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UM men’s basketball team starting to shine

While the strength of the Massachusetts men’s basketball team may lay in the backcourt, Terrell Vinson and Sean Carter are proving in the conference schedule that the team’s big men should not be overlooked.

Both Vinson and Carter have picked up their play in games against Atlantic 10 opponents, helping the Minutemen to a 3-1 league record and an 11-6 mark overall. Though it’s been the guards, mainly Anthony Gurley, doing the majority of the scoring, Vinson and Carter have added another element with their post offense and rebounding.

Vinson is averaging seven points and just over five rebounds per game in the past four contests, whereas Carter is averaging seven boards and over nine points, tying him with guard Javorn Farrell as the second leading scorer in A-10 play behind Gurley.

For Carter, getting back into form was more about being confident and aggressive.

“I’m just getting in the gym mostly and just focusing, asserting myself more in the game, doing what I know I can do,” Carter said. “I got my confidence back so I’m doing good now. That’s how I feel every game.”

Not only is Carter scoring more against conference foes, but he is doing it at an efficient clip. His shooting percentage is just under 70 percent from the field in the four-game stretch, placing him second in the A-10 behind David Pellom of George Washington (.714).

“My teammates are putting me in good position to score, giving me open shots,” Carter said. “I catch the ball right around the front of the rim so it’s much easier to make shots. I’m in good positions which the coaches are putting me in to make plays for the team.”

Both Carter and Vinson have improved throughout the course of the season, a far cry from the beginning of the year when UMass relied heavily on forward Sampson Carter to provide some sort of an inside presence while Vinson and Carter were struggling.

After entering his freshman season as the top recruit of the 2009 class, Vinson had a strong rookie campaign, ranking third on the Minutemen in points per game (9.6). Expectations were raised heading into his second year as many predicted he would make a leap. Vinson, however, eased into the season and has started to look more comfortable on the court in the past month.

Carter, on the other hand, has had a roller coaster year in his third season with UMass. After beginning the year as a starter, he was moved to the bench in an effort by Kellogg to get him going offensively. The move paid dividends as the center came off the bench to score 12 points, grab seven rebounds and block three shots in 21 minutes in the victory against Holy Cross on Nov. 11. At the time, Kellogg called Carter’s performance the “best of his career.”

Regardless of any struggles earlier in the year, Carter is focused on the conference schedule, something which adds extra motivation in terms of reaching the postseason.

“All of the games are important but the A-10 is really important, especially for us,” he said. “If we can’t make the tournament we can win the conference and that’s a big deal for us.”

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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