Defending Jordan Roland is the biggest key for UMass men’s basketball against Northeastern

The guard is averaging 40.5 points per game

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Defending Jordan Roland is the biggest key for UMass men’s basketball against Northeastern

(Parker Peters/ Daily Collegian)

(Parker Peters/ Daily Collegian)

(Parker Peters/ Daily Collegian)

(Parker Peters/ Daily Collegian)

By Javier Melo, Assistant Sports Editor

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Following up a resilient performance like it had against Fairfield on Saturday is big for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

The issue? They have Northeastern coming to town.

The Huskies (2-0) have beaten the likes of Boston University and Harvard on the back of two spectacular performances by guard Jordan Roland.

The redshirt senior is averaging 40.5 points per game through two games this season. In his first outing against Boston University, Roland scored 39 points on 15-24 shooting from the field and only 2-7 from three.

In the second game against Harvard, Roland finished with 42 points on 13-19 shooting from the field and 6-9 shooting from three.

The guard has a knack for getting going early, scoring 18 points in the first half against the Bulldogs and 19 first-half points against the Crimson.

Roland scored the first 11 points of the game for the Huskies against Harvard.

“We can’t let this guy get into a rhythm early,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “If he makes his first couple, it’s going to be a long night. He’s not missing very much. If he comes off the pick and roll and he can see the rim, it’s going up and it’s going in.”

Roland’s leap as a player has coincided with Northeastern’s success. Last season, he averaged 14.6 points per game and the Huskies made it to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Kansas in the opening round.

His shooting ability will be something that the Minutemen key in on because if he stretches the floor, it opens up opportunities for his teammates. So far, the pressing system has looked good for the Minutemen due to their ability to take advantage of their worn-down opponents later in games.

The issue with the press against Northeastern is that if Roland gets going early, he will require double teams and it could completely break the press. UMass’ style is tailored to beating their opponents late. The Huskies’ style is getting Roland going early so that they don’t have to worry about losing late.

“When you press, you’re doing it for a couple of reasons,” McCall said. “You want to speed the pace of the game up and you don’t mind if people shoot quick because teams are not going to be used to shooting that fast. You may give up two or three makes but it’s a 40-minute game – you’re trying to wear them down.”

The Huskies scored 72 points against the Bulldogs and 84 points against the Crimson. The Minutemen have allowed 64 points to UMass Lowell and 60 points to Fairfield. Tuesday’s matchup will be a clash between a high-volume offense and a high-attacking defense.

The Minutemen do have some experience slowing down high-volume scorers. In their win against UML, Christian Lutete was held to 17 points on 5-14 shooting from the field and 3-7 shooting from three.

Lutete and the River Hawks went up against Long Island a few days later, where Lutete scored 51 points on 16-25 shooting overall and 7-12 shooting from three.

In the game against Fairfield, Jesus Cruz was held to just 14 points on 6-13 shooting overall and 0-4 from three. In the previous outing against Bucknell, Cruz scored 24 points on 10-18 shooting overall.

“Our defense was not the problem against Fairfield,” McCall said. “You hold a team to 60 points and they’ve got a player like [Jesus] Cruz out there on the floor, or with Lowell with a player like [Christian] Lutete –  we saw what he did the next night. Our defense wasn’t the problem.”

Holding two volume scorers to less than 20 points is a good sign for how the Minutemen will adapt to defending Roland. The defense should be the focus of the game for UMass if they want to walk out of Mullins with a win.

Javier Melo can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @JMeloSports.