For 2nd-straight year, UMass undefeated streak on the line against BC

By Stephen Hewitt

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Tonight, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team will have a chance to do something it hasn’t done since Derek Kellogg took over as head coach and just once since the beginning of the millennium – beat Boston College.
Leaving Amherst for the first time this season, the Minutemen (3-0) will travel east to Chestnut Hill for their annual clash with the Eagles (1-1), but there will be nothing ordinary about tonight’s matchup.
This year, the Eagles return just three players from last year’s squad that defeated UMass for the third consecutive time. They’re littered with inexperience throughout their roster, as nine freshmen and two sophomores occupy the majority of the lineup.
“Obviously when you have nine freshmen, you’re in sort of a rebuilding mode, [but] that doesn’t mean you’re trying to not win ballgames,” said Kellogg.
With a team loaded with as much underclassmen as BC has, growing pains are to be expected, and that’s exactly what has happened so far for the Eagles.
BC narrowly slipped by New Hampshire, 67-64, in its season opener last Monday before surprisingly being blown out by Holy Cross, 86-64, on Friday night. Kellogg, however, is looking past what he sees on paper and expects the game to be as competitive as it always is.
“This game has always been a big-time intrastate rivalry,” said Kellogg. “I don’t think you can put a record or RPI ranking on how the kids are going to play in this particular game.”
The Eagles are hopeful that forward Patrick Heckmann can return for tonight’s game. The freshman poured in 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his collegiate debut against UNH, but a sprained ankle sidelined him for Friday’s contest against the Crusaders.

Heckmann – who hails from Mainz, Germany – seems to be a crucial part of the system at BC, but even in his absence, Kellogg believes they have many other weapons and that the style of play they employ is one their biggest strengths.

“Coach Donahue, from being at Cornell, has brought in that open offense where they really move and play a good style offensively,” said Kellogg. “They shoot a lot of 3s, they spread the floor and it’s a tough game to scout.”
On the outside, Jordan Daniels, Matt Humphrey and Ryan Anderson are all dangerous 3-point threats for the Eagles, but if BC chooses to live and die by the 3-pointer, it could be a field day on the transition for Minutemen point guard Chaz Williams.
The sophomore transfer is lighting it up for UMass in his first three games,, as he’s averaging 17.7 points per game and nine assists per game entering tonight’s game.
On the other end, Kellogg said that BC is still working in a few players at the point guard spot. So far, three different Eagles are tied with just four assists through two games, and it could potentially be a matchup for Williams to exploit.
“I think Chaz just needs to play the way he’s been playing, and continue to get better defensively,” said Kellogg. “If he can do those things, then we have a chance to win the basketball game because he’s done a good job of leading the team, he’s getting guys shots, he’s playing pretty well for a guy that sat out a year last year.”
The new offensive style that Kellogg implemented in the offseason seems to be working thus far. Including Williams, four different Minutemen – Terrell Vinson (14.7 points per game), Sampson Carter (12.3 points per game) and Javorn Farrell (12 points per game) are averaging double-figures in points per game, and are immense contributors to a UMass offense that has burst to 82.3 points per game through the first three games.
However, while one could point to early success and be encouraged, one could also argue that the Minutemen haven’t done it against any worthwhile opponents.
This week, UMass will play two teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, annually billed as one of the top conferences in the nation, as it takes on BC tonight and No. 24 Florida State on Thursday as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas.
By this time next week, the Minutemen should have a better barometer to where they are as a team, and Kellogg is looking forward to watching the maturation process of his squad.
“It’s really early. You’re seeing teams that aren’t supposed to win win and teams that aren’t supposed to lose get beat,” said Kellogg. “At some point we’ll have some adversity to deal with and I’ll be excited to deal with the team and see how they respond because I think they’re going to respond in the right way.”
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Hewitt.