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Minutemen host Dowling in exhibition

It’s just an exhibition game. Regardless of what happens, Saturday’s match-up isn’t going to make a difference and the statistics aren’t going to count.

But after nearly losing to Dowling in 2008, Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg’s first game as a head coach, he wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Last year, the Minutemen pulled off a 91-87 victory over the Golden Lions, as guard David Seagers put up 32 points while keeping his team in the game.

“They played us really tough last year,” Kellogg said, and isn’t sure if the match-up the second time around will be any easier.

UMass was supposed to play a closed-door scrimmage against Boston University last Saturday, but several Terriers came down with influenza, and Kellogg didn’t want to risk his players getting sick.

However, Kellogg wanted his team to play someone other than themselves before playing in front of the Mullins Center crowd, and arranged a scrimmage with what he described as a “makeshift group of guys” on Thursday night.

According to NCAA rules, the scrimmage cannot be seen by the public or media, and no official scores or statistics can be kept, except for private use. But Kellogg sees the scrimmage as an opportunity to evaluate his players heading into the exhibition game.

“I think our guys are tired of going against each other every night,” Kellogg said.

One of the things Kellogg still wants out of his team is for it to improve it half-court defense. He also knows that just like last year, Dowling will play a zone defense, which is something the Minutemen aren’t used to playing.

Although Kellogg would like a better win than last year, he is also looking mostly at what his players can do, and how they react to different situations. He would like to play the entire bench, and try out different combinations to see which mix of players will make UMass more competitive by the regular season.

Kellogg will also look at the conditioning of his team, specifically the big men, in order to see how much he will need to shuffle his four frontcourt players [Hashim Bailey, Sean Carter, Raphiael Putney and Trey Lang] during games throughout the season.

That’s why, despite his feeling that his team isn’t ready, he expects Dowling to be a good challenge, especially with last year’s result.

Prior to last year’s game against the Golden Lions, Kellogg felt more comfortable with his team because of their experience. But with five freshmen, two transfer students and players who for one reason or another aren’t used to the Minutemen’s system, he doesn’t see this year’s team as ready for the regular season.

“I think we’ll be ready to play a game, but we won’t have half of our stuff in,” Kellogg said. “It will be kind of a work in progress. We won’t have our full-court man-to-man in, and we won’t have plays and sets in.”

The amount of preparation that UMass needed last year wasn’t quite as crucial because its first game was against Arkansas-Monticello, who the Minutemen beat 90-71.

This year, Kellogg and Co. face similar fortune in facing an inexperienced team, but a squad that is much more talented than UAM.  He feels that his team’s first game against Central Florida – who has six freshmen and two redshirt freshmen – is similar in style and readiness with his own team, and will be a good first opponent.

Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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