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Slow start dooms UMass

  • Minnesota forwards Davonte Fitzgerald (20) and Michael Hurt (42) guard UMass guard C.J. Anderson (23) during the second half of Minnesota’s 69-51 win in the first game of the Barclay’s Center Classic Friday afternoon in Brooklyn, N.Y. AP Photo

  • UMass guard C.J. Anderson (23) goes to the basket against Minnesota forward Michael Hurt (42) and center Bakary Konate (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in New York. Minnesota won 69-51.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) AP Photo

  • UMass guard Unique McLean (4) drives to the basket against Minnesota guard Amir Coffey (5) and Minnesota center Bakary Konate (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) AP Photo

  • UMass guard Luwane Pipkins drives to the hoop against Minnesota guard Jamir Harris during the Golden Gophers’ 69-51 win at the Steinberg Wellness Center Friday in Brooklyn, N.Y. AP Photo

  • Minnesota forward Jordan Murphy (3) drives to the basket against UMass forward Chris Baldwin (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) AP Photo



For The Recorder
Friday, November 24, 2017

NEW YORK — In its first game against a top-level opponent, new UMass basketball coach Matt McCall didn’t like how his team reacted.

The Minutemen made too many mistakes and missed too many shots, especially early, and fell to No. 14 Minnesota, 69-51, Friday at the Steinberg Wellness Center in the Barclays Center Classic.

“To beat a team as talented as that, you have to take care of the ball. You have to run good offense, take good shots and take care of the ball,” McCall said. “We did not do that at all in the first half. … I thought it was self-inflicted. I thought we took some quick, quick shots early in the clock. When you shoot quick and turn the ball over, that ignites them.”

UMass missed its first eight shots of the game and turned the ball over three times before its first basket, and fell behind 6-0.

Luwane Pipkins broke the ice 5 minutes, 47 seconds into the game with a driving layup starting a 6-0 run that tied the game. But the Golden Gophers scored the next nine points that ballooned into a 26-8 run that made it 32-14, and the Minutemen never threatened after that, as Minnesota pulled away.

“They’re a top-25 team in the country. It’s definitely a gut check game. You have to come in and set the tone in games like that. We didn’t (Friday), and that’s the result,” Pipkins said. “I don’t know what guys were thinking going into the game. We told everybody it’s going to be a big game. These guys aren’t going to lay down or take us lightly.”

Coming into the season, one of the biggest questions about UMass was if there was enough scoring on the roster to be competitive against good teams. Minnesota presented a difficult challenge right off, averaging 95.4 points per game. On top of that, there are ranked opponents that UMass can get a favorable size matchup inside against, but Minnesota isn’t one of them. The Minutemen did enough to keep the Gophers well below their scoring average, but couldn’t produce enough offensively to keep up.

The Minutemen had 15 turnovers and shot 21-for-65 overall (32.3 percent). They were worse from outside, making just 5-of-25 3-point attempts (20 percent).

“We were missing layups. Rashaan (Holloway) making post moves and missing jump hooks. C.J. (Anderson) was 1-for-7,” McCall said. “You can’t miss layups. You have to be able to finish to give yourself a chance.”

McCall singled out the positive efforts of Pipkins, who led UMass with 18 points, and Chris Baldwin, who had 8 points and 10 rebounds and was taking charges even when the game was out of reach.

“Some guys laid it on the line. I’m really proud of Chris Baldwin and the effort he had. I thought Luwane laid it on the line, but it can’t be just two guys that do that,” McCall said. “I thought we were timid. I thought we were scared at times.”

McCall was frustrated with Holloway, who had 6 points and 3 rebounds before fouling out.

“Rashaan Holloway is every bit as big as those guys. He’s got to understand that and make aggressive moves down in the post. We didn’t have enough of that (Friday).”

Jordan Murphy led Minnesota (6-0) with 16 points and 9 rebounds.

UMass (3-2) will face BYU, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center.

“We have to watch film, be focused and take care of our bodies tonight and come in focused and ready to play,” Pipkins said.