UMass welcomes VCU to the ‘House of P.A.I.N.’
The Massachusetts men’s basketball team has a message to deliver.
The team has heard all about the vaunted Virginia Commonwealth’s “Havoc” style of defense. The Minutemen are wary of the dangers posed by facing such a tiring, explosive full-court press. And while the Havoc continues to steal the headlines, UMass wants to debut its own brand of basketball on a national stage.
“We got the ‘House of P.A.I.N.,’” senior forward Raphiael Putney said. “People don’t know what the House of P.A.I.N. feels like until they get here. So when they come here they’re really gonna feel that, especially with the sold out crowd.”
The Minutemen will host VCU on Friday at 7 p.m. in the “House of P.A.I.N.”—more commonly known as Mullins Center—during a game aired nationally on ESPN2 in front of an expect sellout crowd.
“P.A.I.N.” is an acronym created this season by the UMass coaching staff, which wanted to transform the Minutemen’s style of basketball into its own personal brand. The acronym stands for “pressure,” “agitate,” “interrupt” and “neutralize,” and follows a concept similar to the Rams’ embodiment of the Havoc mindset.
Both UMass and VCU want to turn the game into a track meet by transitioning up and down the court in a blur. The Minutemen believe that upping their defensive performance is the key to dictating the course of the game.
“Just bring our defense,” Putney said. “I don’t think (VCU’s) that great of an offensive team. With our defense and the way we play in the half-court, we can get more turnovers that way so it’ll be good for us to see what we can do.”
UMass is holding opponents to just 41 percent shooting this season and is even more effective farther away from the basket, holding opponents to just 30.5 percent from 3-point range. VCU is averaging a robust 76.5 points per game, but is shooting just 42 percent from the floor. Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg noted that getting stops defensively keeps VCU from effectively setting up its full-court press.
“Like most pressing teams, when you hear Louisville talk or Arkansas talk, they need to score baskets or get dead balls so they can set their press,” Kellogg said. “The teams, when they’re scoring, are much more effective because they can get into it more often.”
The Rams feature an athletic roster with plenty of experience. Among them is senior forward Juvonte Reddic, who is averaging 12.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He’s VCU’s most effective post scorer and will match up with UMass center Cady Lalanne.
“The reality is, when they really need a basket, they look to post (Reddic),” Kellogg said. “And he’s one of the better big guys in the league, and they have a really good front line with him and Treveon Graham.”
But Putney believes that the Minutemen pose significant matchup problems for VCU—especially at the forward positions where Putney teams with Sampson Carter, Maxie Esho and Lalanne—something the team can expose if it limits turnovers.
“I think we’re actually better at the four and five (positions),” Putney said. “We have a lot of hybrids who I think (the Rams’) hybrids can’t really guard. So if we take care of the ball and run in transition, we’ll be in great shape.”
Putney also noted that revenge is simmering on UMass’ mind.
VCU defeated the Minutemen twice last season, defeating UMass at home 86-68 and knocking them out of the Atlantic 10 Championship in the semifinals 71-62, ending its season and crushing any NCAA Tournament hopes. Now, in front of a sold-out crowd, the Minutemen will have a chance to exact some revenge and deliver on a signature win.
“Definitely revenge,” Putney said. “I think both games (last year), we should’ve beat them but we made some careless turnovers which got them on their runs. If we take care of the basketball and play good defense, we’ll be in great hands.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.