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

Kellogg: UMass, George Washington in similar situations

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian
Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

For Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg, the prospect for gaining momentum this close to the Atlantic 10 tournament isn’t promising, especially with the amount of time remaining in the season.

The Minutemen are losers of four of their last five games, including a 56-53 loss to Richmond at home Wednesday, and have just one game remaining. The pomp and circumstance surrounding the team during its six-game winning streak in February is no longer, as UMass has scuffled to close its regular season.

Now, Kellogg says the team has to get back to basics – again.

“(We want) to have a good feeling about what we’re doing because a few plays here or there is the difference between how you feel the next morning,” Kellogg said before Thursday’s practice.

“This time of year, and I hate to keep saying it, but I think we have to put it behind us and get ready for the next game.”

That next game is Saturday’s season finale, which is a road date against George Washington.

The Colonials (19-11, 9-8 A-10) have endured a similar plight to UMass this season. Both team’s entered with high expectations following trips to the NCAA tournament and both have, to date, disappointed. The Colonials are 3-7 in their last 10 games, tumbling out of both the prospective NCAA tournament landscape and the top of the conference.

Kellogg said he thinks both teams are in similar situations.

“I’m sure they’re thinking the same way we are,” he said. “Like, ‘Let’s play well and try to get down to Brooklyn
and try to make some noise.’ Because I think they feel like we do, they’re capable of doing that because they’ve done it before and they have a team coming off an NCAA tournament berth with a lot of the same guys returning.”

The Colonials have four players which average at least 10 points per game, led by swing forward Patricio Garino (12.5). At their best, they play a controlled pace and find success within their 1-3-1 zone defense, which doesn’t mesh well with the Minutemen’s ideal up-tempo style of play.

Kellogg said tempo is important, but must be cognizant of when to force the issue.

“That’s worked on occasions and it hasn’t worked all the time throughout the season,” he said of dictating pace.

“On the road, I think you have to be a little cautious of giving Garino some easy ones in the open floor because he’s finished against us in our press quite a bit. So I think we’ll be sporadic with the press. Tempo will be important for us.”

Kellogg cast similarities between both team’s style of play, saying that outside shooting opens up other parts of the offense. For the Minutemen, poor shooting combined with a lack of energy proved disastrous against Richmond, as they shot just 2-for-14 on 3-pointers.

Even then, UMass only lost by three points. Kellogg lamented the number of close calls this season and said his team was just a few plays away from multiple wins. If the Minutemen can tighten up, Kellogg sees no reason why they can’t be successful.

And that can even start in the season finale.

“I don’t know if momentum is even in play right this season – it’s just playing well,” Kellogg said. “And making a few extra plays during the contest.

“I was talking to even my wife the other day and she was like ‘How many four and six point games can you have in a season?’ And I said ‘Well that’s the difference, it’s two or three plays which are the difference between winning and losing some of those. I think if we can make a few more good plays at the right times and have a little bit less turnovers, we’ll give ourselves a chance every game.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m at the Charles E. Smith Center in Washington, D.C.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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