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UMass feeling effects of back-to-back games

After two tough losses this past weekend in the Legends Classic, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team is feeling the effects of playing back-to-back contests on the road to strong teams early in the season.

“It was a long weekend, and I thought … now you are basically playing two BCS teams, one that is rated in the top five in the country and another one that is much improved in the Big East,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I thought they were both obviously pretty good challenges for us.”

Junior guard Gary Correia, redshirt junior center Hashim Bailey and freshman forward Javorn Farrell are suffering from minor injuries, that might affect how the Minutemen game plan for Quinnipiac tonight. Farrell sat out Monday’s practice after playing 13 minutes and scoring three points against the Spartans.

The freshman played in all six games, averaging four points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game, while being a constant on the defensive side of the ball.

“Playing so many games in such a short period of time with such young guys, they tend to get injury-prone a little bit,” Kellogg said.

Bailey sat out the game against Arkansas-Fort Smith with a groin pull, but logged the most minutes of his career (25) against the Spartans on Saturday, while securing seven rebounds.

UMass gave up 100 points Saturday for the first time since 2007, when the Minutemen had a 107-100 win at Syracuse.

With some of his players being a little banged up, Kellogg wants to focus on making key stops and rebounding against a Bobcats team that is coming off a buzzer-beater defeat against Navy Monday night, and playing through the pain.

“I want to see us get a little bit tougher and a bit better defensively, is the actual goal right now,” Kellogg said.

Harris to play more point

Senior guard Ricky Harris (15 points) made his career debut bringing the ball up against the Spartans. However, Kellogg liked what he saw from the Minutemen’s leading scorer, who finished 5-for-11 shooting, including 2-for-5 from 3-point range in 24 minutes.

“I’m hoping he can play some point and not have it affect his scoring, because now he has the ball in his hands and in that juncture, you want him to score,” Kellogg said. “But you also want him to score the basketball and make the right plays, and it’s a work in progress.”

This could impact sophomore guard David Gibbs and Correia, who both have experience bringing the ball up. Gibbs started the first five games at point, averaging 2.7 points per game in 22.7 minutes, while Correia has helped off the bench.

Against the Spartans, Kellogg wanted to start his most mature and physical players, so he started Bailey, Sean Carter and Anthony Gurley, who has scored in double-figures in all six games this season.

“Against Michigan State, I was trying to play the most mature, oldest team possible to compete with their size and physicality, and it worked for about five minutes,” Kellogg said.

Harris currently averages 17.7 points per game, and is now 10th all-time in career scoring with 1,453 points.

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

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