Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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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

Josh Cohen and UMass’ offense dominate in win over UMass Lowell

Cohen drops 25 points and 14 rebounds in dominant performance
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

By the time Josh Cohen subbed out of the game with 3:45 left, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team led 89-57 against in-state rivals UMass Lowell.

With a dominant performance capped by a 91-77 UMass (5-2) victory on Saturday, Cohen and the Minutemen’s offense bounced back in strong fashion after a couple of difficult games offensively.

Cohen had one of his best games as a Minuteman, stuffing the stat sheet with 25 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. Behind him, Rahsool Diggins dropped 15 points and grabbed six boards, and Matt Cross finished with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“[Cohen is] a good player,” head coach Frank Martin said. “[The team knows when] the ball gets to [Cohen], good things happen … That’s why our team has a chance this year. [Cohen] is a good player, our players respect him and he allows me to coach him.”

Cohen’s numbers on Saturday were historic for UMass men’s basketball. No Minuteman who has pulled at least 14 rebounds in a game matched it with as many points as Cohen did.

The performance for him and the offense overall comes after two disappointing games offensively against South Florida and Towson in which UMass scored 66 and 71 points. The Minutemen had to bounce back if they wanted to win against the River Hawks (6-3), and they did so convincingly.

“Against South Florida we struggled with scoring from different areas,” Martin said. “So the game was a fist fight at the rim, because we couldn’t put the ball in the basket. At Towson, we didn’t score on the interior, so we became a 3-point-shooting team.”

Such a change started down low with Cohen, the team’s leading scorer, and the players around him who consistently found him on post ups and took care of the ball.

“I don’t want to throw [Cohen] under the bus but he was really bad at Towson,” Martin said. “Well, look what he did [Saturday]. Ball screen defense, which was a problem down there, all him, stepped it up. Offensively down there, he just like was confused. [Saturday] he was on it, passing, scoring, catching the ball.”

Against Towson, the Minutemen struggled to score inside, with Cohen off his game and Cross picking up a pair of early fouls. While Lowell on paper isn’t any easier of a matchup, the River Hawks missed their most important big man in Abdoul Karim Coulibaly.

Without Coulibaly’s crucial presence and with both of Lowell’s starting forwards getting in foul trouble, the stage was set for the Cohen show.

The game went back and forth, with the Minutemen trailing 16-17 after 9:17, but over the next seven and a half minutes UMass took the game by storm with a 25-9 scoring run. Cohen scored 10 of those points, finishing the first half with 19 points and seven boards on 8-of-11 shooting.

“You know last game coach Martin challenged me,” Cohen said. “We went on the road and I wasn’t there for the squad, so I knew coming into [Saturday] I had to be there for my guys.”

As the Minutemen finished the game with 52 points in the paint, it was clear to see where the improvement came from. Over their previous two games, they scored 56 points in the paint in total.

“The bottom line is we scored at the rim, scored at the rim, scored at the rim, scored at the rim,” Martin said. “That eventually collapsed [Lowell’s defense]. That breaks your spirit, man.”

“I’m a play-at-the-rim guy,” he added. “I think every team that wins plays at the rim-out, not out-in, and there’s different ways of playing at the rim, driving the ball, cutting and posting. We’re doing all three phases.”

When UMass can get the ball under the basket and score at will, it becomes a difficult team to stop, especially when it turns defense into offense consistently like on Saturday.

Cohen’s defensive effort of two blocks, four steals and improved ball-screen defense helped in that department as well. The Minutemen got 11 steals and forced 16 turnovers in the game, generating 21 points off turnovers.

“I mean, no one’s kind of challenged me like coach [Martin] has defensively,” Cohen said. “When I first came here, my first practice, I knew it was going to be a different story.”

UMass scored 1.23 points per possession against the River Hawks. When the Minutemen’s frontcourt can do this much damage in the paint, it gets a whole lot harder to beat them.

“It’s hard to [guard Cohen without someone his size],” UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette said. “He’s a big kid and he knows how to use his body; he’s got great footwork … And he’s a good passer too, so there’s no easy answer.

“I think he’s going to have a really good year in the Atlantic 10. I think he’ll require other teams to game plan to stop him and maybe even double team, I think he’s that good.”

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

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