With the help of his headband, Massachusetts men’s basketball forward Raphiael Putney is starting to get back into his old groove.
After the Minutemen’s season opener against Harvard, Putney inexplicably abandoned his trademark headgear as the team set off for Puerto Rico, where his production began to decline.
In Saturday’s loss to Miami (Fla.), though, the headband returned, as did a glimpse of Putney’s old form. Despite getting into foul trouble, the junior hit all three of his 3-point attempts and looked like the player who finished last season with 10.1 points per game, which was good for second on the team.
“Last year, I wore it and it was part of my outfit and how I played,” Putney said of his headband, “so I’m going to bring it back this year again and now I’m going to keep it on my head.”
If the headband and his success have any correlation, UMass coach Derek Kellogg should be happy to hear that. He said Saturday’s game was the first in a long time when he saw Putney get into his rhythm, despite getting into early foul trouble.
“It was unfortunate that he was playing well but that he got in foul trouble again,” Kellogg said. “It was really one of the first times this year where he had good energy and was playing for the team.”
Kellogg and company are hopeful that his success, no matter how small it may be, can continue as UMass travels to Boston for a Tuesday night tip-off with Northeastern at Matthews Arena.
The Huskies (4-3) are losers of two straight heading into the contest after winning four of their first five games. Boasting a nine-player rotation, Northeastern is a deep, experienced team that, like the Minutemen, shoots a lot of 3-pointers.
Leading the Huskies in scoring is Joel Smith (18.0 points per game), who is lighting it up from 3-point territory, where he is 21-for-49 (44.1 percent) so far this season. As a team, Northeastern is shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc going into Tuesday’s game.
“It does (worry me),” Kellogg said. “I want us to play a full game and play the way we’re capable of playing. I think we’ve put together good pieces and right now we have to put together 40 minutes of UMass basketball.”
UMass has yet to put together that complete-game effort so far this season despite its three victories, and it will likely have a harder time in doing so Tuesday night with the absence of Cady Lalanne. Kellogg announced Monday before practice that the sophomore center has been suspended indefinitely in relation to an arrest on Saturday night on-campus.
Without Lalanne, the usual starting center, Kellogg will need to shuffle his lineups and insert a new starting center, who will likely be either Sampson Carter or Maxie Esho.
“I think Sampson’s done a good job in his minutes (and) I think Maxie’s done a great job in his minutes,” Kellogg said. “The reality of it is I do like Maxie coming off the bench because of his energy, but Sampson’s done some good things, so I think we’ll be able to run a little bit more with Sampson.”
Lalanne’s suspension will also open the door for the three freshmen – Trey Davis, Tyler Bergantino and Izzy Freeman – to get more playing time. Kellogg asserted that he’ll likely have to shuffle in smaller lineups that can press and run with more ease with the absence of its biggest inside presence.
“I think Trey deserves some minutes to play so maybe we’ll go small and try to run a little bit more,” Kellogg said. “Tyler’s done some good things in practice. Because of the way the schedule’s been laid out with the tough games we’ve played at home and at neutral sites, I haven’t really had an opportunity to get those guys in. Now I’m kind of forced to play them some, which might be a good thing down the line.”
UMass and Northeastern met last season at the Mullins Center, where the Minutemen beat the Huskies, 83-67. Chaz Williams recorded a double-double with 20 points and 10 assists, while Terrell Vinson and Carter followed with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Tuesday’s tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.