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

Four UMass men’s basketball players earn A-10 end-of-season award

League recognizes Minutemen after 20-win season, double-bye berth
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2024)

Four players from the Massachusetts men’s basketball team were honored with a spot in the Atlantic 10 end-of-season awards. With its dominant frontcourt duo of Josh Cohen and Matt Cross both earning All-Conference First Team selections, UMass was the only team in the league with two players in the First Team.

Joining Cohen and Cross in the league’s end-of-season recognition were junior guard Rahsool Diggins and freshman guard Jaylen Curry. Diggins was named the A-10 Co-Most Improved Player of the Year, while Curry made the conference’s All-Rookie Team.

“When your team is able to have a good season and achieve things that haven’t been achieved for a while, your players individually get respected and celebrated,” UMass coach Frank Martin said. “That’s the way it should be.”

After transferring from St. Francis in Pennsylvania where he was the Northeast Conference Player of the Year, Cohen made an immediate impact for the Minutemen. He led team in scoring with 16 points per game on 54.3 percent from the field, along with 6.9 rebounds per contest. Cohen scored over 20 points 11 times this season, including a season-high 28 points three different times.

Cross was one of just three returners for the Minutemen and expectations were high since preseason, when he was named a preseason All-Conference Third Team selection. Cross more than met those expectations, quickly establishing himself as one of the best players in the league. He stuffed the stat sheet with 15.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals per game — and did so efficiently, on 55.1 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free throw line.

Cross was UMass’ soul and identity as a tough, skilled and hardworking player who couldn’t be stopped in the paint. He led the team in rebounds, assists, steals, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. He put together one of the best performances by a Minuteman in a win against Siena, scoring 24 points, nine rebounds, five assists and eight steals.

The duo of Cohen and Cross worked together to perfection from the start. Cross is the versatile four-man who can shoot, dribble-drive, rebound and pass, while Cohen is a prolific interior scorer who can pass out of double teams. Both have developed a dangerous interior game together with high-low actions and Cohen finding Cross cutting to the basket. Each of them had five double-doubles on the season.

“When Josh came on his official visit, him and Matt hit it off,” Martin said. “There’s a synergy between them on the court. I saw it [earlier in the year in practice] and in Puerto Rico. They complement each other. One guy has the [mindset] to go fight a grizzly bear, one guy has the enthusiasm that even when the grizzly bear gets you, that you can get up and get the chance to do it again.”

Diggins shared the Co-Player of the Year award with Richmond’s Dji Bailey. UMass’ guard improved from 4.7 points a game last year to 12.6 this year; he went from shooting 29.9 percent from three and 36 percent from the free throw line last year, to 36.6 percent from deep and 78 percent from the line this season. Diggins led the team in minutes and became the team’s third leading scorer, adding crucial perimeter shooting for a group that otherwise lacks it. He scored double-digit points in 16 of UMass’ final 19 games, including a career night of 25 points and five assists with no turnovers in a win over George Washington.

Between Cross, Diggins and Keon Thompson — who also had a fantastic campaign — it’s clear that UMass’ three returners made the difference this season and their decision to stay paid off.

With eight freshmen in the squad, Curry was the one who stood out the most. He was UMass’ leading bench contributor and only other true point guard outside of Thompson. Curry often struggled to shoot efficiently, but he was a valuable scoring option who can create his own shot and knock down high-difficulty jumpers. He averaged 7.6 points and 2.1 assists per game, largely thanks to his increased production in conference play after adapting to life in Amherst: Curry opened the A-10 campaign by scoring double-digit points in six out of the first eight conference games.

Behind those players’ contributions, the Minutemen earned their first automatic berth into the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals since 2008. On Thursday, March 14 at the Barclays Center, UMass will face the winner of VCU against the No. 12/No. 13 seed.

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

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