UMass to take on Bryant at home

Tre Mitchell averaging 26 points per game

By Joseph Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team will host Bryant on Monday in the last scheduled non-conference game of the season for UMass (2-1, 1-0 Atlantic 10).

There is a chance that this is not actually the final non-conference game of the year for UMass. With the prevalence of coronavirus making the season run a tighter schedule, the Minutemen may try to squeeze in another game before getting into the heart of their Atlantic 10 schedule.

For now, the Bulldogs (6-2, 3-1 Northeast Conference) are the next opponent. Bryant is currently eighth in all of Division I college basketball in scoring, averaging 92.9 points per game.

The Bulldogs are also 10th in the nation in 3-pointers made, even though they are 28th in attempts from beyond the arc, shooting them at a 42.5-percent mark.

“When you’re the opposing coach and you see the amount of threes they’re taking — and they’re shooting them with a tremendous amount of confidence — it’s a concern,” said UMass head coach Matt McCall. “…They’re a confident basketball team, they play that way. We’ve got to be alert and ready to go.”

Bryant has four scorers that are averaging over 14 points per game, all of which are guards. Peter Kiss and Michael Green III are both averaging 17 a game, Kiss shooting 52 percent from the field and 43 percent from three while Green III leads the Bulldogs’ in assists with five a game.

Bryant is going to bring pace that UMass potentially will not see again all season due to its guard-heavy, 3-point shooting roster.

Along with pace, the Bulldogs switch up defensive looks in order to keep opposing offenses guessing.

“We can’t get caught up in trying to figure out what defense they’re in,” McCall said. “We got to come down, execute and get right to it right away… they’ll bait you into taking threes, and we cannot get three-happy.”

Only once this season has a team shot over 31.3 percent from the 3-point line against Bryant, which was the University of New Hampshire, who shot 35 percent.

The Minutemen do have an advantage against the Bulldogs in this game that they have against most teams, which is Tre Mitchell.

Mitchell is currently tied in third in the nation in scoring with 26 points per game through three games. In Mitchell’s performance against La Salle — a team that allows 15 points less per game than Bryant – he scored 37 points.

“We need to establish the paint,” McCall said. “Whether that’s off the pass and inside to Tre or even off the bounce.”

With Mitchell becoming a full-blown star this year, along with having an advantageous matchup, the chances of seeing Mitchell without urgency are low.

“I approach a lot of games the same way, I’m never going to underestimate my opponent,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been in that position. I’ve matched up against ranked guys… and I’ve busted their a**. That’s just my mentality. My mentality is not going to change moving forward just because of a jersey or who’s lined up in front of me.”

The statistics in UMass’ two wins and one loss have been straightforward: In wins the Minutemen average 17.5 assists and 10 turnovers while coming up with just eight assists and 15 turnovers in the loss.

UMass has no injuries going into its fourth game with the exception of backup center Mark Gasperini, who is “battling knee soreness” according to McCall.

The Minutemen are averaging 85 points through three games, while Bryant is giving up 81 to teams that are not as high-caliber as UMass, which should make for a high-scoring affair against a top-eight scoring team in the country.

Tipoff is at 4 p.m. on Monday at the Mullins Center. The game will be aired on NESN and streamed on ESPN+.

Joey Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JosephAliberti1