There’s no place like the Mullins Center for the holidays.
As the University of Massachusetts campus empties out as students travel to their various destinations, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team will play a slew of games over winter break.
The upcoming games will be key for the Minutemen (7-2) who have lost two consecutive games – against Boston College on Dec. 4 and against Maine on Wednesday. Aside from trying to snap its recent losing streak, UMass will also begin Atlantic 10 plays to close out the break.
The first opponent for the Minutemen during the winter break will be against the Pirates (3-4) who haven’t found a flow in their last few games.
SH opened up its schedule against UMass’ A-10 rival Temple, a game which saw the Pirates fight back from a 16-point deficit by the Owls. Despite going on a 12-2 run in the final four minutes of the game, SH ran out of time to complete the comeback.
The Pirates rebounded against Cornell with a 92-68 victory and a six-point win over Alabama five days later. From there, SH fell in two-straight games to Xavier and Clemson before earning its third win of the season in a 20-point victory over Saint Peters. The Pirates’ most recent affair saw them drop, 71-62, to Arkansas on Wednesday.
SH has three players averaging points in double digits. At the head of this is Jeremy Hazell with 24 points per game. Behind him are Jordan Theodore (11.7) and Jeff Robinson (11.3).
One of the issues that has plagued UMass in its recent games is its inability to rebound the ball successfully, which could cause an issue against the Pirates, as Herb Pope averages 7.1 rebounds a game.
The game against Seton Hall is on Saturday at the Mullins Center with a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Two Jordans will take the court on Dec. 22 as both Marcus and Jeffrey Jordan, sons of NBA legend Michael Jordan, enter the Mullins Center to compete for Central Florida.
The Knights (7-0) enter into Amherst without a loss and high-point victories in their rear-view mirrors.
UCF started off its season with a 115-61 domination of West Florida. It didn’t slow down there for the Knights as they knocked off Jackson State, 80-39. Marcus Jordan led both games in points for UCF with 28 against WF and 13 against JSU.
After speeding through South Florida and Stetson, the Knights pounded down on two typically strong NCAA squads. The first was Alabama State, which UCF defeated 84-48 with Jordan leading the team with 18.
A similar performance from both Jordan and the rest of the Knights followed when they faced in-state rival and top-tier NCAA team, Florida. The game was a tight one down to the wire, but the Gators could do little to shake UCF as the Knights held on to win, 57-54. The victory was the second time in school history that UCF defeated a ranked opponent.
With their string of victories, the Knights will be riding into the Mullins Center with momentum. The game opens up at 7 p.m.
Following a tough game against UCF, the Minutemen will have its final home game of this four-game stretch against BU.
Despite earning a pair victories on the road, the Terriers (4-5) haven’t defeated the top teams that they’ve played. The first difficult opponent that BU contested with was No. 6 Villanova, which dropped the Terriers, 82-66.
A similar result was seen nearly three weeks later when BU faced off against No. 10 Kentucky. UK didn’t give the Terriers much of a chance, blowing them out 91-57.
Before arriving to the Mullins Center on New Year’s Eve, BU will take on La Salle, Harvard, Saint Joseph’s and Quinnipiac.
John Holland and Jake O’Brien lead the Terriers in scoring, averaging 17.3 and 10.7 points per game, respectively. Both Holland and O’Brien, along with Patrick Hazel, are averaging over five rebounds a game and could be a dynamic combination in the paint.
An interesting battle between BU and UMass could take place at the point guard position, as Terrier point guard D.J. Irving has 23 assists on the year with 11 steals. Watch for a physical battle between Irving and UMass point guard Daryl Traynham as both will constantly be searching to claim the ball.
The in-state combatants will tip-off at 7 p.m. in the Mullins Center.
In its last game before facing A-10 opponents, the Minutemen will travel down to Connecticut to take on the Blue Devils.
CCSU started off its season with three-straight victories against Hartford, Army and UMBC. As the season looked high for the squad, the Blue Devils couldn’t keep the string of wins going as they lost four of their next five contests including a 92-50 shelling by Providence.
Although it may seem that CCSU will be an easy foe for the Minutemen to conquer with a losing record, the Blue Devils would disagree as they nearly beat Dayton in a game that went right down to the wire.
Before UMass enters into the Detrick Gymnasium, CCSU will take on Albany away before returning to the gym to face off against Niagara, Brown and New Hampshire.
The Blue Devils have three players averaging points in double digits including Ken Horton (14.3), Shemik Thompson (13.8) and Markeys Deans (11.1). Thomspon will be another top point guard for the Minutemen to take on as he has dished out 33 assists so far this season and has stolen the ball 12 times.
To kick off their A-10 play, the Minutemen will face off against one of the top squads in the division in the Flyers (7-2).
Last season when these two teams met, UMass went into the contest riding a four-game win streak in its series with Dayton. However, the Flyers proved to be too much as they swiped the Minutemen away with a 96-68 victory.
The Flyers went on a tangent from the 3-point line, downing 13 shots from beyond the arc. DU also had a slew of scorers succeed for them as Mickey Perry earned a then-career high 15 points and Chris Wright earned 14. In total, six players finished in double digits including Wright, Perry, Chris Johnson (11), Marcus Johnson (11), Rob Lowery (13) and Devin Searcy (10).
Additionally, DU had 10 different players score for them with nine of the 10 scoring in the first half.
Through their first nine games, the Flyers have dropped two decisions. One of these games was to Cincinnati, 68-34, a game which saw an almost invisible DU team compete on the floor. Following the 34-point blowout, the Flyers could not rebound against East Tennessee State, falling 73-68.
After those two losses however, DU picked up the pace and won two consecutive games against Miami and CCSU.
Wright and Chris Parker are in the double-digits for points per game for the Flyers. The two scorers might not have as many points had it not been for Juwan Staten, who has made a statement by dishing out 53 assists.
The Minutemen’s conference opener kicks off at 2 p.m. at the Mullins Center.
UMass’ first A-10 road game during the winter break will be against the Musketeers (7-2), who played spoiler in the two teams’ meeting last season.
The Minutemen found themselves down by 17 points through the first half. However, the Maroon and White sprang to life and came back into the game to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Musketeers then went on a 9-0 run of their own, before putting the game away, 87-79.
This season has seen another strong performance by XU. The Muskeeters went on a four-game win streak after splitting their first two games. They defeated Western Michigan, IPFW, Iowa and Seton Hall in the process.
Through the first nine games of its season, XU has four players averaging in double-digits in Tu Holloway (24), Mark Lyons (14.1), Jamel McLean (11) and Kenny Frease (10.4) McLean is doing much more than just scoring for the Musketeers as he is averaging a double-double with a 10.2 average in rebounds per game.
Before school resumes at UMass, the Minutemen will travel to Springfield to take on La Salle, a team that defeated them, 89-78, last season.
The Minutemen attempted 39 3-pointers in that game, sinking 13 of them.
Additionally, last season’s prolific scorer Ricky Harris scored 31 points which was not even close to anyone else on the team. Harris’ efforts were complimented well by Freddie Riley though, who dished out a then-career high four assists.
So far this season, the Explorers haven’t found consistency with their results. After staring off with a victory against Columbia, La Salle fell to Baylor. After winning three straight against Prairie View, A&M and Morgan State, the Explorers fell to Missouri, beat Delaware State and most recently fell to Oklahoma State in a double-overtime thriller.
The Explorers boast three players that are averaging double-digits in points including Aaric Murray (17.1), Ruben Guillandeaux (15.3) and Jerrell Williams (13.5). Murray is strong on the rebounding glass as well, as he averages just under 10 rebounds per game.
The game against La Salle will be the final game for UMass before the winter break is over. Following this contest, the Minutemen will have another away game against Charlotte.
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.