Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen head into winter break with similar state of mind as 2010 team

By Jackson Alexander

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Entering winter break, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team finds itself in a similar situation as last year.

After 11 games, the Minutemen are 8-3 and have three non-conference games remaining until Atlantic 10 play begins.

Similarly, last season UMass entered winter break at 7-3, but faltered after the break going 8-12 in its remaining games.

The Minutemen get a week off before they face Quinnipiac on Dec. 17th at the Mullins Center.

“Talking to a lot of coaches across the country, this is the time of year they’re starting to give their guys off a couple of days here and there,” said Kellogg.

The rest comes after a thrilling 82-78 win against Siena at the MassMutual Center. Chaz Williams led his team with 22 points, while Freddie Riley added 20 off the bench and Raphiael Putney chipped in 13.

Williams, a sophomore point guard, has done it all this season, leading UMass in points per game (15), assists per game (6.1), minutes per game (32.8) and steals per game (2.9).

As of Dec. 10, Williams was second in the nation in steals with 32, trailing Cleveland State’s D’Aundray Brown, who has 34 steals on the season.

Early in the season, coach Kellogg talked about his expectations of having a balanced scoring effort this season, and so far his team has done just that.

Williams is the only Minuteman who averages double-digit points, but behind him eight different players are averaging anywhere between 9.2 points per game and 5.5 points per game.

Lately, the emergence of junior guard Freddie Riley (9.2 points per game) has aided Williams as he’s averaged 13.8 points and made 14 3-pointers over the last four games.

“The last couple days in practice he’s been getting down on himself… everybody on the team just told him ‘just keep shooting, that’s the type of player you are,’” said Williams of Riley.

The Minutemen will play nine games over winter break, three non-conference and six conference games.

The three remaining non-conference games will be played against Quinnipiac (5-4, 1-1 Northeast), Davidson (6-3, 2-0 Southern) and Central Connecticut State (5-4, 2-0 Northeast).

UMass will have revenge on its mind when CCSU comes to Amherst. Last season, the Blue Devils embarrassed the visiting Minutemen, pounding them 92-63 in UMass’ final non-conference game of the season.

The Minutemen will face A-10 opponents Fordham, Charlotte and Saint Joseph’s at home, and La Salle, Duquesne, and Richmond on the road.

Judging by how the Minutemen have played this season, Fordham (3-5), Duquesne (6-4), and Richmond (6-3) should be winnable games. While their games against tougher opponents such as Saint Joseph’s (7-3), La Salle (7-3), and Charlotte (6-2), the Minutemen should be prepared for Temple, Saint Louis and Xavier, all of which they play during the second semester.

Perhaps the most captivating game over that stretch is the match at the Mullins Center with Saint Joseph’s on Dec. 14. The Hawks have impressive victories against Georgia Tech, Penn State, and No. 17 Creighton.

With a good portion of the season in the books, the Minutemen have an opportunity to take their season to a new level over break. With a few more non-conference wins under their belt, and a positive start against A-10 opponents, UMass will put itself in better position to compete for the a spot in the A-10 tournament.

Despite the promising start, Kellogg said he hopes that his team’s play will improve over break.

“I think it’s a much deserved break for our guys and they better come back with the fire and intensity they need to play with,” said Kellogg.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Alexander.

 

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