Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball aims to snap losing streak against URI

By Anthony Chiusano

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(Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian)

(Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s current seven-game losing streak marks the longest in Derek Kellogg’s seven-year stint at the helm of the Minutemen.

Now, with a trip to Richmond and a home matchup against first-place Virginia Commonwealth on the horizon, UMass (8-12, 1-7 Atlantic 10) sets its sights on breaking its slump against Rhode Island, (12-9, 4-4 A-10) in Amherst Tuesday night.

“We have to win (Tuesday), just for me personally,” Minutemen senior guard Trey Davis said. “I need to get a win and get this streak back started. I don’t like losing like that and it’s bothering me.”

UMass enters the matchup coming off a 78-72 overtime loss to Fordham Saturday afternoon in which the Minutemen faltered down the stretch in containing Rams’ drives toward the basket, resulting in layup opportunities and trips to the free throw line.

Kellogg said avoiding similar breakdowns against a talented URI backcourt is a point of emphasis this week in practice.

“We’ve got to get some post presence defensively to where teams aren’t able to shoot a layup on different occasions,” Kellogg said. “Whether it’s Tyler (Bergantino) or Rashaan (Holloway), that’s the last line of defense and at times, that’s been suspect.”

Davis added: “I’m looking at that as the most important thing right now. I probably won’t even worry about offense anymore, we have to worry about defense.”

With the absence of E.C. Matthews – the Rams star point guard who tore his ACL in their season opener – URI has relied on a balanced offense composed of five double-digit scorers, including three guards.

Guards Jarvis Garrett (12.6 points per game), Jared Terrell (12.1) and Four McGlynn (11.4) have all stepped up without Matthews in the lineup while forwards Hassan Martin (11.8) and Kuran Iverson (10.5) round out the Rams’ usual starting lineup.

“For us personally, we just have to lock in a little bit more on defense,” UMass guard Donte Clark said about approaching URI’s guard unit. “We watched some of the film of the Fordham game and we were letting guys that had the ball get in gaps too easily. We were getting beat too easy on straight-line drives and stuff like that.”

While the Minutemen prefer to play at an up-tempo pace at both ends of the floor, the Rams like to slow the game down and play in low-scoring defensive battles. URI has allowed the second-fewest points per game in the conference this year.

“They’re one of the better defensive teams out there and I think we’re still trying to get better defensively so I’m hoping there will be a little more offense than it being a defensive battle,” Kellogg said. “They’ve played better defense than we’ve had so far in league play and that’s something we’ve concentrated on a day and a half now since our last game.”

Clark added that UMass won’t try to adjust their own game, but will instead attempt to force the Rams into playing at a faster pace.

“We have to try to make them play our game,” Clark said. “We’ll press them, play man-to-man full-court and stuff like that to speed up the game and make them play our game.”

Holloway impresses, Coleman update

Minutemen freshman center Rashaan Holloway played 11 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Fordham following a seven-game stretch in which he saw an average of less than five after losing his starting job.

The 6-foot-11, 335-pound center responded by going 2-of-2 from the field with three rebounds and a block before being limited in the second half and overtime with four fouls.

In this time, Holloway provided an energy boost, picking up offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions during a 10-0 run in which he was the “spearhead” on offense, according to Kellogg.

“He gave us a boost in the first half and I think we win the game if he doesn’t get four fouls in the second half,” Kellogg said. “Now if we can get him to make his free-throws I think he’ll be a guy we can rely on. He’s going to see a lot of minutes down the stretch here because we need some post presence on both ends of the floor.”

As for junior forward Zach Coleman, who has been limited by a knee injury, Kellogg said his condition is still day-to-day.

Coleman played five minutes against Fordham.

“I’m keeping him on the bike for two days and I’m going to try to use him against Rhode Island, I’m going to keep him on the bike for two days and I’ll try to use him at Richmond, I’m going to keep him on the bike for two days and I’m going to try to use him against VCU,” Kellogg said.

“I think his health has hurt us some because I thought he was a guy who didn’t really need the ball and was doing a lot of good stuff for us. It’s one of those things that, it is what it is.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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