The trigger for the game-changing blitz, though subtle, was a statement by Sampson Carter that it was time to go to work and flex his muscles in the paint.
Four minutes into the second half of its season opener, the University of Massachusetts was staring at a 9-point deficit against Boston College at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.
Carter was still peeved with the coast-to-coast layup that he failed to convert with 23 seconds left in the first half. So he focused on finishing.
“I got down on myself for the [missed] layup,” he acknowledged.
Teammate Chaz Williams offered a few words to pep him up.
Utilizing all of his 6-foot-8-inch, 220-pound frame, the junior forward powered in a follow of a Maxie Esho miss, and drained the ensuing free throw. Next, he finished off a steal by Williams. Then the Winchendon School product finished off another BC turnover — credit Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon for the mid-air interception — with an emphatic dunk. And suddenly, the relentless Minutemen were back in the game.
By the time Carter and his mates had capped their 33-9 onslaught, unnerving the Eagles with ball pressure and dominating the glass at both ends, UMass was well on its way to an 86-73 victory in the second game of the Coaches vs. Cancer tripleheader with 6,037 in attendance.
While Carter (12 points, eight rebounds) provided the spark, his brother in the post, 6-10, 250-pound Cady Lalanne provided finish after finish around the basket, supplying a career-high 27 points, on 12-of-15 shooting, and 12 boards.
“The kid Lalanne absolutely demolished us on the boards,” said coach Steve Donahue, after watching his BC squad, now 0-2, get overpowered (44-27) on the glass.
“He kind of bull-rushed us. He has great desire. He plays hard as heck. He smelled blood and took advantage of it.”
His Eagles had seized their biggest cushion, 45-36, on a 3-point play by Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich four minutes into the second half.
But they had no answer for the Lalanne-Carter tandem, or the perimeter work of Williams, (20 points, 5 for 5 on treys), the 5-9 UMass wizard in the backcourt. “I was shooting with confidence, and the guys did a great job of finding me,” he said.
Lalanne, truly healthy for the first time in his UMass career after battling foot problems his first two seasons, and Carter, who took a redshirt season in 2011-12 with a balky hip, tag-teamed BC in the second half, combining for 29 points.
“Being in shape, that has helped my game a lot,” said Lalanne.
Carter said, “that’s my brother, we sat out together, we rehabbed [our injuries] together. To see him dominate like that. That’s what I expect from him. I am not surprised.”
His coach, Derek Kellogg, who cracked that the Minutemen posted up more against BC than they had in the previous two seasons, now wants to see that kind of effort from Lalanne on a consistent basis.
“I expect him to play like tonight just about every time out, maybe not 27 and 12, but with that ferocity,” said Kellogg, who has emphasized getting the ball inside this season.
“[BC] plays a [smaller] lineup, so he was the only true big guy on the floor. So that gave him an advantage. Now he has to build on this.”
Donahue still believes that his Eagles will be a good club. But there is work ahead, particularly on rebounding drills.
“There are things as a coach that you have to continually emphasize,” he said. “Ultimately, I did not emphasize this enough. This is the most important thing now. [The players] did not understand the importance of putting a body on someone, a forearm to the chest.”
And while junior Ryan Anderson (team-high 22 points, 15 in the first half) and sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan (19 points) had bursts at the offensive end, and Patrick Heckmann (11 points) was a contributor, there must be more balance.
“This is the second game in a row where we’ve had just two guys [scoring],” he said, referencing the season-opening 82-78 overtime loss at Providence Friday night. “We need four guys in double figures, that’s when we are at our best.
“I was real honest with the guys. But I have great confidence in this group.”
The Eagles are back on the court Thursday night, hosting Toledo. UMass, meanwhile, has no such luxury. Kellogg’s crew welcomes LSU to the Mullins Center as part of ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon Tuesday morning at 11.