UMass faces Seton Hall in second round of NIT

By Jackson Alexander

Time after time, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team has risen to the occasion this season. This trend must continue on Saturday morning if it hopes to extend its season.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Minutemen (23-11) will play arguably their biggest game of the season – again – when they travel to face Seton Hall (21-12) in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

The game – which will be broadcasted on ESPN – between No. 5 seed UMass and No. 1 seed Seton Hall will be played at 11 a.m. in Walsh Gymnasium.

Seton Hall finds itself in the second round after defeating No. 8 seed Stony Brook, 63-61, at Walsh Gymnasium. The game against Stony Brook marked the first time the Pirates had played in the gym in over 11 years.

“We’re in a bandbox … I don’t even want to call it an arena, it’s a high school gym that they practice in, and they’re using it for the NIT which gives them a great home court advantage,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg of Walsh Gymnasium.

Seton Hall received 21 points from Jordan Theodore and 20 points from Herb Pope in its win over the Seawolves. Pope has been a staple in the program in his four seasons as a Pirate.

“He’s a very good basketball player, in my opinion. He was a first-team All-Big East guy and a kid whose probably an NBA player and a really tough matchup because of his physicality [and] his maturity,” said Kellogg.

After seeing him multiple times between regular season games and scrimmages, Kellogg said he has a scouting report on Pope.

“[He] first and foremost tries to out-tough you and really intimidate you to a certain extent. He’s done that every time we’ve played,” said Kellogg.

Seton Hall and UMass played a closed scrimmage early in the season, and while specifics of the scrimmage were kept private, Kellogg said that the Pirates got the best of his team.

“They kicked our tail,” said Kellogg. “Without talking specifics, it’s just one that we didn’t play very well and I thought they were very good on that particular day.”

UMass is coming off a 101-96 double overtime road win over No. 4 seed Mississippi State on Tuesday night.

“It’s the biggest [win] we’ve had all year,” said Kellogg.

Sophomore Chaz Williams was his usual self, as he scored 28 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out six assists and nabbed three steals.

He had plenty of help from others though. Senior Sean Carter had one of the best games of his career, as he recorded a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds.       Raphiael Putney fouled out of the game late, but chipped in 10 points and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds. Javorn Farrell came off the bench for 16 points and Terrell Vinson tallied 12.

“To go on the road without a lot of time to prepare [and] to play two first team All-SEC guys and one kid who’s going to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft is a huge win,” said Kellogg.

The two players Kellogg spoke of are Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie. The duo kept the uninspired Bulldogs team in the game.

Moultrie, the potential lottery pick, according to Kellogg, torched the UMass frontline with 34 points. Bost, on the other hand, was a distributor for Moultrie as he dished out 13 assists in addition to his 20 points.

Jalen Steele scored 17 points off the bench and hit a deep 3-point shot that sent the game into overtime.

It has been a successful season for the Minutemen and a season that has meant a lot to Kellogg.

“For me, as a coach and a former player and a guy who went to school here, to hear the way people are talking about our team is as rewarding as our record or where we are as a team,” said Kellogg.

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