 2023 at 7:46 am

    Excellent reporting by Samantha . Go UMass!!!