Through its six wins to begin the season this year, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team has received significant contributions from a number of players. The latest addition to that group is junior center Sean Carter.
Carter relinquished his starting spot to senior Hashim Bailey and came off the bench in UMass’ (6-0) two recent wins over American International and Holy Cross during Thanksgiving break.
On Saturday against the Crusaders at the Curry Hicks Cage, Carter finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes of play. Down the stretch, he combined with guard Anthony Gurley to go 5-of-6 from the free throw line to seal the victory. The Oregon State transfer finished the contest shooting 6-of-7 from the charity stripe.
“That may have been the best game he’s played since he’s been here,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said after the win. “I thought Sean was great. Since he’s gone to the bench, it’s ironic that he’s played such good basketball.”
“I feel it was one of my best games because I brought us energy; that’s what we needed today,” Carter said.
In his third game off the bench this season against the Yellow Jackets, Carter shot 3-of-6 from the field for six points and three rebounds. Prior to being moved out of the starting lineup, Carter struggled in the early going this year, failing to register a made field goal or point in the first two contests. Since coming off the bench, Carter has seen shot and rebounded better.
“Everybody probably knows that I started off the season really slow this year,” Carter said. “I started off starting but after a few bad games in a row, they started bringing me off the bench to find a way to get me going.”
Carter is just one of a number of Minutemen players who have provided a strong effort in games this year. His performance, however, was the first significant display by a UMass center this season.
Nevertheless, Kellogg is still looking for his players to play their best together.
“We have a lot of guys that on different occasions and different days can play well,” Kellogg said. “It would be nice if we could put it all together and have a collective group of about eight of them play well at once.”
Saturday was a throwback for UMass coach Derek Kellogg, Minutemen players and fans alike.
The Minutemen defeated the Crusaders, 83-76, at the Curry Hicks Cage, marking the first game played at the storied venue since 1993. The victory also extended UMass’ winning streak at the Cage to 15 games, a streak with a 17-year gap between wins.
“That was unbelievable,” Kellogg said after the victory. “That was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time, to come here and walk out to see the place jam-packed.”
The Cage, which can seat approximately 4,000 fans, had an attendance of 3,395 on Saturday. It was built in 1931 and was named after Curry Hicks, the athletic director at UMass at the time.
The venue has hosted a number of historic games, including the 1992 Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament championship game. In that contest, the Minutemen defeated West Virginia, 97-91.
Also in 1992, UMass defeated Temple, 67-52, in a memorable rivalry matchup at the Cage. The Minutemen previously had never beaten the Owls in 21 games.
Though Saturday’s game was not nearly as historic, Kellogg was fired up nonetheless.
“How could you not be after [Saturday’s win] though? I mean it was an atmosphere like it was when the last time a game was played here, which was ‘93, so we’re all getting old,” Kellogg said with a smile.
Jay Asser can be reached at email@example.com.