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May 14, 2016

Minutemen trying to improve foul trouble

Jeff Bernstein, Collegian Staff

Fouls are a double-edged sword for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

The Minutemen (7-1) not only squander from their own difficulties at the free throw line, but also give up a slew of fouls to the opposition.

“Yeah I think that’s what we’re going to work on, trying to not foul as much,” guard Anthony Gurley said. “We’ve been very aggressive on the defensive end which sometimes causes us to foul. We’ve definitely got to work on not putting the other team at the line. That’s what hurt us in the past two games.”

Through the first eight games of the season, UMass has committed 173 fouls. Center Hashim Bailey is at the head with 23 personals.

Against Boston College last Saturday, the Mintuemen played aggressively. The team committed 24 fouls and guard Javorn Farrell fouled out of the game after his team-leading fifth personal.

Playing aggressively fits right into the direction that UMass coach Derek Kellogg is looking to send the Mintuemen, and he continues to push the team to play tougher.

“I don’t want to get away from what’s made us successful this year,” Kellogg said. “I want my team to be aggressive and people to say that they’re up on you and play hard and play tough.”

Kellogg offered more praise to his team’s standoffish nature by comparing it to previous UMass teams that did not play in a similar fashion.

“It’s better than it’s been in the past where your guys are kind of matadors on defense and not pressuring the ball and letting teams shoot layups,” Kellogg said. “I rather have it be where they’re a little rougher and tougher.”

“We’ve done a nice job of getting it to a certain point,” Kellogg said. “Now, can you do that without hacking, reaching and putting them to the free throw line on a consistent basis?”

These fouls and hard-hitting plays hurt the Minutemen down the stretch in terms of giving up points, as the Eagles (7-2) went 19-for-24 from the free throw line. The 19 made shots more than doubled the Minutemen total from the charity stripe of 8-for-14.

“We just can’t get outscored by 15 points from the free throw line every game; that’s not conducive to championship basketball,” Kellogg said.

“I thought what hurt us more than anything was we put them to the free throw line 24 times,” continued Kellogg. “And a lot of them were at places on the floor, where, why would you do that when the guy’s going away from the basket at half court? Why would you reach in and put the guy to the free throw line?”

Gurley struggled from the line, going 2-for-4, which included a pair of shots that, if made, would have put UMass ahead of BC and completed the comeback.

“I don’t try to miss free throws,” Gurley said. “It’s just one of those things, it’s in and out. We’ll try to knock them down next game.”

Farrell also struggled from the line, going 2-for-5 which included a missed attempt on an and-one situation which would have brought the Minutemen within one point of the Eagles.

Despite these missed key shots, Kellogg explained that free throws weren’t the only issue that the teams suffered at the TD Garden.

“We’ve missed a lot of easy shots throughout the game, whether it’s the free throws, the different jumpers,” Kellogg said. “I don’t think you can zero-in on just the free throws.”

Still, the third-year coach sees the Minutemen calming down on the aggressiveness and not fouling as hard during the rest of the season.

“There’s got to be a happy medium, and we’ll get there,” Kellogg said.

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribne@studnet.umass.edu.

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