Minutemen hoping to bounce back from loss to Michigan State
Saturday’s loss to No. 9 Michigan State could have two very different effects on the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, according to coach Derek Kellogg.
Either the Minutemen (2-4) will be inspired by seeing what a Final Four contender does to win games, or they will look at the 106-68 score and lose the momentum from the two straight wins they had before Thanksgiving.
Kellogg is hoping it’s not the latter.
“While the score is indicative of how the game went, I hope it didn’t damage our psyche as a team,” Kellogg said.
UMass’ next opponent isn’t at the same level as the Spartans, or even Rutgers, but Kellogg believes that Quinnipiac is still a team that will provide a challenge at the Mullins Center tonight.
The Bobcats (3-2) are coming off a three-point loss to Navy, but are still one of the better teams in the Northeast Conference. Kellogg expects Quinnipiac to feel pretty confident about its chances at competing with the Minutemen, despite the recent loss.
“They played a good schedule for their team and their program and I’m just hoping that we can get better as a team and play hard defense and make it rough on them,” he said.
The Bobcats have a mostly veteran roster with four freshmen on their 15-player roster. At the helm is shooting guard James Feldeine (17.2 points per game). The senior is not only the top scorer on his team, but is also a strong rebounding force.
Feldeine is second on the team in rebounds per game with six despite being a 6-foot-4 guard.
Quinnipiac also has a strong inside player in junior Justin Rutty. He averages 15.2 points per game and leads the team in rebounds (8.4). However, he and the rest of the Bobcats are going to have a hard time with the Minutemen, who are much bigger inside.
Rutty, who stands at 6-foot-7, is the tallest active player Quinnipiac has. Forward Eric Coggins (6-9) is the team’s biggest player, but he only played five minutes this season and probably won’t even see playing time tonight.
The Bobcats’ lack of size should bode well for UMass, who isn’t all that big, but features Hashim Bailey and Sean Carter up front.
Neither player will be dominant inside scorers; however, they both have the ability to rebound.
Carter (6.7 rpg) leads the Minutemen in rebounding with his athleticism and long body. Carter started every game at center except for the last one against MSU, where he played power forward while Bailey started in the middle.
The Memphis transfer comes off arguably the best game of his career. He blocked a shot and grabbed seven rebounds in 25 minutes against the Spartans.
UMass’ size advantage is even greater thanks to the new freshmen. Sampson Carter and Terrell Vinson started every game of the season until Thanksgiving Break. After the St. Francis win, Kellogg felt encouraged with both of their progress.
Sampson Carter and Vinson finished with 13 points against the Terriers and shot better than 50 percent from the field.
“I think these last few games were good stepping stones for [the freshmen],” Harris said following the Nov. 24 win. “They got their confidence up. You could see them out on the floor playing with confidence.”
It was a different story for them when the Minutemen played in Atlantic City. Both struggled on the offensive end and grabbing rebounds, but it was against competition that Kellogg didn’t feel that his team was ready for.
He hopes that won’t necessarily be the case against the Bobcats.
Adam Miller can be reached at email@example.com.