UMass men’s basketball looks to snap losing streak at Saint Joseph’s

By Andrew Cyr

(Jabarie Hinds attempts to make a lay-up during Saturday's game against St. Louis. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)
(Jabarie Hinds attempts to make a lay-up during Saturday’s game against St. Louis. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)

When looking at the potential individual matchups between the Massachusetts men’s basketball team and Saint Joseph, it’s apparent that forwards DeAndre’ Bembry and Isaiah Miles will undoubtedly cause the biggest problems for UMass (8-10, 1-5 Atlantic 10) Wednesday.

But as good as Bembry, who averages 17.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, and Miles, 17.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg, have been for the Hawks (16-3, 5-1 A-10) this season, it’s been St. Joes’ Hagan Arena that has given Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg fits in the past.

In his eight seasons coaching at UMass, Kellogg has a career 1-4 record at Hagan Arena with his only victory coming in his first visit on Jan. 27, 2010, an 87-80 win for the Minutemen. UMass has lost its last four trips to Hagan Arena, all of which have been by single digits.

Kellogg told reporters before Monday’s practice that Hagan Arena has been nothing but a tough environment to visit.

“They get a great crowd, they’re on top of you and they have a really good team. So those three great things make for a tough contest,” Kellogg said. “Whether we like it or not, they’ve played pretty well against us.”

“Maybe that’s what we need, to go on the road and play a top-30 RPI team who’s going to have a home field advantage,” Kellogg added.

The Minutemen are currently riding a five-game losing streak in A-10 play, with all five loses coming by double digits. Their only win in conference play however did come in Philadelphia when UMass beat La Salle 74-67 in the A-10 opener Jan. 3.

Despite the losing streak, Kellogg said that there haven’t been drastic changes to the Minutemen’s practice schedule, reiterating that he has to remain positive with the his young roster.

“What you can’t do is come in and beat them down per say. I think you have to continue to be even more positive and tell them to feed off your energy,” Kellogg said.

“We may do some different things practice wise to break up the monotony of grinding them down every single play. But they need some of that also. There’s definitely a bit of a balance especially when you’re losing games to make sure these guys are coming in every day and battling and fighting, which they are.”

The Hawks enter Wednesday’s game currently riding a five-game winning streak and are just a game and a half outside of first place in the A-10 trailing Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton.

Defensively, St. Joe’s ranks first in the A-10 in both field goal percentage defense (39.6 percent) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (29.3 percent,) with its length on the perimeter and inside making it hard to shoot opponents to get clean looks at the basket. Despite ranking seventh in scoring defense, the Hawks have allowed 70 points in only three conference games.

Point guard Jabarie Hinds talked about the importance of getting his shot back to help the offense Monday at practice, as Hinds has just five total 3-pointers made during UMass’ losing streak. Hinds, who averaged 22.3 ppg earlier in the season, has seen his average drop to 13.7 ppg since entering A-10 play.

“I don’t know what’s up with the shooting struggles. We shoot a lot in practice and before practice and before we play we get a lot of individual work. So I don’t know. Right now it’s not translating to the games, I don’t know what reason, but we just have to keep going with it,” Hinds said.

However despite the recent struggles from the senior, Hinds noted that getting the Minutemen back on track took higher priority than getting his own shooting rhythm back.

“The challenge is just finding a way to win. Saint Joe’s is a really good team so we’re just going over that stuff and finding a way to compete with them for the whole 40 minutes Wednesday,” Hinds said.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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