Gurley, Bailey make big plays over URI

By Jay Asser

Massachusetts men’s basketball guard Anthony Gurley is used to making pivotal plays which lead to wins. Center Hashim Bailey, however, doesn’t get that opportunity too often.
Nevertheless, both players contributed significant baskets to help UMass win its second consecutive Atlantic 10 game over Rhode Island on Sunday.
Gurley’s moment came late in the second half, when the Minutemen (13-7, 5-2 A-10) were holding onto an eight-point lead as the Rams (13-8, 4-3 A-10) attempted to make a comeback.
With just over three minutes remaining and the shot clock winding down, the UMass guard received the ball at the top of the key for an isolation situation. After trying to get by Rhode Island point guard Marquis Jones on several moves, Gurley stepped back and created space, as Jones overcommitted. Gurley fired with the shot clock expiring and hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to put the dagger in the Rams.
The long-range connection not only extended the Minutemen lead, but demoralized the Rams after nearly 35 seconds of unrelenting defense.
“I think they thought the game was over,” UMass guard Javorn Farrell said of Rhode Island after the shot. “When he makes shots like that, I personally think he’s the best player in our league.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg knows it takes a certain type of player and person to take on the burden of such a moment and believes Gurley is that kind of player.
“There’s no question [as to] what’s happening at that point from anybody,” Kellogg said. “The team knows, the coaches know, everybody in the building knows, so for the player to have that ability that, ‘I’m the guy at that point,’ I think that gives you confidence.”
What Kellogg was most impressed with in that play was Gurley’s patience in waiting for the right time to pull the trigger. Shot timing has been a point of emphasis between Kellogg and Gurley as the senior develops as a player.
“For anybody who’s seen his maturation process, two years ago the ball would have hit his hand and he would have shot with nine [seconds left on the shot clock] and not even move,” Kellogg said. “Last year, it would have been a situation where maybe it would be one move and then a fade-away with a guy hanging on him.”
While Kellogg is used to seeing Gurley make big plays, he was both entertained and impressed with Bailey’s effort.
Midway through the second half, the Minutemen center recognized a similar play he saw run by Rhode Island in the first half. Bailey overplayed it and tipped the ball away from his man before coming away with a steal. With an open path to the basket, Bailey raced to the other end and finished a layup over a Rams defender.
“It looked funny,” Kellogg said with a smile. “In all honesty, we work on that layup with the guys in practice just about every day. It’s our perfection layup, we’ve been doing it as a coach for the last better of 15, 20 years. …That may have been one of every fifth-game you get that [play] from a big guy, but it actually paid dividends.”
Bailey said he hadn’t had a steal leading to a basket in the open floor since his time at prep school or high school.
Aside from exciting the crowd on that play, Bailey also contributed three rebounds (two offensive) in his time off the bench to give UMass a spark in the frontcourt.
Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]