Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Rhode Island adds another challenge for struggling UMass men’s basketball team

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Chris O’Keefe/Collegian

When the Massachusetts men’s basketball team squares off against Rhode Island Tuesday night for the second time this season, it will be a full 20 days since the Minutemen last won a game.

In this near month-long losing streak, UMass (12-11, 2-8 Atlantic 10) has dropped to the bottom of the conference and is staring at three more games against top five A-10 teams.

Tuesday night’s matchup against URI (15-7, 7-3 A-10) will be their second meeting this season. The Minutemen fell to the Rams 79-77 on Jan. 15 in a game that they led by 15 toward the end of the first half.

“It’s really five guys at once, there is not really a weak link in their arsenal,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said in his weekly conference call with reporters Monday morning.

At one point this season, URI commanded a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but have since dropped out after having lost seven games, four of which to non-conference opponents. Regardless, the Rams are 7-3 in conference play and rank in fourth in the A-10 riding a three-game winning streak.

“I think [with] a team like Rhode Island, because of how good they are, it’s going to be all aspects of the game, in the beginning of the game, kind of the middle and also the last portion of it,” Kellogg said.

“I just think there can’t be a time during the game against tough teams like Rhody where you give them an opportunity to go on a run,” Kellogg added. “You have to stay focused for 40 minutes and play the game the right way.”

If UMass is going to snap its four-game losing streak, it will have to find a way to stop senior forward Hassan Martin. In URI’s last three games, Martin has scored a total of 52 points and picked up 21 rebounds.

Martin has been helped underneath the basket by fellow senior forward Kuran Iverson. Iverson has brought in 27 rebounds in the last three games and is averaging 7.7 rebounds a game this season.

While the Rams’ big men are hitting their stride, UMass’ have struggled. Rashaan Holloway, who has shown signs of being a dominant big man in the A-10 at points throughout this season, is averaging only 5.5 rebounds and 9.8 points in the last four games.

Martin and Iverson have been consistent starts for URI’s coach Dan Hurley this season, while UMass has not had that same sense of consistency.

Kellogg has experimented with multiple power forward-center starting combinations this season. For most of conference play, freshman forward Brison Gresham has been getting the start at the four with Rashaan Holloway at the five.

However, both have not averaged many minutes on the floor. Holloway has started all 22 games this season and has managed to stay healthy, but is only averaging 19.5 minutes a game. Gresham has started in eight of his 17 games and is averaging 11.7 minutes a game.

Power forward has been a revolving door for the Minutemen all season long with the likes of Ty Flowers, Chris Baldwin, Seth Berger and even Malik Hines on a few occasions getting time at the position.

Despite their lack of productivity offensively, the UMass forwards and even guards have been effective in blocking shots. The Minutemen are second in the A-10 in blocks with 124 following only their opponent URI (133).

Even with a solid defensive performance, UMass will need to put points on the board, something it has struggled to do in parts of their last three games.

“I think we’ve been in some games where we haven’t executed as well offensively as I’d like and maybe make some inopportune turnovers and shots at different junctures,” Kellogg said. “With the group we have, that’s something that needs to be talked about and gone over just about every time we play or practice.”

Philip Sanzo can be followed at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

About the Writer
Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor
UMass’s depth and St. Joseph’s high scorer means Friday’s semifinal has potential for a possible shootout.
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