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Harris embracing new role as point guard

Ricky Harris’ recent move to point guard is looking more and more permanent, after Harris scored 15 of the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s first 19 points, and finished with 19 points and six assists.

What started as a mid-game adjustment against Rutgers looks to be a permanent change for UMass (3-4), as Harris develops in his new role.

“It’s etching its way,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said when asked whether or not Harris’ performance made his status at the point written in stone.

“Ricky is dangerous with the ball,” he added. “Now he doesn’t have to work so hard to get open. And really what it’s enabling me to do is play Anthony Gurley more minutes, because those two were kind of competing for minutes.”

With just over four minutes left in the first half, Quinnipiac (3-3) had outshot, outrebounded and outplayed the Minutemen, except for Harris, who carried the offense for most of the first half. After his fast scoring start, though, Harris helped drive a successful offense that pulled out from its slow start.

Chipping in

Harris kept the Minutemen in the game for most of the first half, but it was not until the rest of the team busted out of its slump to take the lead. For the remainder of the first and the entire second half, UMass attacked from all fronts, as Harris scored just four points for the rest of the game.

“I think everyone contributed in their own little way,” Harris said. “And that’s what we need, for everyone to play and contribute. It’s a full team effort, and we’re not that deep of a team. We don’t have as much talent as other teams, so we’re going to need all 12 guys, all 10 guys to come out and play like they did tonight.”

Gurley had 15 points and Sampson Carter had 11 behind Harris at the point. But when Harris left the game, Sampson Carter, Matt Hill and Freddie Riley came off the bench and put the Minutemen ahead for good.

Carter, who added, two blocks, three boards and a steal, hit a key 3-pointer that jump-started the UMass offense en route to a 35-31 halftime lead.

Hill, who was in the game with Sean Carter out of the game after getting struck in the face, made a key steal and scored four vital points, including the go ahead free throw with four minutes left in the first, in his nine minutes in the game.

Outrebounded, not outplayed

Gurley had a team high with just five rebounds, as the Minutemen struggled to establish themselves on the boards against the Bobcats, who outrebounded UMass 46-29.

Justin Rutty had a game-high 13 rebounds while James Feldeine had eight, and Jonathan Cruz had six for the Bobcats in a dominant effort on the boards.

“I think it’s effort,” Kellogg said. “Definitely effort is a thing. You have to get more guys going to the boards. You have to get your guards crashing the glass. I’ve got to continue to get our guys in the weight room and make sure they’re eating right and just get them tougher and stronger.”

As the game went on, the Bobcats kept rebounding, but failed to convert the boards into points, even with the deluge offensive rebounds. Rutty, who grabbed nine of those offensive boards, was ice cold inside, going 2-for-13 from the field with most shots coming in the paint as part of a rough shooting night for Quinnipiac. The Minutemen outshot the Bobcats 43.8 percent to 34.8 percent on the night.

Nick O’Malley can be reached at nomalley@student.umass.edu.

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