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December 30, 2016

Gurley, Riley give spark off bench for Minutemen

mhoopAIn order for any basketball team to be successful, it must have a bench it can rely on to generate offense when the starting five is not in the game, or struggling to create opportunities.

The Massachusetts basketball team displayed how it can effectively score through its depth, contributing 44 points in a 94-68 victory over Arkansas Fort-Smith Saturday night.

Redshirt junior Anthony Gurley played 24 minutes in his sixth-man role, scoring a game-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and added five assists.

“I thought he gave us a great boost off the bench when we were a little stagnant in the first half,” Kellogg said. “Ricky [Harris] was making some decent plays but when he’s not in the game or scoring, who else do you go to, and Anthony did that in the context of the offense.”

Gurley was patient, didn’t force shots, and was able to score in transition, as the Minutemen had 17 points in transition and 19 off of turnovers.

“I was just going with the flow and just playing the game and just trying to knock down open shots, and thankfully, the ball just happened to go in tonight,” Gurley said

Gurley was not the only spark off the pine, with freshman guard Freddie Riley adding 17 points in 19 minutes, including going 4-of-9 from 3-point range. While Gurley was more complacent in scoring off the bench, Kellogg, along with Riley, felt that some of the freshman’s shots were forced, and that he wants to improve on his shot selection and his defense.

“A couple of shots I made were bad shots, they just happened to go in, but I’m a lot more confident now,” Riley said.

Riley had 12 points against Central Florida in his collegiate debut, and had eight against Cornell. Even with the questionable shooting, Kellogg feels that Riley will continue to provide scoring opportunities off the bench for UMass.

“He took a couple of shots that I shook my head at, but when they went in, I said ‘great shot, Freddie,’” Kellogg said. “He gave you a little of what he is going to do here, maybe not this year, but definitely in the future.”

Along with Riley and Gurley, freshman Javorn Farrell, junior guard Gary Correia, and redshirt sophomore forwards Trey Lang and Matt Hill provided depth when freshman forwards Terrell Vinson and Sampson Carter needed a break. Farrell had four rebounds and had two points and two assists in 14 minutes, while Correia had three points and four assists in 18 minutes for starting point guard David Gibbs. While Lang played just two minutes off the bench, Hill snagged four rebounds and had a block shot in nine minutes of play.

“Matt did some good things, he rebounded the ball but he just didn’t finish,” Kellogg said. “I don’t know if that’s rust or not playing or being injured all last year, he just didn’t put those last couple put-backs back in the basket,” Kellogg said.

Hill tore his Achilles in a loss to Memphis after playing 10 minutes, and saw action off the bench before his season-ending injury.

Center Hashim Bailey did not play against the Lions because of a pulled groin. Bailey, though, will also look to give center Sean Carter a rest at the center position later on in the season. The redshirt junior transfer from Memphis played in 14 minutes against the Big Red, securing three rebounds and had a blocked shot and a steal against the Golden Knights. While all of the Minutemen’s depth is beneficial, both Riley and Gurley know that their role as sixth and seventh man respectively will help generate scoring opportunities and could be the difference between winning and losing games.

“I think that’s both mine and Freddy’s role is, is to come in and provide some offensive lift off the bench, provide leadership, and make sure that when we come in the game, the score doesn’t change, it goes up in our favor,” Gurley said.

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

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