Game Previews For UMass At St. Bonnies - UMass Athletics

Game Previews For UMass At St. Bonnies

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Here are game previews of UMass' pivotal game at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night.

Photo: SBU opens key stretch for UMass

After difficult A-10 start, Minutemen open key stretch at St. Bonaventure

Photo: SBU opens key stretch for UMass
Javorn Farrell, left, hugs University of Massachusetts teammate Anthony Gurley at halftime against Richmond at the Mullins Center on Saturday. The Minutemen begin a key stretch of games tonight at St. Bonaventure.

OLEAN, N.Y. - The next five games could go a long way in determining where the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team finishes in the Atlantic 10.

The Minutemen (11-6) are 3-2 in conference play, which puts them in the league's top half, despite a difficult start to their schedule that's already included games against Xavier, Dayton and Richmond, three of league's premiere teams.

Beginning with tonight's 7 p.m. game at St. Bonaventure, the next five pit UMass against three teams at or near .500 and two under .500. Except for Saint Joseph's (0-5), which hosts UMass on Feb. 7, all the teams are bunched together in the conference at either 3-2 or 2-3.

If the Minutemen play the way they did last week at Charlotte, they're all potentially winnable games. If they play the way they did at Central Connecticut or Xavier, their chances to gain ground falls considerably.

The Bonnies (10-8, 2-3 Atlantic 10) opened the season 6-3, including a 67-66 win over St. John's. They capped that stretch with a 112-107 win over Ohio in four overtimes. Since then, St. Bonaventure is 4-5. In league play it edged Charlotte, 92-88, in triple overtime before dropping three straight to Temple, Rhode Island and Xavier. The Bonnies head into today's action after beating George Washington 62-49, their first win over the Colonials since 1989.

"We have to come with a lot of focus to prepare for a tough game," UMass senior guard Anthony Gurley said. "We have to prepare for a war. This is one of those games that we need."

UMass coach Derek Kellogg was curious to see how his team would bounce back after Saturday's loss to Richmond.

"It's going to show me how we respond after a tough home loss to a very good team," he said. "Can we go on the road and play against a tough team in a tough, tough place to play? It's a tough environment. Their fans are on top of you and they have a good team."

As expected, junior center Andrew Nicholson has led the Bonnies. He's second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 20.1 points per game to go with 7.4 rebounds.

"If not the best big guy in the league, they've got one of the best big guys in the league in Andrew Nicholson," Kellogg said. "Any time you can throw the ball inside to player that's capable of giving you 30 points and 15 rebounds, you know it's going to be a tough game, especially on the road," said Kellogg, who said the best way to slow him is to get him off the floor. "Get him into foul trouble. The games where he hasn't scored 20 are the games that he hasn't played as many minutes. They've gone at him at the defensive end of the floor and really made him work."

Nicholson's supporting cast has been better than expected, helping SBU exceed low early expectations so far.

Junior wing Michael Davenport's scoring production has jumped from 8.4 ppg last season to 13.4 this season. Senior point guard Ogo Adeboye has made a similar leap from 6.6 to 11.8 points, and his 68 assists this year has almost matched last year's 74.

"It shows that we're just not a one-man team," SBU coach Mark Schmidt said.

"We have more than just Andrew Nicholson. I think those guys realize when Andrew is out of the game, they have to step up their games offensively and lucky for us they have."

STILL NO TRAYNHAM - Daryl Traynham'sabsence will continue. Kellogg said the freshman point guard has yet to return to school. Kellogg said he plans to talk with him by the end of the week.

GURLEY CLIMBING - With 1,130 career points, Gurley is No. 30 on UMass' career list. He needs 18 to match Lari Ketner, who had 1,148 from 1996-99.

Minutemen take on Saint Bonaventure

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Massachusetts men's basketball team as it gets set to take on another formidable Atlantic 10 opponent in Saint Bonaventure on the road tonight.

Despite dropping its last conference matchup to Richmond at the Mullins Center, UMass (11-7, 3-2 A-10) is sitting in a tie for third place in the A-10 standings with four other teams. After defeating Charlotte last week, the Minutemen will look to make it two straight road conference victories for the first time in coach Derek Kellogg's time at UMass when it faces the Bonnies (10-8, 2-3 A-10).

While the Minutemen have a big-time scorer in senior Anthony Gurley, SBU has its own impact player in Andrew Nicholson. The junior forward is averaging 20.1 points per game this season, which sandwiches him between Gurley and the A-10's leading scorer, Tu Holloway of Xavier.

Nicholson's talent is not lost on Kellogg, who knows his team will have a difficult task on defense.

"He's one of the better big guys I've seen, not only in our conference, but maybe on a national level for juniors," Kellogg said in his weekly radio show. "If he catches the ball in a tight position, he's almost impossible to stop."

Not only is Nicholson a scoring threat, but he commands attention in the low post as witnessed by his 7.4 rebounds per game and near 55 percent field goal percentage, good for third in the conference.

Nicholson's size could cause problems for the Minutemen, who have had difficulties in defending scoring big men this season. To counter, Kellogg admitted he might have to switch to a zone defense or throw double teams at Nicholson.

"He gives them a weapon that not a lot of teams in the conference have - a guy that pretty much every time down they're looking to throw the ball into the post and he can make a play for them," Kellogg said. "We're going to have to do something to maybe double-team him, maybe play some zone to make it a little more difficult for him to dominate the game."

Nicholson, however, won't be the only player UMass will have to worry about making an impact in the contest. Junior guard Michael Davenport will bring his 13.4 scoring average and pesky perimeter defense (1.4 steal per game).

In the last meeting between the Minutemen and Bonnies, Davenport recorded his first career double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Nicholson also scored 26 to help SBU win, 70-69.

This time around, Kellogg will look for his team to do a better job defensively on both players, but that doesn't mean the rest of the Bonnies aren't capable.

"They're starting five at one point was averaging all in double digits and all 40 minutes per game," Kellogg said. "They've had a few kids come off the bench to make some plays for them that have been, I guess a pleasant surprise if your coach Smith."

This season, SBU opened up A-10 play with a win over Charlotte at home before dropping three consecutive conference games to Temple, Rhode Island and Xavier.

"Let's not forget their losses have been by one at [Rhode Island], which they should have won the game," Kellogg said. "They lost to Temple and to Xavier, so they're losses have come to the heavy weights in the conference."

The Bonnies did, however, far better against the Musketeers than the Minutemen. St. Bonaventure dropped the matchup, 79-65, a 14-point margin, on the road, while UMass was handled by a score of 79-50.

Tip-off for the game will be tonight at 7 p.m. at the Reilly Center.

Easy points, gym time concern for Kellogg

On Jan. 22 at the Mullins Center, the Massachusetts men's basketball team had a slew of chances to put away easy points and continue to pressure Atlantic 10-rival Richmond.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

These chances were ill-fated, however, as the ball either bounced off of the rim, off of the backboard or just completely fell out of the hands whichever Minuteman tried to put it away for points.

Following the 84-68 loss to the Spiders, the Minutemen (11-7, 3-2 A-10) displayed a bit of regret towards not being able to put away these easy points.

"We missed a couple layups ... from where we are as a team we can't have those mistakes," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

Right out of the gate, UMass displayed a preview of the missed shots to come later in the game, as Sean Carter missed a relatively easy layup following a back-in, post play. Three out of the first four Minutemen possessions against the Spiders (15-5, 4-1 A-10) resulted in missed layup opportunities.

"We felt like we didn't do a lot of things we should have done offensively," Javorn Farrell said after the game.

Farrell and the rest of the UMass lineup head to Saint Bonaventure on Wednesday night for a game that'll put the Maroon and White against a Bonnies side that knows how to rebound the ball successfully and not allow easy second-chance points.

SBU (10-8, 2-3 A-10) sits fourth in the A-10 in rebounding defense, with Andrew Nicholson leading the charge. Nicholson stands as the third-best defensive rebounder in the conference with 108 (six per-game).

Additionally, the Bonnies rank second in the conference in rebounding margin, as they total 36.8 rebounds a game and allow 33.3 rebounds by their opponents.

Against the Spiders on Saturday, the Minutemen nabbed 35 rebounds, which is slightly above the Bonnies' average allowed. Furthermore, UMass was one rebound shy of having as many offensively as they did defensively (18-17).

"You have to offensive rebound against [Richmond's] matchup zone," Kellogg said on the Men's Basketball Radio Show.

The offensive rebounds did not seem to work though, as the team suffered from a 23-for-61 shooting throughout the game.

Other than its rebounding skill, SBU recently shut down George Washington with high defensive stops, holding the Colonials (10-9, 3-2 A-10) to 49 points. The lowest total UMass had conjured this far in the season was 55 in its win against Dayton.

Kellogg isn't hiding from these numbers either.

Right after the Richmond game, he acknowledged that his team needs to put away second-chance opportunities.

"We've had a couple occasions, even in the last couple of games, where we're just missing too many easy baskets," Kellogg said.

Extra Time for UMass

With rebounding and low-post moves becoming a focus for the Minutemen, Kellogg is calling for his team to spend some more time in the gym.

"I think you just have to stay on course, push the guys, get them in the gym and get them working," Kellogg said. "Some of it is confidence. Freddie had gotten into the gym before Charlotte on a consistent basis, getting extra shots up."

The 19-point victory against the 49ers showcased Riley putting on an offensive clinic, as he scored 18 points to lead the team. Riley's total was one point ahead of usual top-scorer Anthony Gurley (17 points).

Gurley is a player that Kellogg cites as being the role model for the rest of the team, however, when it comes to extra time spent in the gym.

"He's a guy in there working at his game," Kellogg said. With Gurley headlining the scoring against the Spiders (30 points), the Springfield-native coach explained that if the entire team gets into the gym and puts in the extra hours, Gurley's totals may change.

"If we can get a group of guys that are going into the gym and working, I think you'll see more balanced scoring on our team," Kellogg.

"I respect their time, we're not in the gym 180-hours-a-day," Kellogg continued. "If you want to be a player, you have to get in and do some individual work."

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