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

Cohen drops 28, UMass scores 100 in win over Portland

Josh Cohen finishes perfect from the field and the foul line
Jonathan Shi
Daily Collegian (2023)

Behind an efficient but imposing offensive performance, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team reached the century mark against Portland in a 100-78 win in the Diamond Head Classic on Saturday.

A heavily handicapped Pilots (6-8) team showed toughness to stick around in the game for as long as they did, but it was just that kind of night for the Minutemen (7-3) offense. Everything seemed to be going into the basket as they shot 59 percent from the floor, 36 percent from deep and 91 percent from the foul line.

UMass became the second team in the tournament’s history to score 100 points in a game, and it was the second time the Minutemen scored 100 points this season.

Leading scorer Josh Cohen had perhaps his best game yet in a maroon and white uniform. Cohen scored 28 points on a perfect shooting night, finishing 9-for-9 from the field, 9-for-9 from the free throw line and making his only attempt from beyond the arc.

As for other prolific scoring outputs, Matt Cross scored 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists on 7-for-12 shooting but had four giveaways; point guard Keon Thompson finished with 13 points, six assists and no turnovers; and freshman wing Jayden Ndjigue dropped a career-high 13 points along with five boards.

Despite trailing for most of the contest, the Pilots made it a six-point game with nine minutes to go, but that’s when UMass turned the jets on and left them behind. The Minutemen won the game between the 8:22 and 2:20 mark of the contest with a 22-8 run in crunch time.

UMass got the shots head coach Frank Martin wanted, with 26 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes. It set the tone for the rest of the game as it finished with 48 paint points.

With Portland starting guard Vukasin Masic leaving the game in the first half with a sprained ankle, it left head coach Shantay Legans with seven scholarship players available in the second half. That, along with some foul trouble, left the Pilots with limited options who did the best they could.

Tyler Harris led Portland with 18 points, Tyler Robertson followed with 17 and Juan Sebastian Gorosito stepped up for the Pilots with four 3-pointers on the night, but it wasn’t enough to match the Minutemen’s output.

Portland started the game strong and got off to an early advantage, but Cross and Ndjigue combined for 11 consecutive UMass points and the Minutemen took over the lead.

Cohen helped the Minutemen stay in front with 12 straight UMass points himself and finished the first half with 16 points without a missed shot. Crucially, Cohen went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the first half just a night after shooting 2-for-6 at the line in a close loss to Georgia Tech.

Ndjigue stopped the Pilots from taking some momentum into the half with a trademark hustle play: Rahsool Diggins missed a three with just seconds on the game clock but Ndjigue flew in from the wing, wrestled for the rebound and got a left-handed reverse layup to go at the buzzer for an eight-point lead.

The Minutemen have been one of the worst free throw-shooting teams in the country so far this season, but what had cost them in all three losses this year now gave them a valuable lead they wouldn’t surrender for the rest of the game. UMass shot 21-of-23 from the free throw line against Portland.

This consolation bracket win puts the Minutemen up against Old Dominion on Sunday, Dec. 24 to fight for fifth place in the Diamond Head Classic.

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

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