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Takeaways: UMass 89, AIC 76

Here are some takeaways from the Mullins Center as the UMass men's basketball team came away with an 89-76 exhibition victory over American International on Tuesday night.

The UMass men's basketball team came away with an 89-76 exhibition victory over AIC on Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy Cade Belisle/Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

Despite win, UMass looked sloppy: No one's expecting a finished, polished product in an exhibition preseason game, but it should be noted how sluggish the Minutemen looked throughout the contest.

UMass had seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game on its way to 17 for the night, and struggled from 3-point range and the free-throw line, going 3-for-19 from long range and 20-for-32 from the charity stripe. The Minutemen started the game 0-for-14 from deep before Trey Davis made one with 7:41 left in the game.

As expected, UMass coach Derek Kellogg was adamant about fixing those things quickly as the start of the season draws closer.

“It's right there, we just gotta fine-tune it. Less turnovers, make our free throws, the little, finer things of the game, and then all of a sudden I think we're a pretty good team,” he said. “Seventeen turnovers, that's us, that's being sloppy with the ball. (We went) 20-for-32 from the free-throw line and two of those were one-and-ones, that's like eight free points we gave away, and then 3-for-19 (from three). Step up and make a three. If it's open, shoot it. Make it. So, there's some things that we can improve on drastically and quickly.”

Minutemen thrive in three-guard lineup: The best lineup, by far, on the floor Tuesday night was the one that consisted of guards Derrick Gordon, Chaz Williams and Trey Davis, forward Maxie Esho and center Cady Lalanne. It was easy to see why.

The three-guard lineup is one that's more than suited for Kellogg's run-and-gun, fast-break offense, and it was on display against the Yellow Jackets. When Kellogg plugged in the aforementioned lineup with 7:34 left in the first half, the squad broke the game open, going on a 21-7 run until there were 28.8 seconds remaining until halftime. Kellogg briefly used the lineup again in the second half, and it unofficially finished with a plus/minus of +16. Expect to see a lot of this lineup this season.

Gordon plays well in debut: After more than a year of not playing a meaningful game of basketball after he transferred from Western Kentucky, Gordon started slow Tuesday in his first game as a Minuteman before really kicking it into gear.

The guard finished with 15 points, as he attacked the basket with aggression early and often. Gordon was also somewhat of a distributor, driving in the paint before occasionally dumping it off to an open man down low for an easy bucket. He finished with a game-high six assists.

“I just used this game to get the jitters out,” Gordon said. “I felt I could have a done a lot better, my free throws 3-for-6, had some crucial turnovers, but at the end of the day, I felt like I played good, though.

“I'm a slasher, so I feel like I can get to the rim at any time. And once the big men stepped up, I got a lot of assists to Cady, just dropping it off and things like that. I mean, my goal is just getting my teammates involved as much as I could, and not really worrying so much about scoring, and that's going to come. It showed out there (with) six assists.”

Putney gets into early foul trouble: A major theme of Raphiael Putney's career at UMass has been an inability to stay out of foul trouble. Last season alone, the swingman had four fouls or more in a game 10 times.

On Tuesday, Putney again got into foul trouble. He was whistled for his second foul just six minutes into the game and earned his fourth with 17:08 left in the second half. That meant, as expected, the senior's contributions were limited, as he played just 11 minutes and finished with four points and five rebounds.

“It's kind of a double-edged sword, because I thought he was doing the things we've asked him to do,” Putney said. “When we're good, he's in there batting stuff away and finishing around the rim, so he's just gotta figure out how to do this stuff we need him to do without getting into foul trouble.

“We gotta get more than 11 minutes out of him. He needs to give us close to a double-double every night if we're going to play UMass basketball.”

Freshmen step in: Demetrius Dyson was the first freshman off the bench for UMass on Tuesday, and Clyde Santee and Seth Berger eventually got minutes in garbage time late in the game. Dyson was the leader of the group, as he finished with six points in 11 minutes, and Kellogg was pleased with his performance.

“He's been the best in practice,” Kellogg said. “Demetrius is going to help us, the kid knows how to play. He's tough, he knows how to play, shoot. He's a good player. I mean, I think he has a chance to be a good player I should say, but I feel very confident in putting him in, actually sometimes ahead of the older guys.”

Player of the game: Sampson Carter. The senior filled out the stat sheet with a game-high 20 points in 20 minutes of work. He also tallied seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.

Up next: The Minutemen will now turn their attention to their highly-anticipated season opener against Boston College at TD Garden on Sunday at 3 p.m. Kellogg said he doesn't feel great, nor does he feel terrible after his team's 13-point win over AIC, but that it needs to get ready quickly for a difficult challenge that awaits.

“Now we're gonna get ready,” Kellogg said. “They gotta clamp down now and really get ready for, not just Boston College, but we go Boston College, LSU, Youngstown and then we go to Charleston. This is a daunting task for our team, a tough schedule. Come play every night and give yourself a chance to win.”

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