Anthony Gurley’s slump may be over.
On Wednesday night at the Mullins Center, Gurley returned to his scoring ways with a game-high 22 points, but also moved into 17th all-time in UMass scoring history (1,259 points). Gurley passed Doug Grutchfield with 17:54 remaining in the second half with a layup.
Gurley’s 22 points came on 9-for-14 shooting, which was achieved with open shots and backdoor passes from the rest of the Minutemen (15-11, 7-6 Atlantic 10).
“I felt pretty comfortable that he was going to get some baskets tonight,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “He carried over what he did in the second half against Rhode Island and played a good game.”
Despite the recent slump, Kellogg still had confidence in his top scorer to rise from the depths.
“I’m confident in Anthony,” Kellogg said. “He’s worked so hard. Guys won’t go into slumps for too long when they work hard and get in the gym.”
Gurley started right from the get-go with 12 points in the game’s first 12 minutes, which was three points less than SJU had as a team in the first half.
With 3:06 remaining in the first, Gurley nailed a 3-pointer that not only energized the Minutemen and their fans, but also extended the Maroon and White’s lead to 17 points.
Though Gurley wasn’t as electric in the second, he still managed 10 points to help close out the victory over the Hawks. Other than being the go-to guy for scoring, Gurley contributed on a lot of other plays.
Gurley had a hand on one of redshirt freshman Raphiael Putney’s electrifying moments. Despite having an open look from the perimeter, Gurley tossed the ball over to Putney on the wing and watched as he put away the 3-point basket.
On top of his 22 points, Gurley grabbed six rebounds en route to a stat-filling performance.
His rebounding and defensive presence falls in line with what Gurley said he wanted to do in upcoming games. Rather than being UMass’ traditional scorer, Gurley wanted to work on other little things, such as rebounding and defensive plays to help his team. His six rebounds and constant pressure on the SJU side accomplished just that.
Other than moving up the scoring list of former Minutemen, Gurley returned to the form that was seen for the majority of the season. Though signs were shown against Rhode Island on Feb. 19 with his 16 points, Gurley’s swift stroke and stimulating plays reappeared on Wednesday night before a home crowd of 3,641.
Before the game against the Hawks, Gurley showed signs of a slump that began in the last contest against SJU, when Gurley scored his then-season low of 10 points.
Following the loss to the Hawks on Feb. 5, Gurley scored 16 total points in his next two contests against George Washington and A-10 elite Duquesne. His lack of offensive ability coerced the Minutemen into finding less conventional ways of scoring in Jesse Morgan and Putney.
While normally ill-shooting nights would plague a player, Gurley found solace in another shooter’s inability to score, which gave him the confidence to move forward and continue to work hard.
“After one of my games, I had a tough game, and I had also seen that Paul Pierce had also went 0-for-10 so it made me feel a little better about myself,” Gurley said. “It’s all a part of the game. I’ve been in this situation before where I’ve had a couple bad games in a row so it wasn’t nothing I wasn’t used to.”
With two straight wins and Gurley’s return to form, the final games of UMass’ season could produce brighter results than seen as of late.
However, neither Kellogg or Gurley are willing to admit the slump is over.
“Let’s see how he does at La Salle and we’ll roll with it,” Kellogg said.
“I’m very hard on myself so I wouldn’t even say I’m completely out of my slump right now,” Gurley said. “I definitely feel like I got it back a little bit tonight and I’ve still got to continue to fine-tune some things.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]