UMass men’s basketball heads back to Florida Sunday to take on Florida Gulf Coast

By Andrew Cyr

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian
Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

Two years ago Florida Gulf Coast forever embodied itself in college basketball history with its improbable NCAA tournament run – full of high-flying dunks, alley-oops and highlight reel plays – as a No. 15 seed upsetting No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State on its road to the sweet 16.

Now with a completely different roster than the one that made the tournament a couple years back, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team prepares to face the Eagles (5-4) for the second consecutive year Sunday.

The Minutemen fell to FGCU last year 84-75 in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase at MassMutual Center in Springfield.

The Eagles had four players with at least 15 points in last year’s contest, but it was Brett Comer’s 14 assists and his ability to control the tempo of the game that propelled FGCU last season.

“Yeah, they’re doing some of the same stuff watching them quickly on tape. They are still trying to play somewhat fast. They are a little bit more off the bounce than they were maybe last year, not so Brett Comer oriented where I thought he did a great job last year,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said.

Julian DeBose is the lone returning Eagles player that scored in double digits (15) last year while the only starter returning is forward Demetris Morant, who finished with four points and two rebounds in 17 minutes of work last season against UMass.

“They’re doing some of the same stuff; they are playing pretty good right now. It’s going to be another tough road game where we have to play well and I’m hoping we’re in another situation where we can have an opportunity at the end to rectify our game from the other night,” Kellogg said.

Forward Marc-Eddy Norelia has been the Eagles’ best player this season and leads the team with 14.3 points per game and 8.8 rebounds. Sophomore guard Christian Terrell follows close behind with 14.2 points per game of his own.

After shooting just 7-for-23 from the floor against Central Florida Tuesday, Minutemen point guard Trey Davis said that UMass was responding to the last-second loss well and that he only thinks it’s going to benefit the young players moving forward.

Against the Knights, a tip-in with 2.4 seconds remaining in regulation propelled UCF to a 67-63 victory over the Minutemen.

“That one hurt. It really hurt. But at the same time, just for the young guys, I talked to them after. It’s a growing experience for them. I’d rather have that at the beginning of the year than in conference play towards the end of the year,” Davis said. “As long as these guys grow from that, I can swallow it. I’m on to the next one now.”

Davis also mentioned that he wasn’t worried about UMass having another poor shooting performance after the Minutemen had their worst game of the season finishing just 26-for-68 (32.8 percent).

“What did I take, like 23 shots? If we had won that game, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But we lost the game, so now that comes out. We’re going to continue to keep playing and continue to keep shooting,” Davis said.

Davis added: “What we can control is our defense. Stopping the ball and stopping them from scoring points. We can’t always control if the ball is going to go in, but we can control defense. That’s one thing to work on.”

Tipoff from Alico Arena is at 1:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN3.com.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Andrw_Cyr.