Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Road woes proving costly for UMass basketball

Taylor C. Snow/Daily Collegian
Taylor C. Snow/Daily Collegian

As the clocks at Saint Joseph’s Hagan Arena hit all zeroes and the buzzer sounded, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team hung its heads and walked slowly off the court.

There was no court storming this time. Instead, the only constant was the same reoccurring feeling of letting another potential road win slip from its grasp.

That’s been happening to UMass a lot lately.

Currently on a two-game losing streak — the first losing streak the Minutemen have been on all year — UMass hasn’t been the same team on the road as it has been at Mullins Center. The Minutemen have seemingly lost their identity.

“I don’t know if it’s the time of the year, or fatigue, or whatever’s taking a toll on certain people, but we’re just not getting to the spots as on time as we were before,” senior Chaz Williams said following Saturday’s 73-68 defeat.

UMass is 9-0 at home this season, but when it steps outside the friendly confines of Mullins Center, it’s a completely different story. In true road games this season, the Minutemen are only 4-4, including three straight losses in the past 12 days.

The one noticeable part of UMass’ game that’s been absent on the road is energy. Whether it’s been getting off to bad starts, or opening the second half in a lull, the Minutemen haven’t pieced together a full 40-minute performance on the road since crushing Elon on Jan. 18.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg doesn’t think he needs to tell his mature team when it’s time to play hard. It should be something that’s there at all times.

“Really it’s a mental thing with some of these guys that they need to bring it,” he said. “We’re not deep enough to not have our top eight guys bring it every night out. … It’s gotta be the whole unit. It’s gotta be all the guys on the team, all the time. Not when it’s convenient, not when it’s desperation.”

Kellogg quickly dismissed the idea of fatigue playing a factor in his team’s recent losses despite the fact that the Minutemen just wrapped up six games in 18 days, with five coming away from home.

Aside from the lack of energy, UMass’ offense hasn’t been the same recently, either. The Minutemen averaged only 62.6 points per game in their last three road contests, while averaging 79.8 points in all other games.

The offensive struggles continued against the Hawks, as UMass missed numerous easy buckets early in the game, quickly forcing it to play catch-up in a hostile environment.

“We had two wide open layups that we didn’t put in,” Kellogg said. “They make (their shots), they go to the free throw, make a couple and then all of a sudden it’s a six or seven point lead. You don’t want to get down on the road in a place with this environment.”

The frustration has been growing over the past week. The Minutemen have gone from the 13-ranked team in the country to out of the Top 25 completely in Monday’s latest poll.  The tone in Kellogg’s voice mirrored that notion as he’s now going to have to consider different roles for players who he believes don’t play hard for all 40 minutes.

“I’ll just have to watch the tape and see who are the guys not making those plays because they shouldn’t be on the floor quite as much,” he said.

The road isn’t getting any easier for UMass, which has nine games remaining before the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Of those nine, four are on the road, including a date with George Washington, who sits ahead of the Minutemen in the conference, on Feb. 12.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_Strohecker.

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