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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Men’s basketball starts out with high hopes after disappointing 2013-14 season

Benabicha+and+the+rest+of+the+Beacons+hope+to+improve+on+their+6-20+mark+from+a+year+ago
Benabicha and the rest of the Beacons hope to improve on their 6-20 mark from a year ago

Getting a team to work as a collective group isn’t always the easiest task.
The University of Massachusetts Boston Men’s Basketball team experienced that challenge a year ago, when the team finished the 2013 season with a 6-20 record after suffering a season-ending 61-55 loss to top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State in the quarterfinals of the Little East Conference Tournament.
After last year’s turbulent season, the Beacons were eager to return to the hardwood on Nov. 18, when they traveled to New London, NH, to open their season with a non-conference matchup at Colby-Sawyer, which they won, 75-62. They then followed that victory up with two more, an 86-58 thumping of Suffolk and a 97-76 blowout of Newbury. With three wins already, the guys are already halfway to matching their 2013-14 win total.
“We’ve been working out with Geoff Ebbs, our strength and conditioning coach, since the first week of the fall semester,” said junior guard Omar Benabicha. “The team is definitely in sync with one another because we all have a year under our belt. Last year was the first year most of us had played with each other, and we have gained the chemistry to become a very good team moving forward.”
When the Beacons took the floor for their season debut, the team returned three of its four leading scorers from a year ago. Alongside Benabicha, who averaged 9.4 points as a sophomore, UMass Boston returns its leading scorer, senior forward Carl Joseph (17.8 points) and senior guard Gregory Young, who averaged 9.9 points last season.
Benabicha said he expects Joseph, who started 21 of the team’s 26 games in 2013, to be a force in the paint for opposing LEC teams.
“My first year playing with Carl was last year,” Benabicha said of his teammate. “I was so impressed with what he can do. He can shoot from about anywhere on the court and he’s easily the most athletic player in our conference. I expect him to continue to be one of the best players in the conference and have a repeat monster year.”
Joseph, Benabicha, and Young aren’t the only contributors returning in 2014 however, as the team also returns senior guard Luc Ulysse and junior forward Selim Omerovic, both of whom started some games for the Beacons a year ago. Also returning for the blue and black is senior forward Steven McGuire, who will help Joseph man the paint for the team.
The Beacons will also count on some newcomers to help lead the team in 2014, Benabicha said.
“I really like our freshman class,” he said. “From the two guards, Fred Epps and Iwan Indraprasto, who provide great ball handling and tenacious defense, to our lone freshman forward, Gabriel Pereira, who has great athleticism and a great upside — they will be really good in the future.”
Despite winning three of their first four games a season ago, UMass Boston struggled down the stretch, losing 14 of the final 15 games. One thing which hindered the team more than anything else was their inability to win within the LEC, as the Beacons fell in all 14 of their conference match-ups.
The team’s struggles didn’t stem from a lack of effort, though. On Jan. 18, the Beacons lost an overtime heartbreaker to LEC foe Western Connecticut State, 95-91. Three days later, the guys suffered another tough loss when they fell to UMass Dartmouth, 80-74, on Jan. 21.
Even though coach Charlie Titus’s squad was able to compete against its conference foes a year ago, Benabicha said that won’t be acceptable in 2014.
“Not winning any conference games was embarrassing,” he said. “Last year, we just didn’t know how to win because of how young and inexperienced we were. But I think that will be the ultimate motivation for us to prove to people that was not the type of team we are this year.”
In the LEC quarterfinal tilt against Eastern Connecticut State, UMass Boston took a step towards the right direction, despite having its season end. Carrying the eighth seed in the tournament, the Beacons led the tournament’s No. 1 team by as many as 11 points in the first half. Eastern Connecticut came back, though, to end their season.
While the loss was unsatisfactory to the Beacons because it was their last game of the 2013 season, Benabicha said it opened the teams’ eyes and proved it can compete against the best the LEC has to offer.
“The loss was very disappointing but it was more bittersweet,” the forward said. “It was at their place and it showed that we have the talent to play with anyone in the conference. It fueled us, because it gave us the confidence that we needed to work much harder in the offseason to compete for the LEC title this year.”
The Beacons will next play at home on Friday, Nov. 28, against the College of St. Joseph’s/