UM looking for help on the road

By Herb Scribner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Atlantic 10 regular season is just about over, and the Massachusetts men’s basketball team will finish it out on the road at Fordham.

The Minutemen (15-13, 7-8 A-10) stroll into Rose Hill Gym on Saturday after a 73-67 loss to Temple. UMass hung around with the Owls for the majority of the game, but eventually landed on the losing end of the scoreboard in overtime.

On Saturday, the Minutemen will go from host to guest of a senior night game, as the Rams (6-21, 0-15 A-10) will celebrate their two seniors, guard Brenton Butler and forward Jacob Green.

Both UMass coach Derek Kellogg and guard Anthony Gurley expressed the difficulty in competing on the road against Fordham, especially on senior night.

“It’ll be tough to beat them especially on senior night at their own place,” said Gurley.

“Anytime we’re on the road I think it’s going to be a tough game, especially for senior day,” said Kellogg.

There are some implications to this Saturday’s road game. If the Minutemen fall short, then they will start the A-10 postseason away from the Mullins Center. Conversely, a win would, potentially, get them a home game.

“I’m an optimist so I’m going to look at it with an optimistic view. At the same token, you want to go into that A-10 conference tournament with a little bit of momentum,” said Kellogg.

Gaining momentum from a road game might be tougher than expected, as the plane ride to St. Bonaventure, time on the road has been giving UMass some ups and downs.

“I think we’ve played better at home,” said Gurley. “I’m not sure why. Don’t get me wrong, we have some quality road wins, I just think we play better at home.”

While they posted highly-competitive performances in wins against the Bonnies (15-13, 7-8 A-10) and Rhode Island, the Minutemen’s road games have showcased some roadblocks.

One of the major roadblocks came against Saint Joseph’s, a game that can directly correlate with the upcoming Rams contest. At the time of the game on Feb. 5, the Hawks were winless in the conference, but before a vibrant crowd, SJU pushed the tempo hard enough to steal a 67-64 win from the Maroon and White.

The loss to the Hawks (8-21, 3-12 A-10) came right off the heels of a road loss to Saint Louis, and was the beginning of a four-game skid for the Minutemen.

Other tough road losses this season include UMass’ most recent away 72-51 loss to La Salle, a team that the Minutemen had beaten earlier in the season. Gurley was held to four points in the contest.

Another tough A-10 loss came against No. 23 Xavier back on Jan. 12 when UMass students were on their winter break. The Minutemen suffered a 21-4 first half run that ultimately was too tall of lead to come back from.

Looking back on 2010-11

With Saturday’s contest being the final of the regular season, Kellogg had the chance to look back on how his team has played throughout the season.

According to Kellogg, one of the weaknesses of the Minutemen this season has been their offensive structure. Although it has shot well at times, UMass has put reliance on one scorer all too often.

“At times I think we’ve been too reliant on Anthony to be good,” said Kellogg. “In games that we’ve shot the ball well we look like a good college basketball team.”

Kellogg’s positive reaction came from inspecting the Minutemen defense.

“We’ve been a good defensive team,” said Kellogg. “We actually look like we know what we’re doing, we’re in the right position [and] we brought some good intensity on the defensive end.”

The Minutemen have displayed some strong defense, especially against Temple on Wednesday night, holding the Owls to 20-for-55 shooting. On each possession in the game, UMass pressured the ball and was right up to speed with some of the nation’s best.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]