April 16, 2014

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UMass tops Brandeis in preseason action

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

In its first game action without former shooting guard and prolific scorer Ricky Harris, the Massachusetts basketball team saw its offensive production come from a variety of players.

Guard Anthony Gurley (13 points), the early favorite to replace Harris as the team leader in points this year, was second leading scorer on the Minutemen in UMass’ 83-60 exhibition win over Brandeis at the Mullins Center on Thursday night.

The Boston, Mass. native set the tone early, scoring three of the Minutemen’s first five field goals in as many possessions.

He also led the Minutemen with seven assists and was creating baskets for others as much as he was for himself.

“I didn’t have a focus,” Gurley said of his mindset on offense after the game. “I was just playing the game and letting the game come to me, stuff like that. If I had an open shot, knock it down. If I see my teammate open, pass it to him.”

Last season, Gurley was second on the team in scoring with an average of 13.6 per game. After coming off the bench in the majority of the game he played, Gurley is looking to be an impact player in the starting lineup this year.

Bench steps up

Along with Gurley, UMass’ second unit provided a bulk of the scoring.

The bench accounted for 19 of the Minutemen’s 38 points in the first half, with newcomer Daryl Traynham (15 points) leading the charge. The freshman guard, who stands at 5-foot-9, scored eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and played tight, full-court defense during the first half. He finished with a team-high in scoring in 22 minutes.

“I just try to come in and give my team a little bit of energy and boost it up,” Traynham said. “They started off great and I just picked up the energy where they left off.”

Raphiael Putney, after redshirting his freshman season, saw his first game-action in a UMass uniform and scored nine points in 14 minutes of play. The lanky forward gave the crowd in attendance a glimpse of his athleticism when he finished strong on two alley-oop lobs.

“In transition, coach just wants me to keep running lanes and use that to get quick points,” Putney said. “That’s all I do is keep running.”

Sophomore Freddie Riley, who will be an offensive option off the bench this season, chipped in seven points and three assists. Riley, who is a threat from beyond the arc, was looking for his shot often and was the only UMass player to struggle from 3-point range.

Efficient offense

A significant part of the Minutemen offense last year was the 3-point shot. In its win over the Judges, UMass showed that it will still rely on the long ball, but only when it’s open.

The Minutemen shot a staggering 6-of-9 from beyond the arc in the second half and were 10-of-19 for the game. Gurley was 3-of-4 from 3-point land, while Sampson Carter, Gary Correia and Daryl Traynham each hit their two attempts.

“I thought we did some good things offensively,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I thought we passed the basketball, which was great to see, guys that maybe in the past had taken tough shots or bad shots.”

Last year, UMass lived and died by 3-point shot, ranking first in the A-10 in attempts at 754 despite shooting just over 30 percent, which was the third-worst in the league.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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