Big playoff implications on the line as Minutemen face Rhode Island

By Jackson Alexander

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team will conclude its regular season on Saturday when it hosts Rhode Island.

The Minutemen will honor seniors Sean Carter and Matt Hill, as the two will be competing at the Mullins Center in a regular season game for the last time in their collegiate careers.

The 2011-2012 season has been Carter’s best as a Minutemen as he’s set career-highs in points per game (7.4), minutes per game (27.7) and field goal percentage (60 percent).

Carter joined the Minutemen in 2008 after a year at Oregon State. He sat out the 2008-2009 season, but instantly contributed the next year as a sophomore. He’s averaged 5.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game over his career at UMass, and totaled 109 blocks over that time.

Hill is a redshirt senior, who has played sparingly in his five year with the Minutemen. He’s appeared in just five games this season, and averages 1.2 points per game. He received the most playing time last season, when he averaged 9.5 minutes per game. Despite scoring just 49 total points in his career, Hill serves as one of the leaders on the young UMass team.

The Minutemen will now look to improve on their 13-1 record at home against URI.

Saturday’s game will be a rematch of the Feb. 1 matchup in which the Rams defeated the Minutemen 81-78 in overtime.

URI’s Orion Outerbridge went off in that game, as he scored 29 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds. Nikola Malesevic scored 19 points, and Dominique McKoy chipped in 10.

On the other side, Raphiael Putney led four Minutemen in double-figures. Putney poured in 18 points, added eight rebounds and earned six steals. Carter scored 16 points, while Chaz Williams and Jesse Morgan rounded out the scoring for UMass with 12 and 11 points, respectively. However, Williams struggled to take care of the ball that game as he committed nine turnovers.

This game has major postseason implications for the Minutemen. If UMass defeats the Rams, they are guaranteed a home playoff game, and with a lot of luck, could even earn the fourth seed, and a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

To earn the first round bye, the Minutemen would need to win on Saturday, and Xavier, Dayton and La Salle would all have to lose its final games. If they were to lose to Rhode Island, and Duquesne beats Saint Louis, UMass would be the ninth seed, and play on the road in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

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