AMHERST, MASS. — Usually a team’s lack of depth becomes exposed over the course of a season, as fatigue sets in and injuries add up. But just four games into the season, the men’s basketball team’s bench has proven to be more limited than lengthy.
Charged with three fouls in the first 10 minutes of the Wake Forest game last Monday, center Dominick Martin ’06 sat out the rest of the half on the bench. Like any top-ranked team, the Demon Deacons recognized the shift in momentum and went for the jugular. Over the remainder of the half, Wake’s big men took over in the paint, outscoring the Eli forwards 18-0. Playing much of the second half with three or four fouls, Martin and forward Sam Kaplan ’07 were forced to temper their aggression in the low post and Wake Forest answered with mostly high-percentage shots and a staggering 47-30 rebounding advantage.
Yesterday, a younger UMass frontcourt combined for 41 points as the Minutemen marched to a 70-56 victory over the Elis. Without foul trouble as a possible scapegoat and despite a career-high 23 points from Martin, the Bulldogs’ lack of frontcourt depth was fully exposed.
“As the big men, we crushed them on the glass,” said UMass center Rashaun Freeman, who scored 21 points.
The UMass foursome down low, made up of two sophomores and two freshmen, dominated the boards 27-12, out-rebounding Martin, Kaplan and reserves Juan Wheat ’06 and Dexter Upshaw ’06. Over the past two games, the Eli frontcourt players have been out-rebounded by their counterparts 52-22.
But as 5-foot-11 UMass guard Anthony Anderson showed, getting rebounds, like winning games, is not all about the big men. Anderson ended the contest with a game-high 13 rebounds.
“[The team] lacked the effort and desire that you need to win a basketball game,” captain Alex Gamboa ’05 said.
Using balanced inside and outside scoring, the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 15-9 lead. But a defensive shift by the Minutemen threw off the Bulldogs for the rest of the game.
“They switched up to a [2-3] zone and we did not handle it well,” head coach James Jones said. “We had opportunities to go inside and we didn’t do that.”
The Elis also had opportunities from the outside, but Gamboa and Edwin Draughan ’05, who had been leading the team in scoring with an average of 16.3 points per game each, managed to combine for only 16 points. Wingmen Casey Hughes ’07 and Caleb Holmes ’08 were ice-cold, scoring on only two of 13 attempts, which amounted to a meager 15 percent from the field. Jones expressed particular disappointment in the play of guards Gamboa and Draughan down the stretch, when the Elis drew within 12 points with 4:30 remaining in the game.
“I think [Gamboa and Draughan] kind of shut themselves down,” Jones said. “I don’t think they played up to their capabilities. I don’t know how much [the UMass defense] had to do with that as opposed to their shot selection and their energy and their passion to play the game.”
With November gone and only one win to their credit, the Bulldogs face the prospect of relying on an unlikely source: underclassmen.
“They are going to get thrown in to the fire anyway [in league play],” Hughes said after the Wake Forest game. “These players have to play; we don’t have anybody else.”