Denying opponent’s shots from beyond the arc key for UM

By Herb Scribner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Shots from beyond the arc are killers, at least for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

In their last two losses, the Minutemen (13-9, 5-4 Atlantic 10) suffered a downpour of 3-pointers.

“They hurt, at crucial times, times when we’re making runs, times [when] we’re looking to get back into the game, 3s are daggers,” senior guard Gary Correia said. “They hurt a lot. Once they hit one and we come down and take a bad shot and they hit another one, as the course of the game goes on, those start to add up.”

Against Saint Louis, back on Feb. 2, it was a combined team effort in 3-pointers, but last Saturday’s affair against Saint Joseph’s was an individual effort from freshman Langston Galloway (6-for-6).

“It’s two different scenarios,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I thought Saint Louis made some really good baskets and did a really good job. I thought Saint Joseph’s Langston Galloway hit some really good shots. He hit three with really no time on the shot clock and we had played some good defense.”

The SLU game marked rock bottom for a UMass team that is ranked seventh in the conference in 3-point defense as the Billikens (8-15, 3-7 A-10) nailed 30 of their 69 points from the perimeter.

Perimeter defense is what’s on the minds of Kellogg and his coaching staff as the team takes a week away from competition. The week off has made the Minutemen focused on fine-tuning their defense beyond the arc.

“We’re just trying to pay attention to detail now and get better and prepare for the next game on Sunday,” Correia said.

UMass takes on George Washington Sunday, which is a team that ranks fifth in the A-10 conference in 3-point field goal percentage (34.3 percent).

In shots from beyond the arc, GW (12-12, 5-5 A-10) boasts top numbers from freshman forward Nemanja Mikic, who is shooting over 40 percent this season.

Mikic scored a career-high seven 3-pointers against UNC-Wilmington, as the team combined for 11 3-pointers throughout the contest. The Colonials scored the same numbers of baskets against Oregon State back in December. Both are season highs.

“That’s something we definitely have to make a conscious effort to get down on 3-pointer shooters especially the good ones,” Kellogg said. “You can’t have a guy going 6-for-6 or shoot a high, high percentage because that carries over to the rest of the team.”

While Kellogg has watched GW on tape and knows how the team plays and acts around 3-point territory, he is focused on the game itself and how it’ll pan out.

“I’m hoping that we can be a little more fortunate, have the ball bounce our way a few more times and we also have got a week to practice to get more prepared to make sure that we don’t give up any open 3s.”

With GW’s 3-point accuracy looming, as well as the A-10’s second-best 3-point shooting team in Duquesne on the horizon, the Minutemen aren’t looking allow open shots from beyond the arc. For Correia, who is a leader on both sides of the court, it’s about paying attention to detail and not losing players during the play.

“I think we need to pay more attention to detail,” Correia said. “I feel like some guys are taking a lot of shots, guys that we knew were going to hit shots that we just lost them during the course of a play or a late shot clock or we didn’t switch or we didn’t do something we normally do.”

Kellogg, meanwhile, wants to see his team end games with “hands high,” in order to close down on shooters.

“It’s something that we need to be conscious of,” Kellogg said. “Biggest thing is when we close out we have to close out with hands high which means the shooter sees your hand coming at him as he’s raising up. Right now, we’ve done a poor job of closing out on shooters.”

UMass returns to the Mullins Center on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. The Minutemen have allowed 76 3-pointers throughout the season while playing at home.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]