Minutemen onto something

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

PHILADELPHIA – Tony Gaffney knows better than to get caught up in one win ‘- especially in the midst of a 10-15 season ‘- but the senior forward views the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s last-second win over Saint Joseph’s as the start of something.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘Obviously we’re not a team to get content because we haven’t got a lot to be content about, but I think this is a great start for us,’ Gaffney said after the 70-69 victory over the Hawks at the Palestra. ‘It’s too bad it’s gotta come this late in the season, but I think our guys will feed off this, and I think we’re finally ready to make a run.’

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The win came at the perfect time for the Minutemen (10-15, 5-7 Atlantic 10), which had lost two straight and six of its last eight in the conference. UMass, still in a tie for eighth place in the A-10, has really struggled in late-game situations this season, losing more than a handful of games in the final minutes.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Because of the continuous lapses at the end of games, doubt began to creep into the Minutemen. Sunday’s breakthrough did a lot for the team’s collective psyche.

‘We [didn’t doubt] ourselves, but we doubted the team,’ Gaffney said. ‘That’s going to happen when you’ve had a tough season, haven’t had many signature wins and you’re flirting in the middle to the bottom of the A-10.

‘But I think this is going to do a lot for our confidence, and I think it will let guys believe we have as good a team as anybody in our league.’

Having lost so many times in the last four minutes of close games, UMass coach Derek Kellogg focused the last two weeks of practice on late-game situations. Now that it’s paid noticeable dividends, he views that as something the team needed moving forward.

‘It’s nice that you can close out a game in the last four minutes, and now the guys believe on some of the things we’re doing. It adds credence to a lot of the things that I’m teaching,’ Kellogg said.

Replacement Glass

It’s been two games since Kellogg inserted Matt Glass into the starting lineup for Anthony Gurley ‘- and it doesn’t appear that is about to change anytime soon.

‘I think it’s good that [Gurley] is coming off the bench because now he’s bringing us some more scoring off the bench, and ironically, Matt Glass is playing better starting ‘- so we’ll see how that goes for a little while,’ Kellogg said.

But Gurley hasn’t yet provided that lift off the bench in two opportunities. In Sunday’s win, he scored seven points ‘- but in 14 second-half minutes, the only place he showed up in the box score was in the turnover column. He had no points, no rebounds, no assists, steals, blocks or shots attempted. It was reminiscent of his 15 minutes off the bench against Rhode Island on Feb. 18, where his box score only had three missed shots and two fouls.

Glass has fared a bit better, averaging 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as a starter. He got involved down-low in the first half against the Hawks and hit both of his 3-point attempts.

Kellogg talked about the importance of getting more size (Glass is 6-foot-7, four inches taller than Gurley) in the starting lineup.

‘I feel like we have to get bigger out there a little bit. To get killed on the boards and just not be physical out there is not what I want to do,’ Kellogg said.

In another lineup move by Kellogg, reserve point guard Gary Correia did not play for the first time all season in Sunday’s game. The sophomore guard, who averages 10.3 minutes per game, has struggled this season. He hasn’t shot the ball well, going 12-for-42 (28.6 percent) overall and 5-for-26 from 3-point range (19.2 percent). He averages 1.7 points and 1.1 assists per game.

Freshman David Gibbs, who averages 17 minutes per game, played the role of backup point guard against St. Joe’s. He had five points in 11 minutes.

All hands on deck

Talk about a team effort.

All eight players that saw action against the Hawks played a key role in the win. That is best displayed in the scoring column, with seven different Minutemen scoring at least five points. Tyrell Lynch (two points) made his impact felt in the post with three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Luke Bonner, who had missed his first four 3-pointers, hit one of the biggest shots of the game with 47 seconds to go to give UMass a one-point lead. He finished with seven points and six rebounds. Gaffney had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and both Ricky Harris (13) and Chris Lowe (11) scored in double figures.

‘To have everybody contribu
te ‘- on the bench, in the starting lineup, it just means a lot to everybody,’ Gaffney said.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ High-Lowe

In addition to hitting two free throws with two seconds left to give the Minutemen the win Sunday, Lowe had seven assists ‘- the first of which set the UMass school record in career assists, passing Carl Smith with 634.

He now sits with 640, good for sixth all-time in the A-10. He needs 16 more to move into the Top 5.

‘It means a lot, [UMass is a] great program with a lot of great point guards like Coach Kellogg, Carmelo Travieso, Edgar Padilla and Carl Smith. I’m just glad to have the record and hopefully one day someone will come in here and break it.’

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ No. 3 for you!

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ If the Hawks could have made a miracle 3-pointer in the final two seconds, not only would they have won, but they would have kept a pretty impressive streak alive.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ St. Joe’s streak of 435 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer came to an end, after the Hawks went 0-for-7 from long range against the Minutemen. The last time they had gone without one was on March 13, 1998 in a first-round NIT loss to Southwest Missouri State.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The lack of a 3-pointer also ended a streak for UMass, which had gone exactly nine years to the day since last playing a team that didn’t make a 3-pointer. That was against Rhode Island on Feb. 22, 2000.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Rare territory

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Gaffney needs just one more steal this season to become the first player in three years to block 100 shots and get 50 steals in the same season. The last to do it was Duke’s Shelden Williams in the 2005-06 season. Only five players have accomplished the feat since 1996-97.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Gaffney has 104 blocks (his 4.16 blocks per game ranks third in the nation) and 49 steals this season. He appeared to get steal No. 50 on St. Joe’s desperation heave to midcourt in the final seconds, but the pass that he tipped went to Glass, who got credit for the steal.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]