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Harris making the most of senior year

Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said after his team’s loss on Sunday that seniors have a “tattoo” at the end of the year that shows the record of their last season. Ricky Harris is a perfect example of someone who Martelli believes is not yet satisfied with that tattoo.

Harris has scored over 20 points in seven of the last eight games with a 24.6 points per game average on 48.9 percent shooting in that stretch. Sunday was no different as he finished with 27 points on 7-of-15 shooting in the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s 70-62 win over the Hawks.

“Ricky Harris has embraced this thing as a senior,” Martelli said of Harris’s improved scoring. “As a senior, you can grab it by the throat and not let it get away.”

Before his recent scoring burst, Harris ran into quite a few bumps early in the season. He sprained his ankle during practice and sat out against Grambling State on Dec. 11.

When Harris came back, he wasn’t getting the lift in his shot, which negatively affected his shot. In his first two games back, he averaged 12.5 points per game.

No. 5’s scoring eventually went up, but his shot wasn’t going in. Between Dec. 19 and Jan. 13, he went 5-for-35 from 3-point range.

But after an 11-point performance on Jan. 16 against Temple, Harris has been going to the lane more and hasn’t shot below 40 percent since the loss against the Owls.

Harris said his improved scoring has to do mainly with his comfort level and wanting to help UMass finish the season out on a good note.

“I feel like I’m more relaxed out there and the game is coming to me,” Harris said. “I’m not having to go do stuff that I’m not capable of doing like forcing tough situations on myself.”

His increased scoring numbers haven’t just boosted his scoring average. It has also given the Minutemen (10-15, 4-7 Atlantic 10) help against a conference that is the most competitive it’s been in years.

In the last three games, he scored over 25 points while boosting UMass to an eighth place tie in the A-10.

Harris’s recent scoring surge is inching him closer to more UMass records. After recently passing Rashaun Freeman (1,744 points) on the all-time scoring list, Harris (1,816) needs 90 points to pass Lou Roe and 184 to become the third Minuteman to score 2,000 career points.

Although it is statistically unlikely that he gets to 2,000 points, if Harris can average 18 points over the next five games, he will become the third all-time scorer at UMass.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg said it wasn’t just the scoring that has made the difference. He also believes that Harris turned into a more complete player over the course of the season.

“He’s playing like a senior,” Kellogg said. “Over the stretch where we’ve played better, I think he’s been the most valuable player in the league.”

Over the past few games, Harris’s rebounding numbers went up and he’s become a better defensive player. After the game, the senior captain said he’s been working to improve defensively so that he can help his teammates out.

However, he believes his contribution to the team has been part of a two-way street, especially after the Minutemen lost sophomore David Gibbs for the season with a foot injury. .

“I just applaud these guys because they come to practice every single day and work hard for me and the coaching staff,” Harris said.

Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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