Freddie Riley sparks UMass to 73-54 win

By Jay Asser

Hannah Cohen

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team wrapped up its three-game road trip with a 73-54 win over Atlantic 10 opponent Charlotte to improve its conference record to 3-1 and overall record to 11-6.

Guards Freddie Riley, Anthony Gurley and Javorn Farrell led the way on offense, while the big men controlled the point to help the Minutemen end Charlotte’s (9-9, 1-3 A-10) six-game home winning streak.

The last time UMass began A-10 play with a 3-1 record, it finished 13-3, winning the conference regular-season title in the 2006-07 season.

“I thought that was one of our best games of the season,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said after the win. “The team played really good defense, rebounded the basketball, we shared it on the offensive end of the floor, we made some tough shots … and Freddie Riley did what he’s done a couple times this year – make some crazy 3’s to give us a boost in the first half.”

Riley had his best outing in over a month as he scored a game-high 18 points, including 15 in the first half, to reach double-figures for the first time since Dec. 11. The sophomore finished the contest shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 7-of-12 from the field.

“It was a matter of me just getting into the gym,” Riley said. “I was getting into the gym a lot, getting shots up before this game so I could have a good game and it worked out well for me.”

Riley, however, was playing with a heavy heart. The night before the game, Riley had received a phone call via Skype from his brother that their friend, Antonio Gordon, had passed away. Nevertheless, Riley managed to have one of his finer performances of the season.

“The whole game, I was just trying to keep my mind off that and just have fun and play hard because I dedicated this game to him,” Riley said.

Gurley and Farrell also added double-digit points. Gurley scored 17 while Farrell dropped 11 in the second half. It was the second-straight game Farrell reached double-figures and the sixth time this year.

In the post, forward Terrell Vinson grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds alongside center Sean Carter, who had six boards. The Minutemen held a commanding 40-32 edge on the glass for the contest.

For Charlotte, guard Derrio Green, who leads the team in scoring for the season, led the 49ers with 12 points despite struggling from the field with 2-of-10 shooting. Center Chris Braswell was the only other Charlotte player to score double-digits, adding 11 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds.

Kellogg was pleased with the team defense, but particularly satisfied with the containment on Green, who did a number on UMass last season.

“We just wanted to make sure Green didn’t do what he did against us at UMass last year, which was go for 30 and hit shots from all over the floor,” Kellogg said. “I thought we stayed connected and did a good job on him.”

The UMass defense held the 49ers to 32 percent shooting in both halves while forcing 11 turnovers, not allowing the Charlotte offense to get in rhythm in the contest.

After heading into intermission up 35-27, UMass extended its lead to 10 points on a 3-pointer by Vinson two minutes into the second period. The 49ers, however, came up charging back with seven straight points to cut the deficit to 39-36.

The Minutemen again went on a run as Gurley made a long-range connection and Farrell scored on a drive to give UMass an 11-point lead with less than nine minutes remaining in the game. From there, the Minutemen kept Charlotte at bay and cruised to the victory.

The Minutemen will continue conference play when they return home on Saturday to take on Richmond at noon.

Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]