Schedule rough on Minutemen
After playing three games in one week, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team is feeling the effects of back-to-back games on the road, including four of its past five away from the Mullins Center.
Freshman guard Freddie Riley will not play against Grambling State on Friday because of minor knee surgery Wednesday that will keep him out 2-4 weeks. He is averaging 9.6 points in 16.2 minutes for the Minutemen, and is the third leading scorer for UMass behind senior guard Ricky Harris and redshirt junior Anthony Gurley.
Along with Riley, Harris is suffering from an injury, when he rolled his ankle during Thursday’s practice after stepping on a teammate’s ankle during a drill.
“I don’t know exactly what his status is, but I’m sure he will play, but I don’t know what percentage he will be at,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.
Harris was named the Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Week, and is third in the conference averaging 17.7 points per game. He had 19 points, six assists and three rebounds in both victories over Quinnipiac and Holy Cross.
With Riley out and Harris not at 100 percent, sophomore guard David Gibbs and junior guard Gary Correia will likely see more minutes against the Tigers.
Gibbs started the first five games at point guard and last three on the wing, as Harris has been bringing the ball up for the Minutemen, while Correia is providing a spark off the bench for UMass.
Javorn Farrell pulled his groin in Wednesday’s practice, but will most likely play against Grambling St., but according to Kellogg, he still isn’t completely healed. Farrell played in all nine games off the bench, averaging four points and 2.7 rebounds per game in 11.1 minutes, and has been one of the key contributors for the Minutemen on the defensive side of the ball.
Winning at Mullins
The Minutemen have won their past three games at the Mullins Center, and will go for their fourth against the Tigers.
After the tough loss on the road against Seton Hall, Kellogg feels that it is important to win games at home in order to build confidence for his young team.
“I think it’s great,” Kellogg said. “The one thing in college basketball is that the major programs have a winning percentage of at least 70 percent at home, and I’m trying to get that home-court advantage. Our guys have played well at home and felt more comfortable, and we’ve had some pretty good support, and we’re hoping to continue to get more students involved and to get more people here to support us.”
Four of the teams the Minutemen are scheduled against on the road are in the top 40.
Shot Selection Says it All
In their first nine contests, the Minutemen’s fate relied on shooting the ball effectively and getting the ball where it needed to be. In its four victories, UMass is shooting 49.8 percent from the floor overall and 40.7 percent from 3-point range.
“We watch the games and break down tape and pull all the shots out,” Kellogg said. “I’ve tried to really zero in on practice and let them know that’s a good shot, not a good shot, and at some point it becomes their own. They take ownership of what a good shot is for them, and for each player, it may be different.”
In its five loses, the Minutemen have shot 34.8 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from beyond the arc.
David Brinch can be reached at email@example.com.