Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Fast-paced games leading to dry spells for UM

By Stephen Sellner

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Through its first four games, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team was able to pull away from its opposition using a series of runs in which the Minutemen dominated.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

In the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the squad got a taste of its own medicine.

UMass (5-2) fought neck-and-neck in the first half of play against College of Charleston and Florida State in the tournament, but both teams ran off fast-paced scoring spurts that put the game out of reach. When it was all said and done, the Minutemen had dropped their first two games of the season by a margin of 24 and 20 points, respectively.

Saturday’s contest against the Cougars was a five-point game with 12:38 remaining before UMass surrendered a 20-4 run in a 5:48 span that blew the game wide open, giving Charleston an insurmountable 68-47 lead that the Minutemen never regained.

Thursday’s matchup against the Seminoles was no different.

Early on in the game, UMass sophomore, Raphiael Putney, sank a pair of free throws to give the Minutemen a 21-20 advantage with 5:09 left to play in the first half. The lead was short-lived, however, as FSU closed the half on a 16-4 run, erasing UMass’ advantage and holding onto the lead for good.

However, in between its two losses, the Minutemen used an 18-8 run of its own against Utah to turn a seven-point second half lead into a 17-point margin, which put a stamp on the game and led to their 89-75 victory on Friday.

It’s no secret that UMass wants to get up and down the floor in its games as quickly as possible, but the up-tempo style has played a factor in the swings in momentum not only for the Minutemen, but opponents as well.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg said the scoring runs shouldn’t be as large as the season wears on and adjustments are made, but that the opposition’s runs of late are a byproduct of the pace the team is setting on a nightly basis.

“When the floor’s open that way and teams are shooting a lot of 3s and really pushing tempo, there’s [going to] be some runs,” said Kellogg. “And I’m not really totally accustomed to that as a coach, but I’m getting more used to it and trying to bite my whistle in practice a little bit and also use my timeouts at a good time during games to make sure that we’re the ones on the runs.”

According to Kellogg, the Minutemen responded to the opponents’ runs early in the season and weathered the storm before kicking into gear themselves and swinging momentum back to their side.

In its rout of Boston College on Nov. 21, UMass trailed the Eagles early before catching fire, reeling off 10 straight points as part of its 23-6 run to close out the first half. The stretch turned a six-point deficit into an 11-point advantage as the Minutemen began to hit their stride.

While Kellogg admitted that the defense wasn’t playing up to par against Charleston and FSU, he felt the team was taking poor shots and rushing on offense as well, trying to stop the bleeding.

“You’re not going to get a seven-point lead back on one shot so it’s like, ‘Let’s be a little smarter. Let’s take care of the ball and let’s continue to share the basketball,’” said Kellogg.

Towards the end of the road trip, it seemed as if UMass was running out of gas. After all, it was the team’s first road trip of the season and it had traveled from Boston to the Bahamas without a break.

Kellogg agreed that the traveling had an affect on his team, especially in the Minutemen’s loss to the Cougars in their last game of the tournament. In the future, he says he will make adjustments to prevent a repeat of Saturday’s performance if similar circumstances are presented.

“I thought it was a little much on our team to be pressing and running on a consistent basis so I would take a look at that [again] if we’re in a tournament at the end of the year with three games in three days,” said Kellogg.

UMass returns home on Wednesday after four days of rest to take on Towson before heading south again to face Miami and East Carolina.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.

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