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UMass guard C.J. Anderson looks to continue making an impact in prominent role off bench

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Coming off the bench, sophomore guard C.J. Anderson has accepted numerous roles for the Massachusetts basketball team six games into UMass’ 2015-16 schedule. And for a rare time Wednesday night against Boston University, Anderson embraced the task of coming out aggressively shooting.

Anderson finished with 12 points in the Minutemen’s 99-69 blowout victory Wednesday, marking his first career game reaching double figures. He added three rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes of action.

Anderson’s impact was felt soon after entering the game at the 14-minute, 57-second mark. The sophomore hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give UMass an 18-12 lead and jumpstart a decisive 19-3 run.

“I thought C.J.’s two 3s in the first half were big baskets. The first one was wide open because they were helping on the inside. Then on the second one he raised up and made it,” coach Derek Kellogg said at Wednesday’s postgame press conference. “I thought they gave him some good confidence to go make some plays that we’re expecting he can make on a regular basis.”

Anderson said Friday before practice that the career-game gives him confidence moving forward, starting with the Minutemen’s next game Saturday against Mississippi in Springfield.

“I’ve been working on (shooting) every day in practice. That’s just a goal that coach set for me, to make 100 3s after practice,” Anderson said. “For them to go down during the game, it really gives me confidence to keep being aggressive.”

Before Wednesday, Anderson has mostly come off the bench as another ball handler at point guard and taken advantage of his 6-foot-6 height to provide rebounding help. His previous career-best in points came in UMass’ 2015 opener against Howard on Nov. 14 when he recorded six points.

Anderson said he has no problem with alternating roles and is prepared for whatever Kellogg calls on him to do against the Rebels and their talented backcourt unit led by the 14th highest scorer in the NCAA this year in senior Stefan Moody.

“I just want to come out to play my game,” Anderson said. “I can come out and I can score if I need to, I can come out and rebound and play defense, lead the team as a point guard. Whatever role it is coming into the game, I’m ready to accept it.”

Starting point guard Jabarie Hinds said he’s seen a difference in Anderson’s play in year two and noted his versatility as a major factor in his success. When playing together at the same time, Hinds usually moves off the ball to shooting guard while Anderson handles the ball.

“He’s been everywhere. He’s driving the ball, when we’re both in the game I mostly move to the two and he handles the ball, he passes the ball well. He’s a real good driver,” Hinds said Friday. “When he’s not getting up shots, (his driving is) also a plus for us too. He keeps the defense on their toes, keeps them thinking.”

Regarding his presence on the boards, Anderson often is in charge of battling prototypical forwards for rebounds when UMass opts for a smaller lineup that sometimes includes four guards in Hinds, Anderson, Trey Davis and Donte Clark.

“Really, when we play against bigger guys it comes down to toughness. It’s all about if you want that rebound or want to lock up that man on defense,” Anderson said. “We really take on that role, all our guys. Zach Coleman, Seth (Berger), they’re not fours. They’re really threes. But when they’re playing the four, it’s just about you have to have the heart to take on that big man.”

Anderson debuted a brace on his right knee Wednesday night due to a small tweak he suffered on Nov. 17 against Harvard. According to him, the injury occurred on a breakaway dunk.

Anderson added the injury is not serious and that he wears the brace to prevent further harm. Coming off his 12-point performance, he superstitiously joked that he doesn’t plan to take the brace off any time soon.

“Yeah, I think I’ll be wearing that for a little while now,” Anderson said after Wednesday’s win.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at achiusano@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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