The Massachusetts men’s basketball team will have its first set of games away from the Mullins Center this weekend.
Even so, the Minutemen (2-0) will travel just about 30 minutes away from Amherst to compete at the Mass Mutual Center in downtown Springfield where they will play New Mexico State on Saturday.
“They play some high-level basketball,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “They’re enormous in the post, they’re athletic on the wing. They’re a big time college basketball team.”
The game against the Aggies (2-0) comes off the heels of an impressive 73-65 victory over Sacred Heart on Wednesday night.
UMass will look to see a similar game from high-profile players like Anthony Gurley and Sampson Carter, both of whom led the squad in points with 18 and 17, respectively.
Additionally, Daryl Traynham might get a better look on the court as he continues to impress as the season unfolds. Against the Pioneers (0-3), Traynham dished out four assists to compliment his 11 points and four rebounds. The starting point guard for the Minutemen, Gary Correia, scored three points throughout the game.
One of the biggest improvements this year is center Hashim Bailey, who will get time against NMS as Kellogg plans on starting the senior right from the opening whistle. Kellogg insisted that Bailey’s presence and size down in the paint will help the Minutemen against the Aggies.
Right from the start of the season, NMS has produced a winning record that has barely been challenged at all as it won five of its six preseason games, including a 102-74 smashing over the Canada-based Kia All Stars team.
So far in non-conference play, NMS finished off Louisiana, 92-76, and in-state rival Western New Mexico, 95-62.
Forward Chad Carter is one of the top prospects of the Aggies that the Minutemen will have to keep under pressure if they are to escape with a victory. Carter scored 14 points in 32 minutes against the Mustangs and exemplifies Kellogg’s aforementioned athletic ability of the wing players.
Saturday’s game against NMS is just one of the contests that UMass will play at the birthplace of basketball. On Monday, the Minutemen will take on TCU as a part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
The Horned Frogs have started their season in winning fashion, going undefeated in their first three games played. While they defeated Rogers State, 70-53, in an exhibition game, they followed the win up with an 86-62 victory against Jackson State and a 20-point win against Southern Methodist.
The tournament is a combined effort from both Kellogg and the Hall of Fame as a way to bring the sport back to its birthplace.
“This weekend, it’s going to be the epicenter of college basketball,” Kellogg said.
When Kellogg and the Minutemen were asked to join up with the tournament, it was an easy decision to help continue the campaign that Kellogg has begun at UMass.
“For us, it was a no-brainer,” Kellogg said. “It’s everything I’ve been trying to do with the program.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.