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UMass finally gets a win, beats Duquesne 73-64

  • University of Massachusetts junior guard Carl Pierre, center, puts his arms around freshmen Tre Mitchell, left, and Sean East II after Mitchell was fouled on a basket against Duquesne in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts sophomore forward Samba Diallo (5) beats Marcus Weathers of Duquesne to the ball in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts redshirt junior guard Keon Clergeot, right, looks for an opening under Sincere Carry of Duquesne in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts junior guard Carl Pierre, right, gets past a press by Tavian Dunn-Martin of Duquesne in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman Preston Santos, left, guards Ashton Miller of Duquesne in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts sophomore forward Dibaji Walker shoots underneath pressure from Maceo Austin, right, of Duquesne in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshmen Preston Santos, center, and Kolton Mitchell, right, had their first career starts on Saturday as the Minutemen defeated Duquesne, 73-64, at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. At left is assistant coach Tony Bergeron. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts head coach Matt McCall shouts to his players in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over Duquesne at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman center Tre Mitchell reacts after Duquesne's Sincere Carry, right, was called for a hard elbow to Keon Clergeot, getting up from the floor just behind Mitchell, in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. At left is sophomore forward Dibaji Walker. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman center Tre Mitchell works around Baylee Steele, left, of Duquesne as Dukes head coach Keith Dambrot watches from the sideline in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over Duquesne at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman center Tre Mitchell takes a foul shot against Duquesne in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman center Tre Mitchell reacts after Duquesne's Sincere Carry was called for a hard elbow to Keon Clergeot, getting up from the floor just behind Mitchell, in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over the Dukes at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. At left is sophomore forward Dibaji Walker. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts head coach Matt McCall shouts to his players in the first half of the Minutemen's 73-64 win over Duquesne at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2020 9:41:33 PM
Modified: 1/25/2020 9:41:19 PM

AMHERST — There was definitely something missing from UMass over the last two months of the season.

The Minutemen had dropped 12 of 14 games since their 5-0 start, and it was clear that they weren’t the same team in December and January that they were in November. For one day at least, UMass was able to recapture the magic of those first few weeks of the season and deliver the biggest win of the year to the Mullins Center.

From the opening tip Saturday, UMass brought a different energy and effort to the game both on and off the court for the entire 40 minutes. And even though there were some perilous moments late, the Minutemen produced arguably their most spirited performance of the season in a 73-64 win over Duquesne.

“It felt like one of the first five games,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “Everybody was into it, nobody was into themselves, even the guys who didn’t start the game. I felt that the whole game. ... To start the second half, I turned around and screamed ‘tell them to tell us to sit down again’ because we’ve been missing that.”

McCall set the tone before the game even began with his starting lineup selections around the core of Samba Diallo, Tre Mitchell and Carl Pierre. The third-year coach gave freshmen Kolton Mitchell and Preston Santos their first career starts, electing to send out a defense-first lineup to start the game. That decision sent a message to the players about how UMass (8-12, 2-5 Atlantic 10) wanted to play Duquesne (15-4, 5-2) and focused the Minutemen on the task at hand.

“They threw four of our better defenders in our lineup, so we knew that going in and we knew to be aggressive and cause adversity for Duquesne,” Tre Mitchell said. “Us just coming out strong and throwing that first punch really set the tone.”

The game was won on the defensive end for UMass, which held Duquesne to just 36.7 percent shooting, the second-lowest percentage an opponent has shot against the Minutemen this season. It was the effort and energy on defense that allowed the Minutemen to lead 32-30 at halftime despite shooting 27.8 percent from the field in the first half. It helped keep Duquesne to 30.4 percent shooting in the second half before a late surge when the game was basically over.

With his lineup choice, McCall said he wanted to get back to being an attacking defense and be less passive, especially in the half court. It showed as the Minutemen flew around more, contesting almost every shot and pushing the Dukes deep into the shot clock on most of their possessions.

“We went back to being more aggressive in the half court and less back on our heels, and that’s the way we have to play,” McCall said. “We got knifed up late in the game against Akron and as a staff we were like ‘are we hurting Tre by asking him to sprint out there and half-blitz pick-and-rolls?’ But we need to get back to being aggressive, especially in the half court.”

Tre Mitchell was a one-man offensive show for the Minutemen for the first 14 minutes, scoring 17 of his game-high 25 points before another UMass player not named Pierre made a shot from the field. But as Duquesne took Mitchell out of the game, the Minutemen found some secondary scoring options to take the reins in the second half. Diallo and Santos – who both finished with double-doubles – combined for 22 points and 17 rebounds in the second half to spark the Minutemen.

The duo almost put the game away for UMass in a nearly four-minute stretch toward the end of the second half. The Minutemen clung to a three-point lead when Diallo made two free throws then Santos ripped off seven straight points as part of a 9-2 run to extend the lead into double digits for the first time. During that span, Diallo had two rebounds, a block and an assist while Santos added two rebounds in addition to his scoring.

“I just kept a positive mindset even if things were going wrong on defense or on offense if we weren’t making shots,” Santos said. “Carl told me ‘just hoop, don’t really stress it, don’t really think about it’ and that’s usually when players are at their best when they don’t stress it and just keep playing.”

Diallo and Santos really shined in rebounding, accounting for nearly half of UMass’ 52 rebounds. The Minutemen entered the game as the worst team in the Atlantic 10 in rebounding margin, and even their 18-point advantage against the Dukes wasn’t enough to move them out of the cellar. However, it didn’t look that way Saturday as the Minutemen sent four or five players to the glass on most shots and scrapped their way to team rebounds by poking and deflecting missed shots into the paths of teammates.

“(Friday), the first thing we did was work on a rebounding drill,” Santos said. “The past teams that we’ve played most of their guys crashed the boards and we needed to learn from that. We knew that right from the jump they weren’t boxing out, so we were like we can go get these rebounds both offensively and defensively. They were just caught watching as the shot went up and we just seized the opportunity.”




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