Men’s basketball face off against rival Spiders

By Herb Scribner

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

On Saturday, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team will have another opportunity to knock off a top Atlantic 10 opponent when it returns to the Mullins Center for a contest against Richmond.

The Minutemen (11-6, 3-1 A-10) return to their home court to take on the Spiders (14-5, 3-1 A-10) after winning three of their last four contests. With a heavy amount of momentum behind them, UMass will take on a Richmond team that isn’t going to offer the Maroon and White an easy battle.

“I think it’s a big game,” senior guard Gary Correia said. “[Wednesday’s] game was huge for us, but going into this game being 3-1 instead of 2-2. I mean, we have a chance to knock off someone that’s been at the top of our league year-in and year-out. I think it’s going to be a tough one.”

The Spiders haven’t had an easy schedule on their way to the Mullins Center, but have done well through their first 19 games of the season with wins against No. 11 Purdue, Wake Forest, Seton Hall (who defeated UMass, 104-79 earlier in the season) and George Washington. With wins against these top teams, a close game is surely on the horizon for these two squads.

While the Minutemen are coming off a 73-54 victory over Charlotte, which showcased Freddie Riley scoring 18 points and Anthony Gurley scoring 17 of his own, Richmond is coming off its own high-scoring affair against GW.

Prolific scorers Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson combined for 50 points against the Colonials (10-8, 3-1 A-10), with Harper’s 30 points being a career-high. With these two players on the Minutemen’s radar, Correia explained that UMass needs to do what it has done with recent A-10 opponents – adjust to its opponent’s offense.

“I think we adjusted to who we were playing and how we were going to play,” Correia said. “We need to defend as a group and not try to defend as individuals.”

While the Minutemen defense will try to hold off Harper and Anderson, the UMass offense will also be looking to shake things up and adjust to the Spiders’ confusing defense.

“I feel like at the same time this is another game where we need to pick up the pace a little bit because they slow it down if they matchup zone in the half court which confuses a lot of people,” Correia said.

Since they began A-10 play, the Minutemen have adopted a style of play that allows Gurley to play within the team rather than be the driving force. This gameplay style allows players like Riley, Correia and Javorn Farrell to raise their game and score for the Minutemen.

These aforementioned players have found ways to the hoop off the dribble-drive offense, and even more so by speeding up their transition.

Correia, who leads the team from the point position, cited the last two contests as the way the team needs to compete.

“Our last two games, we kind of sped it up and we wanted to get in on the transition,” Correia said. “So if we can get the game in transition … then that’ll be our best shot.”

Coming back from the game against the 49ers, the Minutemen were looking to readjust to the game plan to match that of the Spiders contest coming on Saturday.

“We’re going to listen to our coaches and figure out the best way to get a win,” Correia said.

The Spiders arrived in Amherst on Thursday night because of upcoming weather conditions. The two sides will compete on Saturday at noon at the Mullins Center.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]