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 men’s basketball continues to rebound at high level

Minutemen finish with 18 offensive rebounds in victory over George Mason
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

Long rebounds, short rebounds, scrambles on the floor. The Massachusetts men’s basketball team attacked the glass in all forms Saturday, and the team’s ability to get rebounds was a major reason why they took down George Mason.

“I preach it, man,” head coach Frank Martin said. “It’s been a staple of my career from my high school days.”

“Every good player I’ve ever been around rebounds the ball,” he added. “We preach it, we coach it. It’s taught, it’s not by mistake. There’s technique that we show.”

Rebounding has been arguably UMass’ (14-7, 5-4 A-10) biggest strength under Martin. After Saturday’s contest, the Minutemen now rank 10th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, rebounding 37.6 percent of their missed shots. They also rank just outside the top 50 nationally in rebounds per game, snagging 38.9 per contest.

Still, Saturday marked one of the Minutemen’s best performances on the glass all season. Against the Patriots (15-7, 4-5 Atlantic 10), UMass finished with 40 rebounds. Of those 40, 18 were offensive boards, one of the team’s highest outputs yet.

While all 18 were important for UMass, one of the most crucial offensive rebounds took place late in the contest. Up three with a minute and a half to play, the Minutemen were taking the air out of the ball. After working around the perimeter, a kick-out pass from Keon Thompson ended up in Rahsool Diggins’ hands, and the junior took a three from the center of the arc.

Diggins missed, but within a scrum of bodies from both teams, all it took was one hand from Matt Cross. That one hand tapped the ball back out to Diggins, and it led to a possession that took 13 more seconds off the clock, further limiting the Patriots’ opportunities to score.

While Mason entered Saturday with the conference’s leading rebounder in Keyshawn Hall, the sophomore finished with just four boards. The Patriots as a whole were outrebounded by 14, giving UMass their second-highest rebounding margin of 2023-24.

“This is what they do,” Mason head coach Tony Skinn said. “They shoot it, and their best offense then starts. They go to the glass.”

“I got to call coach Martin and ask him for some drills… there can’t be a more physical team than UMass.”

The Minutemen’s success on the glass starts with Matt Cross. The senior has battled for rebounds since he arrived in Amherst a season ago, and the wing led the team again Saturday with nine boards. Saint Francis transfer Josh Cohen has been a strong rebounder as well, with the senior using his 6-foot-10, 220-pound frame to get good positioning when shots go up.

Past the starting frontcourt, Daniel Hankins-Sanford and Jayden Ndjigue have stepped up to raise the ceiling of UMass’ rebounding unit. At 6-foot-8 and 233 pounds, Hankins-Sanford uses his stocky build to wrestle through opponents and snag errant balls.

Meanwhile, Ndjigue has been the ultimate glue guy for the Minutemen. Despite his inexperience, the freshman makes his presence felt in all facets of the game, leading to stuffed stat sheets. Against Mason, Ndjigue finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists.

“Our coaches are very big on crashing the glass and getting second-chance opportunities for the rest of our team,” Ndjigue said. “We haven’t gone a day where they haven’t made that a priority.”

For Martin, it doesn’t take much research to see that offensive rebounding has indeed been one of the coach’s priorities. In 17 years of head coaching, a Frank Martin-led basketball team has never finished below 67th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In five years at Kansas State, Martin’s Wildcats never finished below eighth. UMass finished 20th in the nation in the stat last season, and with more of Martin’s recruits now on the roster, the team has only gotten better in the metric.

Next up for the Minutemen is St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, a team that’s a little stingier in preventing teams from getting to the offensive glass. In a hostile away environment, getting second chances will once again be key for a UMass victory.

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

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