The Pirates (finally) conclude their road trip by facing their third of five A-10 teams, and their second in a true road game, the Minutemen of UMass. As Pirate fans remember from last year, UMass didn't pose much of a threat last season on their way to a 12-20 record in 2009-10. The most memorable thing from that night, actually, was Minutemen head coach Derek Kellogg slipping and falling on his rear end on the sideline after protesting (a little too vehemently) a referee's call.
But they made some noise at the end of the year, eliminating Rhode Island from NCAA Tournament talks, making the A-10 Tournament, and knocking off Charlotte in the first round before getting beaten soundly by Richmond.
Here is the full report:
2010-11 record: 7-2
2009-10 record: 12-20
Key losses: Ricky Harris
UMass is a good team that has lacked one thing over the years, a great point guard to run Kellogg's dribble-drive offense. So far, the team is doing just dandy at 7-2 as Anthony Gurley has gone from second banana behind 20-a-game man Ricky Harris a year ago to becoming a capable leading scorer. Freshman point guard and 5'9" lightning bug Daryl Traynham leads the team in assists, but at just 3.2 a game. Nevertheless, it's a better situation than last year, when Harris led the team in assists with just 2.9 a game in addition to being the team's leading scorer.
Let's start with Gurley, who has increased his scoring average to just over 20ppg, an increase of about 7 points from last season. He is a talented scorer and has been ridiculously efficient this year, leading his team in shots taken (133) and making over 53% of them, while shooting 40% (12-30) from deep and over 76% on free throws. Those are very similar to the numbers that Jeremy Hazell put up in his first 3 games, people. Is he as good as Hazell? No, but the Pirates can't let him control the game with those types of numbers. Keon Lawrence, who did an excellent job checking Rotnei Clarke on Wednesday night, will likely be on Gurley, who stands 6'3", for most of the night.
Handling the starting point guard duties is senior Gary Correia, who can shoot the three as well as dish it without turning it over (8 turnovers total this season against 18 assists).
Traynham was highly touted coming out of high school, but several transfers hurt his status and he fell to UMass, where he has struggled with his shot, but has been an effective distributor playing just under 17 mpg off the bench. Also off the bench are swingmen, Javorn Farrell and Freddie Riley. Farrell is a do-a-little-of-everything type who is averaging 11PTS and Riley is a good 3-point shooter who has been having a bit of a down year with his outside stroke, but he's still averaging double digits in scoring, nonetheless.
The Minutemen's starting lineup really does not mean much, as Farrell and Riley play over 20 minutes per game, yet have never started this season. It's pretty safe to say that Kellogg likes to use his bench. Farrell and Riley both have size at the guard positions, something that Seton Hall doesn't have a ton of with Hazell out. I suspect when Kellogg uses these guys off the bench, Kevin Willard might elect to play big, with Jeff Robinson sliding over to guard the 3 on defense and either Jamel Jackson or Fuquan Edwin at the 2-guard spot.
The area where the Minutemen struggle is on the boards. Two Carters, Sampson and Sean (no relation) average over 5 boards a game (Sean leads the team with 5.4 per contest), but only Gurley averages more than 4 among the rest of the team. The Pirates therefore need to control the rebounding battle down low. The Carters are 6'8" and 6'9", respectively, and 6'10" senior Hashim Bailey has also started 7 of 9 games this season. Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson need to play well in this one and quite honestly, they should. Robinson in particular is needed down low in this game rather than camping on the perimeter jacking up threes. Ferrakohn Hall and Partik Auda also need to do something off the bench while spelling Pope and Robinson.
PIRATES WILL WIN IF:
- They win the rebounding battle
- Jordan Theodore continues to lead by example.
- They don't allow Gurley to pull a Hazell.
UMASS WILL WIN IF:
- Their big guards use their size on defense to neutralize Seton Hall's smaller guards (Lawrence, Theodore)
- They win the rebounding battle
- They can distribute the ball effectively for assists.
This game will come down to who defends better and who controls the glass. I can just sense it. Looking to build a little confidence while heading into their home-stand over the next two weeks, the Pirates need to have this game against a Minutemen team that will undoubtedly be hungry playing a Big East team at home. Keep in mind that UMass is coming off a horrid shooting performance themselves in a loss the other night to Maine. The dribble drive offense Massachusetts runs relies on good point guard play, so if the Pirates can turn their opponent over and capitalize, they'll give themselves an easier time of it up in Amherst.