Minutemen off until next Wednesday

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Massachusetts men’s basketball team has started the 2007-08 season strongly, finishing a five-games-in-nine-days stretch with a 4-1 record.

But UMass has to wait until Nov. 28 to return to the court, a road game against No. 21 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Despite playing at a high level right now, the long layoff could work to the advantage of the Minutemen.

Junior point guard Chris Lowe has missed two games this season with an injured ankle – including Saturday’s matchup with Wisconsin-Green Bay – and will use the time off to get back to full strength.

It also enables coach Travis Ford to institute new plays into the offense, something he’s been unable to do with the busy game schedule.

“Coming off a great game like I thought we played [Saturday], I’d like to turn around and play again,” Ford said. “But this team needs a little time off for the fact that we haven’t put everything in. Not only do we need a little bit of rest, but there are some offenses that I want to put in that will help us a little bit.”

The layoff certainly will prove useful in preparation against the Orange; likely the toughest game on the schedule this season for the Minutemen.

A 3-point barrage

UMass has executed Ford’s new brand of basketball very well in the early going. Even without Lowe in the lineup, the Minutemen have played at the fast pace the coaching staff was looking for. And not even Ford could have hoped they would shoot this well (38.6 percent on 51-for-132 shooting) from the 3-point line.

Etienne Brower leads the way with 15 made 3-pointers on 24 attempts – good for 62.5 percent. Gary Forbes has 10, Ricky Harris has nine and Luke Bonner has seven made shots from the outside.

Against the Phoenix on Saturday, UMass connected on 15-of-32 from the 3-point line, including Brower’s 7-of-10 performance. Take out the one poor shooting night in the loss to Northern Iowa on Nov. 11, and the Minutemen have hit 44.2 percent of their outside shots (46-of-104).

One of their top shooters, Ricky Harris, has struggled with his shot to start the season. He’s hit on 9-of-32 attempts. But if the Minutemen continue to shoot at around the 40 percent mark, they will be a tough team to beat.

Forbes honored

After a week averaging 24.3 points, eight rebounds and four assists, the 6-foot-7 senior captain was honored with the Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Week on Sunday. The Minutemen went 2-1 during that stretch.

Forbes reached 1,000 career points in the loss to Northern Iowa to start the week. He scored 29 points in that game, to go along with nine rebounds and two assists.

Forbes had his best all-around game Saturday in the 93-78 victory over the Phoenix at the Mullins Center. He tied Brower for a game-high 25 points (on 9-of-16 shooting, 4-of-7 from the 3-point line) and led the Minutemen with seven assists. He also added seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals