The Massachusetts men’s basketball team opens its regular season on Friday when it takes on Rider.
For UMass coach Derek Kellogg and the rest of the Minutemen, the home-opener is less about being concerned with Rider as it is about dealing with things on its own front.
“This time of year you really have to concentrate on your own team and get them ready to compete at the highest level,” Kellogg said. “We’ll concentrate on our own team.”
The last time the Minutemen took the court was in an exhibition game at the Mullins Center where the Maroon and White thrashed Division III opponent Brandeis, 83-60.
Guard Daryl Traynham put on an impressive performance, earning a team-high 15 points, just ahead of Anthony Gurley, who had 13 points and seven assists.
Even though the Minutemen had some successful scoring, Kellogg still witnessed a slew of bad shots being taken by the squad, which is something he wants changed as the season unfolds.
“It’s hard to win at the college level if you’re taking…tough shots [in] a game,” Kellogg said. “My goal is to have [shot selection] get better and better.”
One of the issues Kellogg saw in the game against the Judges was the slim margin in which the Minutemen out-rebounded Brandeis (35-31). Grabbing boards is just one of the things that Kellogg wants to fix this coming Friday night.
“I want every dribble and every rebound to be contested,” Kellogg said.
On the other side of things, the Broncs come to Amherst with an identical situation after trouncing The College of New Jersey, 80-42, in an exhibition game.
Junior Brandon Penn did a lot of the work for Rider, scoring 19 points in the affair. Along with senior Mike Ringgold (nine points, game-high 12 rebounds), Penn and the rest of the Broncs cruised to victory after a 14-0 third-quarter run over the Lions.
Though they’re focused on building up their own team, the Minutemen aren’t overlooking Rider as the game draws near.
“The reason its more [difficult] than if we play them in the midseason, they return a veteran group,” Kellogg said. “It’s a tough game for us, definite, definite tough game for us.”
As for what Kellogg is looking for in the game against the Broncs is to see fans pour out into the Mullins Center and assist the Maroon and White in any way they can.
“I’m not sure if the students even realize that the season ticket holders…want to see the students there,” Kellogg said. “I spoke to a group today of maybe 50 students and told them that people used to wait in line to get into the Mullins Center. Take advantage of what you and have a little more UMass pride.”
Last season, Rider displayed an impressive run through the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, reaching the second-round game where it fell, 77-52, to Niagara.
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.