UMass January Recap

Hockey

Brianna Repetto (Cover photo from The Daily Collegian)

Welcome back students! It is officially the start of spring semester and your UMass Minutemen are still battling hard and holding on to the #1 spot in the Hockey East. The team also climbed to #7 in the rankings.

Let’s start by highlighting UMass’s not one, but two Hobey Baker Nominees, John Leonard and captain Mitchell Chaffee. Last year, I am sure you heard of Cale Makar, who was the first to win the award under Greg Carvel’s coaching. I say we should have back-to-back winners, and to vote for either of them, you can go to www.hobeybaker.com. Click on their picture and hit submit; it’s that simple. Don’t forget to tell everyone you know, your parents, siblings, roommates, random strangers, doesn’t matter; anyone and everyone is eligible to vote! 

Now for the games. The Minutemen defeated Maine back-to-back in the beginning of December and then shut out Brown 4-0 with two goals by Oliver Chau, a goal by John Leonard, and another by Reed Lebester. The Minutemen went on to beat Rensselaer 5-3 in late December, with Matt Murray saving 20 shots throughout the night, increasing his record to 8-1-0 in his games played. The Minutemen had some trouble in Denver, but came back to Massachusetts determined to win. Unfortunately for Boston College, that meant they were going to fall victim in a 3-1 loss. UMass then faced Boston College a second night and fell to BC 6-3 after a hard fought game. Not letting this loss discourage them, the Minutemen went back on the road a few days later to Vermont, where they absolutely destroyed their opponent in back-to-back games. The first game was a 4-0 shutout, including Mitchell Chaffee’s first career hat trick, scoring in every period. The following night, the Minutemen won again by a score of 3-1 with goals by John Leonard, Jake McLaughin, and Matthew Kessel. Safe to assume Vermont fans didn’t show up to the second game after they lost so bad the first time. 

Despite a huge turnout Friday night against New Hampshire, the Minutemen struggled to get on the board and fell 1-0. Nevertheless, I don’t think the New Hampshire goalie, Mike Robinson, will ever be the same after the chants that were thrown his way. From “Robinson breaks into preschools and tells little kids that Santa isn’t real” to “Robinson doesn’t respect women,” he was obliterated by the UMass faithful despite keeping the Minutemen off the board. The Minutemen did somewhat avenge their loss on Saturday and tied New Hampshire 1-1. Be at Mullins this Friday night when UMass takes on #5 Boston College for the third highly anticipated game at 7 pm! Welcome back and GO UMASS! 

Women’s Basketball

By: Freeman Alfano

Thom Kendall, UMass Athletics

The UMass Women’s basketball team has been on fire as of late, as highlighted by an 11-game winning streak from the end of November through mid-January. During this streak, the team let up just over 55 points per game, which would be good for 24th in the country if stretched over the course of the season. 

The biggest key to the team’s recent success has been Penn State transfer Sam Breen. The Minutewomen’s newest frontcourt addition has averaged over 16 points per game on 45 percent shooting from beyond the arc while starting just once (yesterday’s game against Richmond). UMass is 5-1 when Breen scores in double-digits, with the team’s only loss in those games coming by just three points.

The team’s best and most consistent scorer this season has been Hailey Leidel. The Minutewomen wing is leading the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game, and the team is 13-1 when she scores over 15 points. She has scored in single digits just three times this season, and her season-low in scoring was just seven points in the team’s opener against Merrimack. 

Senior guard and captain Vashnie Perry has been a huge reason for the team’s solid play on both ends of the floor. She leads the team in assists and is tied for the team lead in steals with 35 on the season. When Perry has five or more assists in a game, the Minutewomen have a record of 5-1.  

One of the biggest factors to the team’s overall play has been their affinity for forcing turnovers. Leidel, Perry, Destine Philoxy, and Bre Hampton-Bey have each had over 29 steals this season, combining for an average of 1.68 steals per game each. 

Despite their recent success, however, the Minutewomen are just fourth in the A-10 Conference because of VCU and Dayton’s undefeated conference play. The team recently lost to VCU, but has yet to play Dayton and Davidson, both of whom are above UMass in the conference standings.

Up next for the Minutewomen is a road matchup against conference foe Davidson on Sunday, and a win could be pivotal for the UMass’s standing in the A10. That game will be followed by a trip to George Mason next Wednesday until UMass returns home on Saturday to take on Fordham. 

Men’s Basketball

By: Freeman Alfano

J. Anthony Roberts, The Republican

The months of December and January were not kind to the Massachusetts Men’s Basketball team. In the last two months, the Minutemen are 4-9 with five of those losses coming by double-digits. However, they let two games slip away, as they were 0-2 in overtime games in December and January. They also just beat Saint Joseph’s yesterday by scoring a season-high 91 points, including a season-high of 24 from sophomore transfer Dibaji Walker.

One of the biggest blows for the team was losing freshman bench standout TJ Weeks, who was ruled out for the remainder of the season on December 12 after undergoing abdominal surgery. Despite not starting a game for the Minutemen, Weeks was averaging just below 15 points per game at the time of his injury while hitting over 48% of his threes.

Another dent on the team’s depth was forward Sy Chatman’s decision to enter the transfer portal in mid-December. Despite missing the first few games of the season due to personal reasons, Chatman was a projected starting forward for the Minutemen who could provide versatility at the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. We wish him the best wherever he ends up playing next season and beyond. 

Despite the team’s losses both on and off the court, there were some positives to take away from this rough patch. The biggest of those has been the ever-improving play of freshman center Tre Mitchell, who is currently fifth in Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring at 15.8 points per game. Over his last 10 games, Mitchell has averaged 19.3 points, which would be tied for third in the A-10 conference if done over the course of the season. This recent stretch by Mitchell was highlighted by a stellar performance against Saint Bonaventure when he scored a career-high 28 points on 58% shooting.

After Weeks went down, junior guard Carl Pierre has picked up the team’s scoring output as a solid second option. Pierre has four 20-point games over his last 10 contests and just one in single digits while shooting 42% from beyond the arc. In the overtime loss against Yale, the top Minuteman guard recorded a season-high 26 points while making eight threes in the process.

Over his last seven games, Samba Diallo has three double-doubles (with points and rebounds) despite never recording a double-double before in his collegiate career. The Minutemen are 2-1 in Diallo’s double-double performances and the only loss was by three points to Saint Louis in overtime.

Freshman guard Preston Santos replaced Sean East in the starting lineup on Saturday against Duquesne, and he did not disappoint. Santos more than doubled his previous career-high and finished the contest with 15 points en route to a much-needed UMass victory. The freshman made 75% of his shots in the game and recorded a career-high 12 rebounds, as well. 

Up next is a road matchup against A-10 opponent Davidson on Saturday followed by a trip to Rhode Island next Tuesday. UMass then returns to Mullins to take on George Mason next Saturday and build off their momentum at home.


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