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Minutemen prep for Bulldogs

  • UMass' Unique McLean dribbles the ball against Holy Cross earlier this season. Recorder file photo

  • UMass' Luwane Pipkins, center, goes in for a shot under pressure from Holy Cross' Patrick Benzan, left, and Jehyve Floyd earlier this season. Recorder file photo



For The Recorder
Friday, December 15, 2017

AMHERST — Coming off UMass’ biggest win of both the season and his tenure as the coach, Matt McCall wanted to make sure his players weren’t satisfied.

“That’s the biggest concern. We confronted that when we got back in the gym Monday. For the past 48 hours everyone is telling us how great we are,” said McCall, whose Minutemen upset Providence Saturday. “The bottom line is we’re 5-5. What won us the game Saturday was our edge. When we don’t have that, we’re an average at best team.”

He said that edge will be essential if the Minutemen want to follow one big victory with another. They face Georgia, today at 3 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

“We have to have that edge. Our margin of error is smaller because of our lack of bodies. It was a big win, but now we have to get back to work. If we’re fat, we’re happy and we’re satisfied that’s a recipe to get beat,” McCall said. “The only way you beat a team like Georgia is if you have the right mindset, the right focus, the right mentality.”

He liked his team’s approach in practice despite being in the midst of final exams.

“Our guys have been good this week,” McCall said. “They’ve come ready to work.”

Saturday’s game is part of a football/basketball scheduling deal that features a football game next year in Athens, Georgia, and a home-and-home basketball series.

The Bulldogs arrive in Amherst at 7-1. They opened the season with four straight wins over low majors before falling to a solid San Diego State team.

They bounced back to beat St. Mary’s, which was ranked No. 21 at the time, Marquette and Winthrop.

“Coach (Mark) Fox’s teams don’t beat themselves. They don’t turn the ball over. They run good offense,” McCall said. “They won on the road at Marquette so they’re not going to be intimidated by playing on the road.”

Senior Yante Maten figures to be handful for UMass. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 18.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots.

Junior point guard William Jackson II averages 12.5 points and 4.0 assists, and is the team’s most prolific 3-point shooter (17-for-42, 40.5 percent).

MAROON PANTS MOVEMENT — It could have been the maroon suit movement.

When McCall was getting fitted by Dressed to the Nines, a Connecticut haberdashery, the clothier asked him what he thought of getting a full suit in UMass’ primary color. McCall didn’t think that was for him, but liked the idea of maroon pants.

It didn’t occur to him then or when he put the pants on last week that the pants were part of anything other than his outfit.

But athletic director Ryan Bamford, who puts a fair amount of emphasis on his own clothing, saw a promotional opportunity in McCall’s pants.

Bamford, who tweeted about the pants before and after the game, said on Twitter that he’d donate $1 to the Court Club, the men’s basketball program’s booster organization, for every fan who arrived in sweats, knickers, bloomers, slacks, jeans or any other leg wear similar in color to McCall’s:

“I will personally donate $1 for every fan that comes to the Mullins Center wearing maroon pants & checks in at our fan experience table to be counted. An extra $250 if attendance 5k. Anyone else want to make a pledge?”

Prominent donor John Kennedy, the namesake of the practice facility, and Five College Movers each agreed to match Bamford’s $1 per pant-wearer promise.

Five College Movers added a wrinkle pledging $500 extra if Jim Hunt, an Amherst dentist and passionate courtside amateur referee evaluator, agreed to wear maroon and white striped overalls.

That’s expected to occur as Five College Movers tweeted a photo of the dentist in candy-cane colored clothing.

As the week progressed, UMass announced $10 tickets for anyone in maroon pants and a contest for the best/most outrageous maroon pants.

“I’m not one to draw a lot of attention to myself,” McCall said. “But anytime you can get fans excited and get more people in the stands, I’m all for it.”