Student support praised by KelloggOn the surface, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team completed a 34-point swing to defeat Rider in its home opener.
What was the catalyst for the Minutemen revolutionary comeback? According to UMass coach Derek Kellogg, it was the will of the Maroon and White faithful.
“The reason why we won was the energy that was in the building the night,” Kellogg said. “It was electric; we turned off the lights before the game. I appreciate the students that came out and supported this team.”
The Minutemen graced their home court with a home victory already under their belt when they defeated Brandeis in an exhibition game, despite the lack of student participation in that game.
In the second game of the season, UMass and its players are searching for a stronger effort from Minutemen supporters when it takes on Sacred Heart on Wednesday.
“I’m thinking [Sacred Heart’s] going to come into an environment in a place like the Mullins and be impressed by what we have here,” Kellogg said.
The game against the Broncs featured 3,784 UMass fans piling into the arena. While the Mullins Center wasn’t anywhere near full capacity, the energy from UMass fans was enough to will the team to success, according to Kellogg.
“I thought the atmosphere before the game and all the way up until the half was a big-time college atmosphere,” Kellogg said. “We had somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 students and they were cheering. I mean one of the reasons we won that game was because of the student involvement.”
For Wednesday’s game, the Minutemen coaching staff is hoping for just as big of a crowd to help keep the wins coming.
“I’m just hoping they’re going to come,” Kellogg said. “The people that came on Friday will come on Wednesday and realize that this is a fun atmosphere. It’s a great place to spend an evening and this is a fun group to watch, good guys that are playing hard and competing.”
As the season continues forward past the game against Sacred Heart, the Minutemen will travel over the weekend to Springfield, where they will compete against Sacred Heart and New Mexico State. Kellogg’s continual recruitment of fans also applies to these games.
“And why not take the 30-minute ride down to Springfield, maybe even go out in the city for night and have a good time,” Kellogg said. “It almost has to be an event where the kids come and enjoy themselves; they feel [like] a part of the program and the team.”
Whether it’s Springfield, the Mullins Center or way out in Boston, UMass wants the fan base to remain strong as a testament to the students and the university.
“We’re trying to do everything we can as a coaching staff, a program, an athletic team and a university to let the students know that this is their team, this is their program,” Kellogg said. “We need you involved, we want you involved, come by practice, come by the games, whatever you need we’re here for you.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.