UMass opens A-10 play today at Bonnies

  • C.J. Anderson, right, and the UMass men’s basketball team opens up league play today at 2:30 in Olean, N.Y. against a tough St. Bonaventure team. Recorder file photo

For The Recorder
Friday, December 29, 2017

Even in a down year for St. Bonaventure, visiting the Reilly Center isn’t usually a fun experience for visiting teams.

This isn’t a down year for the Bonnies.

The St. Bonaventure team hosting UMass, today at 2:30 p.m., is riding high, as both teams begin Atlantic 10 play.

UMass coach Matt McCall said everybody came back on time from the short Christmas break, and he liked their approach.

“I’ve been pleased with their effort. Nobody has been complacent,” he said. “You took three days off and now you come back staring down the barrel of a shotgun of the Atlantic 10 schedule. We’re trying to reprogram ourselves from presents and cookies to being ready to go.”

UMass left Thursday afternoon to get its players a chance to get acclimated at St. Bonaventure.

The Bonnies are 10-2 overall and 6-0 in games in which senior standout Jaylen Adams has played. St. Bonaventure has won seven straight games, capped by last week’s 60-57 overtime win at Syracuse. St. Bonaventure has outscored opponents by more than 10 points (75.5-65.2).

“It’s a tremendous challenge,” McCall said. “Probably the two best guards we’ve played all year in one of the best environments in our league. We have our work cut out for us.”

Adams is averaging 18.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

“He’s probably the toughest guard I’ve played since I’ve been in college,” UMass sophomore Luwane Pipkins said. “He’s efficient. It’s hard to speed him up. We have to guard him as a team.”

Combined with Matt Mobley, the Bonnies feature the league’s best backcourt. Mobley, a Worcester native, averages 17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Pipkins said he was attentive to his balky back while he was home for Christmas.

“It’s doing better. I did a lot of resting, a lot of icing,” he said. “When it’s go time, it’s go time.”

FAMILIAR FACES — Had things gone a little differently, Adams and UMass associate coach Cliff Warren might be enjoying the guard’s senior year in a much warmer climate.

Adams, a Baltimore native, had initially committed to Jacksonville out of high school when Warren was the head coach. But when he was let go, Adams re-opened his recruiting and landed in Olean.

Warren isn’t surprised to see Adams among the favorites for Atlantic 10 player of the year.

“It was just a matter of the natural maturation process. His work ethic is phenomenal,” Warren said. “He was always going to have success.”

Warren remains friendly with Adams and roots for him most of the time.

“I’m very proud of him. I’m very happy for him. I cheer for him,” Warren said. “I will not be cheering for him on Saturday.”