Massachusetts men’s basketball team will look to rebound from its first loss of the season as it returns home to face Maine Wednesday night at the Mullins Center after suffering its first loss of the year over the weekend.
On the biggest stage of the young season, the Minutemen (7-1) fell to Boston College, 76-71, at the TD Garden on Saturday night, ending their longest winning streak since 1998.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg knows that the first loss brings with it questions about the legitimacy of his team’s record, but his focus is on the next game.
“I think you have to be temperamental with the guys and make sure we get back on track to winning ways,” Kellogg said. “Anytime it’s your first loss, it’s the first time you have to deal with real adversity. We’ve dealt with adversity within the games but luckily to this point, those games had all worked out in our favor.”
Minutemen guard Anthony Gurley, who had a homecoming against the Eagles (6-2) as a Boston, Mass. native, struggled in the first half of the contest. He registered two points and two fouls heading into halftime as UMass faced an 11-point deficit.
Gurley, along with the rest of the Minutemen squad, came alive in the second half and made a run, but couldn’t overcome BC in the end. After a disappointing performance by his team, Gurley isn’t getting caught up in the early ups and downs of a long season.
“We just have to get back to the drawing board,” Gurley said. “We have a lot of things to work on. We just have to move on and prepare for Wednesday for another big game against Maine.”
After playing as well as UMass has to begin the year, some coaches would feel that a loss can keep a team from getting complacent and feeling indestructible. Kellogg, however, doesn’t buy into the notion of a “good loss” and has a different philosophy.
“I like to win and build off wins myself,” Kellogg. “I’m hoping that the guys realize that when we play the game the way it needs to be played, we’re usually successful.”
Maine, meanwhile, enters the matchup with the Minutemen on a four-game losing streak. The Black Bears (2-5) dropped their most recent contest against Delaware State, 75-56, at Alfond Arena.
Despite taking a one-point advantage into halftime, Maine was outscored 46-28 in the second period by the surging Hornets. Delaware State was led by Casey Walker’s 25 points, while Murphy Burnatowski gave the Black Bears 10 points and eight rebounds.
For the season, Maine has four players who are averaging double-digit points in Burnatowski (10.7), forward Tony Barnies (10.9) and guards Raheem Singleton (11.3) and Gerald McLemore (10.0).
“They’re a good team, they really run their offense well,” Kellogg said. “They’re a well-rounded team, they mix up defenses. I think they do a great job in their half-court offensive sets. I mean they really are accurate and go at it and it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
UMass and Maine will meet for the 58th time with the Minutemen leading the series, 41-16. The two teams have played in Amherst on 31 occasions, with UMass holding a 27-4 advantage. At the Mullins Center, however, the Minutemen are a perfect 2-0 against the Black Bears.
The last game between the teams was on Dec. 23, 2003, as UMass earned the 67-60 victory. Former big man Rashaun Freeman sparked the Minutemen with a then-career high 23 points to fight off a second-half comeback attempt by Maine.
Jay Asser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.