ASSAU, Bahamas - The UMass men's basketball team got off to a spectacular start in its five-game Bahamas training trip, with a dominating 128-59 win over the Explorers on Friday night at D.W. Davis Gym. The Minutemen played numerous line-ups and outpaced the professional club team with its size and strength. Senior Stephane Lasme led the way with 26 points as six Minutemen scored in double-figures.
Newcomer junior Gary Forbes and senior Rashaun Freeman each had 18 points while senior Brandon Thomas had 17 points. Off the bench, senior James Life canned five 3-pointers for 15 points while junior Dante Milligan had 14 points.
The Minutemen used a stifling defense to outscore the Explorers 65-21 in the second half with equally substantial margins in the third (32-11) and fourth (33-10) quarters.
UMass had 17 dunks in the game and scored the majority of its points in the paint. Freshman point guard Tiki Mayben showed off his brilliance in his UMass debut with many sparkling passes late in the game.
The Minutemen wore down the Explorers and continued to show their power inside as they outscored the Bahamanian team, 32-11, in the third quarter to build a commanding 95-49 lead after 30 minutes. Milligan was impressive in the quarter scoring eight points including back-to-back dunks and three consecutive baskets to make it 88-47 late in the period. Lasme also had seven in the quarter.
UMass dominated the first half, taking a 63-38 lead at halftime. At intermission, Lasme had 15 points, Forbes 14 and Freeman 11.
Forbes and Lasme each scored nine points in the second quarter, outscoring the Explorers 29-19 in the 10-minute quarter. UMass controlled the paint with Lasme showing his power with several dunks.
UMass lead the game wire-to-wire opening with the Lasme basket to start the game. With the Minutemen leading 12-10, they went on an 11-0 run including a pair of 3-point field goals by James Life to take a 23-10 lead with less than 4:00 left in the first quarter.
After five points by the Explorers, UMass went on another run, 14-4 bridging into the second quarter to take a 38-19 at that point. Forbes scored six points in that spurt.
UMass continues its action on Saturday night as they take on the Crimestoppers at 6 p.m. at D.W. David Gym in the Bahamas.
ead Coach Travis Ford
On the win:
"It was an exciting way to play. With all things said and done, I was very excited about the accomplishments of our basketball team. I thought James Life passed the ball as well as I have ever seen him, he also made some nice plays attacking the basket. We had a chance to work on a lot of different rotations. When every player came out of the game they were excited for the other players. These are the things we are looking for; not necessarily how many we win by or who or competition is, there are a lot of things we can work on. I was very happy with our execution and unselfishness and the energy and excitement our guys played with. To watch how much fun they had to play with each other, obviously I was satisfied."
On the overall contributions of many players:
"With the style we are trying to play, as we talked about in our team meetings earlier today, the one word we are going to use is pressure on both ends of the court. We want to pressure the other team by bringing the ball up the court quickly and put pressure on their defense. We want to full-court press and do a lot of trapping. Pressure defense against their offense. I thought we were successful doing that which creates easy opportunities for Etienne Brower, Dante Milligan and these guys to make spectacular plays. It spreads the court out so much. Tomorrow is a new day, we don't want to get overly excited or overly confident. We are still and unproven basketball team. But, I enjoyed the atmosphere they played around tonight."
On the heat of the gym and different players playing different positions:
"We played 11 guys, Matt Pennie got to play. I rotated them pretty freely. I tried every combination. You saw Chris Lowe play with Tiki Mayben probably for 15 to 16 minutes, which is probably the minimum they are going to play together. They are going to play a lot more together. Etienne Brower played the four-spot. Gary Forbes played some four. We tried all kinds of combinations. We made shots, we made some 3-pointers, that was good to see. It doesn't matter who you are playing, you still have to put the ball in the hole. Overall, I was very pleased and very fun to watch."
R-Junior Gary Forbes
On the win
"The team we played was pretty good. They had a lot of quick guards so we were just focusing on trying to get a lot of deflections. We were trying to play in this new environment with the international rules."
On playing up-tempo
"That was one of the things that Coach Ford has been stressing. We are trying to get up and down and trying to be a fast-paced team getting up and down the court. This type of tempo really helps us a lot."
On playing so many combinations:
"The good thing about this team at UMass this year is that we have a lot of different line-ups which we can go to and try to get used to each other."
On UMass' overall performance:
"I would give us a B+. Some of the plays we ran, we did not execute them properly. We just have to get used to each other. That is what is perfect about this trip, we can try to get comfortable with each other."
On what adjustments will be made for Saturday's game:
"I think we break down the film and look at the turnovers. We need to execute our plays better and work on our pressure defense."
On the inside play of UMass:
"This was a small team we played against, so it was easy for Stephane and Ray to get easy buckets and rebound against them."
On the heat and humidity on the gym:
"It was not hard for me. I am used to playing in areas and conditions like this, playing in New York, playing the parks there. ... We could have played outside."
ASSAU, Bahamas -- Just over 100 people witnessed Tiki Mayben's first appearance in a University of Massachusetts uniform Friday, but those who did are likely to remember it.
The rookie point guard put on a show as the Minutemen rolled over the overmatched Explorers 128-59 at D.W. Davis Gymnasium.
The Minutemen could have played much worse and still won their first game in the Bahamas pretty easily. But the Minutemen's easy win did nothing to dampen the optimism surrounding their upcoming season.
The Explorers were athletic, but for the most part they weren't much more than a glorified men's recreation league team. The Minutemen exploited their considerable size advantage and dominated the glass on both ends. Stephane Lasme led the Minutemen with 26 points, while Rashaun Freeman added 18.
'I thought we played extremely hard for 40 minutes,' UMass coach Travis Ford said. 'I liked our style of play. We got into our press quickly. If we can press this team, we can press anybody. They weren't an overly talented team, but they were quick and athletic as anybody we're going to play.'
Mayben, who didn't play or practice last season, at times looked like he was trying to make up for the lost season's worth of good plays in one game. In the second half, and especially in the fourth quarter, he was brilliant. He threw no-look and behind-the-back passes that led to easy Minuteman layups and oohs and applause from an appreciative Bahamian crowd.
'It was fun,' Mayben said. 'We were off pace in the first half. But when we get it going, I don't think many people will be able to mess with us.'
Junior swingman Gary Forbes looked good in his first time in maroon and white after transferring from Virginia, showing off a variety of offensive skills. He made two early 3-pointers and scored by driving and posting up to finish with 18 points.
'It felt good to be out there after a year or so helping my teammates,' Forbes said. 'A game like that was good for our confidence to get used to playing with each other. We have a lot of depth and a lot of scoring.'
Six Minutemen reached double figures. Brandon Thomas had 17 points. James Life added 15 on five 3-pointers, while Dante Milligan added 14.
'I was very excited with how unselfish we were tonight,' Ford said. 'I loved all the passing.'
Ford said before the trip that he relished the idea of using these five games to experiment with lineup combinations. True to his word, he played the role of mad scientist throughout.
Ford started with a traditional unit by using Freeman, Lasme, Forbes, Thomas and Chris Lowe. But as the game progressed, Ford tried big and small lineups including an occasional four-guard look.
Ford said he planned to use Lowe and Mayben together often during the season, a trend he started Friday. Their quickness frustrated the Explorers into several turnovers.
'They played together a lot and I thought they did a great job,' Ford said.
LEARNING ON THE FLY -- The Minutemen didn't seem to struggle too much with the international rules. But with 4 minutes, 24 seconds remaining, Thomas dove on a loose ball and tried to call a time-out. The referee, who was looking right at him, didn't call it and eventually the Explorers tied up the ball. The ref smiled and said you can't do that in international play.
Ford learned too.
'Don't worry B.T. I didn't know that either,' Ford shouted across court.
IMPRESSIVE SLEEPING ACCOMMODATIONS -- The Minutemen are staying at the Atlantis Resort, a 14-acre complex that includes a casino, several restaurants, an upscale mall, a replica of a Mayan temple, and two water slides. It's the type of place that the Travel Channel would feature in a 30-minute show.
The players and coaches spent most of Friday morning exploring the resort.
NOT SO IMPRESSIVE PLAYING ACCOMMODATIONS ' The first two games are being played in a middle school gymnasium without air conditioning, creating a particularly hot atmosphere. The only ventilation in the building came from a series of holes along either wall.
The Minutemen will face the Crimestoppers at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. For more UMass coverage, including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports
|Note: Bahamas team rosters are unofficial, and game statistics were done by hand during the game. Every effort was made to record accurate stats, but may not be exact.|
at the D.W. Davis School
Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas
Watkins 4 2-2=8, Richardson 4 3-3=12, White 1 0-0=3, Lemon 6 0-0=13, Carter 5 1-4=12, Grey 1 4-6=6, Blue 0 0-0=2, Black 1 0-1=2, McGrady 1 0-0=2. TOTALS 23 10-16=59.
Score By Quarter
3-Pointers: UMass: Life 5, Thomas 1, Forbes 1. Explorers: White 1, Carter 1.