Minutemen hoping to snap losing streak
The last time the Massachusetts men’s basketball team played a team with a prominent shot-blocker was against Richmond on Jan. 13 when forward Darrius Garrett recorded a career-high 14 blocks against the Minutemen as they lost 70-63 in overtime.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg doesn’t think any player will record that many blocks against his team for a while. However, he believes that tonight’s opponent, St. Bonaventure, will make going to the basket difficult because he views Andrew Nicholson as a superior shot-blocker.
“You have to be conscious of when there’s a guy in there blocking shots like that,” Kellogg said. “We’ve let our guys know what we’re looking for if he’s coming over to block shots.”
The Minutemen (7-10, 1-3 Atlantic 10) will look to find more open looks such as a lob over Nicholson or kicking out for a 3-pointer. Shooting hasn’t been one of their strengths, as they are 13th in the A-10 in field-goal percentage (40.8) and 11th in 3-point percentage (31.3).
Meanwhile, the Bonnies (8-8, 1-2 A-10) are at the top of the conference in shooting (48.2 percent), but have been dealing with losses against quality opponents the entire season.
SBU lost by 13 points to No. 5 Syracuse on Dec. 19, and are 2-4 since, which included a three-game losing streak to open up January before defeating Saint Joseph’s by a narrow 68-65 win.
Although UMass will be at the Mullins Center for the first time since Jan. 6, when it defeated Fordham, Kellogg expects tonight’s meeting to be difficult because of the Bonnies’ experience this season.
“I think they’re in a similar position that we are,” Kellogg said. “They’ve played in a ton of tough games that have come down to the wire, and similar to us, they just haven’t been able to pull all of them out.”
The Minutemen are currently on a three-game losing streak, which other than a loss to the Spiders includes losses to La Salle and hot-shooting Temple.
Against the No. 16 Owls, UMass came back from a 22-point lead to come within single digits, but couldn’t survive the guard tandem of Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez, who finished 14-of-22 from 3-point range.
Despite the Minutemen’s latest road woes, Kellogg is seeing a lot of improvement out of his team, and hopes to see his players benefit from their work over the past week with a win.
“I think it would be a good bonus for these guys that are playing hard and competing at a higher level,” Kellogg said. “We’re still not playing as smart as I want, but a reward of a victory coming up at some point would be good for team morale and also that if you play the game the right way, the wins will come.”
In the last game against Temple, Kellogg inserted guard David Gibbs back into the lineup after trying to bring more experience to his lineup by using junior Gary Correia. Before Tuesday’s practice, he said that both players were playing well, but would base his decision for tonight based on how he believes they match up.
Adam Miller can be reached at email@example.com.