UMass men’s basketball ready for showdown with Ole Miss in Springfield

By Andrew Cyr

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian
Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

With an off day Thursday following the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s 99-69 win against Boston University Wednesday night, the Minutemen haven’t spent much time watching Mississippi’s game tapes.

But despite the lack of time in the film room, UMass guard Jabarie Hinds knows just how good the Rebels are, especially their star point guard Stefan Moody.

“We haven’t watched tape yet but I heard about Moody,” Hinds said before Friday’s practice.

Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg shared similar praise for Moody.

“They have a point guard who might be one of the top 10 point guards in the country,” Kellogg said.

Moody, who stands only 5-foot-11, enters Saturday’s game as the 14th best scorer in the nation averaging 22 points per game.

Ole Miss (5-2) enters Saturday’s game coming off of consecutive wins against Georgia State and Bradley after suffering its worst loss of the young season, a 12-point loss against Seton Hall and former UMass guard Derrick Gordon Nov. 22.

“They are right up there with the top teams that we have played this season. They’re definitely a potential NCAA tournament team,” Kellogg said.

“Normally when you play a Power Five team or an SEC team they are going to be a little bit more athletic and bigger at different positions than kind of the non-BCS teams and I think they fall into that same category. Across the line they are just really athletic, one through five, and they have size.”

Besides Moody, only Sebastain Saiz has started all seven games for the Rebels. They have six additional players who have started at least two contests this season. Saiz is second on the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game in addition to his team-leading 65 rebounds.

The Minutemen have kept their starting lineup consistent all season in comparison with a three-guard approach headed by their top scorers in Hinds (19.7), Trey Davis (18.9) and Donte Clark (16.8).

Like UMass, Ole Miss supports a nine-man rotation and has found success this season using a lineup consisting of three players all over 6-foot-9 (Saiz, Anthony Perez and Tomasz Gielo).

“I’m expecting them to be a physical team in the post. I don’t think they’ll be as fast as us, so I think that if we just use our advantage of running up and down the floor we should be able to get wherever we want,” UMass forward Zach Coleman said. “Defensively we just have to be solid and make sure we clean up on the boards.”

Despite being undersized big men, Coleman – who leads the Minutemen with 45 rebounds – and Seth Berger have been forced to play extended action inside while freshmen Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hinds are still adjusting to Kellogg’s style of play.

C.J. Anderson believes that it’s simply been toughness that has helped UMass when it’s had to face bigger lineups.

“When we play against bigger guys it comes down to toughness. It’s all about if you want that rebound or want to lock up that man on defense. We really take on that role, all our guys,” Anderson said.

Anderson added: “Zach Coleman, Seth (Berger), they’re not fours. They’re really threes. But when they’re playing the four, it’s just about you have to have the heart to take on that big man.”

Saturday’s Hall of Fame Holiday  Showcase will be played in Springfield at MassMutual Center and can be seen nationally on NBC Sports Network. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.

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