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May 4, 2017

UMass loses in season opener at Central Florida

mhoopBFour of the five freshmen made their collegiate debuts against Central Florida Friday night, but Ricky Harris’ team-leading 15 points were not enough, as the Massachusetts basketball team lost its first season-opener since 2002, 84-67.

The Minutemen attempted a school-record 38 3-pointers in the game, including 25 in the first half and 13 in the second half, and only made 12 of them. UMass could not string offensive opportunities together, going just 33 percent from the floor while the Knights shot 55 percent on the game.

“Coming in [to halftime], I didn’t realize we had taken 25 3-pointers in the first half,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said after the game. “I don’t think I had really been with a team that had taken 25 in a whole game before. So we decided at halftime to stress to take [the ball] to the hole. Early on, we did a better job (in the second half). But, I guess we took 13 more in the second half. So we took 38 3’s, that’s a lot of 3’s. I think we have to do a better job of getting to the free-throw line and getting into the defense.”

Along with Harris, who scored in double-figures for the 69th time in his career, freshman Freddie Riley came off the bench and added 12 points, including four 3-pointers in 17 minutes. Redshirt junior forward Anthony Gurley had 14 points off the bench, while freshman Terrell Vinson had a team-high seven rebounds in his first collegiate game before fouling out.

The Knights’ defense shut down the Minutemen for most of the game, including Harris, who was held to 5-of-15 shooting and 4-of-11 from 3-point range, allowing just 20 points in the paint throughout the game while creating second chances and points in transition. UCF was led by Issac Sosa, who went 9-of-11 from the floor for 26 points and point guard A.J. Rompza (13 points, five assists).

“They played traditional defense where they were trying to keep us in front and they did a good job of keeping the big guy in the middle of the lane,” Kellogg said. “I think they did a nice job defensively, even though I thought our looks were somewhat decent.”

Even with contributions from Gurley and Riley, UMass’ big men, Sean Carter (four points, five rebounds 26 minutes) and Hashim Bailey (eight minutes, zero points),  could not help Harris out on the offensive against UCF. Kellogg used an 11-man rotation to try and wear down the Knights and to generate scoring chances.

“I was hoping we would wear them down a little bit,” Kellogg said. “The point guard did a great job, really controlled the game and dominated the play. I was impressed with how they played everybody.”

Along with Vinson and Riley, forward Sampson Carter got his first collegiate start, playing 16 minutes and scoring three points, while Javorn Farrell came off the bench and added nine points and five rebounds.

“I was pleased with their effort and their energy and attitude,” Kellogg said. “I’m not sure they did enough to put us in a position to win. I’m going to try to get these guys better. We are trying to build for this year and build it for the next two, three, four years from now.”

It was important for the freshmen to play in such a big game, as UCF drew nearly 9,000 people for the school’s second largest home crowd in school history. Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan’s son, played 11 minutes in his first collegiate game, scoring no points with two rebounds. The Minutemen return to Amherst for their home opener against Cornell Wednesday night in the Legends Classic at 7 p.m.

David Brinch can be reached at dbrinch@student.umass.edu.

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