UMass’ depth prevails over Eagles

By Stephen Sellner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

CHESTNUT HILL – Depth has been a common theme for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team this season. Monday night was no different.

Junior Freddie Riley snapped his early season dry-spell with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting, while freshman Cady Lalanne and sophomore Jesse Morgan each added 11 off the bench as the Minutemen cruised to an 82-46 beat down on Boston College.

UMass (4-0) shuffled in a balanced lineup throughout the contest, a far cry from the Eagles (1-2) thin lineup consisting of nine freshmen. Playing time was spread across the bench, as nine Minutemen finished with at least 14 minutes on the floor.

With the balance of talent on the roster, UMass coach Derek Kellogg said he wants to make sure he gets his players the necessary playing time to continue to improve.

“There’s just so many minutes in a game that I’m trying to make sure we get guys playing time so that they can get better,” said Kellogg.

Arguably the most encouraging sign for the Minutemen came from the play of Riley, who has struggled to find his groove this season.

Shot selection was the difference for Riley in the game, as he cashed in on free-throw pull-up jumpers, shots just inside the arc and open 3-pointers in transition.

Riley’s ability to hit jumpers should help to elevate an already effective UMass offense to another level as the season progresses.

“That gives you one more weapon that teams have to worry about instead of saying, ‘Just let him shoot,’” said Kellogg. “And I think when he’s playing confident, it kind of comes over to the other guys on the team also.”

When BC cut the Minutemen’s lead to 15 midway through the second half, it was Riley who strung-off five consecutive points to push the lead to 20, igniting a 15-0 UMass run to seal the game.

Riley was all smiles after the game, saying how he was relieved that he found his stroke heading into Thursday’s game against No. 20 Florida State, a team which features familiar faces for him.

“I know a couple guys on Florida State’s team so I didn’t [want to] go into that game shooting terrible, so it feels better,” said Riley.

Another positive performance for the Minutemen came from Morgan at the point guard position, as the sophomore was on the floor for a season-high 19 minutes. He was 3-for-8 from behind the arc and added three steals in his relief of sophomore point guard Chaz Williams.

Williams, who considers Morgan to be a close friend of his on and off the court, said he has been having long talks with Morgan reminding him to be patient. Williams even added that his own mother has been talking to Morgan to help him with his confidence levels.

Despite Morgan’s strong showing, Williams feels there is still another level that his fellow point guard can reach.

“This is something he really can build off of,” said Williams. “I still don’t feel like we saw Jesse Morgan so there’s still more Jesse to come and I feel that when he does show up, a lot of people will notice.”

Lalanne is another Minuteman who continues to come into his own, taking another step forward in his development.

The freshman made his presence felt on both ends of the floor, shooting 5-for-7 from the field and added a pair of blocks in his 15 minutes on the court.

Kellogg liked what he saw out of Lalanne and knows that it was only a glimpse of his potential.

“Once he can play more than 15 or 20 minutes, I think we’ll see a player that’s going to continue to get better,” said Kellogg.

UMass will need all hands on deck as it prepares for the Battle 4 Atlantis starting on Thursday with the undefeated Seminoles.

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