Gazette, Republican Preview Hoops Vs. URI - UMass Athletics

Gazette, Republican Preview Hoops Vs. URI

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Here are the previews on the UMass-URI basketball game slated for Sunday at 4 p.m., Its Kid's Day so doors will open at 2 p.m., with festivities on the concourse at the Mullins Center.

• Springfield Republican: For the 135th time, UMass and Rhode Island renew their basketball rivalry

• Daily Hampshire Gazette: Kellogg wants team to focus on URI game at hand

For the 135th time, UMass and Rhode Island renew their basketball rivalry

Published: Saturday, January 29, 2011, 10:00 AM
Gary CorreiaNative New Englanders Gary Correia (11) and Anthony Gurley (12) of UMass are well aware of their team's rivalry with Rhode Island, which comes to the Mullins Center Sunday.
AMHERST - Anthony Gurley is from Boston, Gary Correia comes from Providence, and neither needs an introduction to the meaning of Sunday's men's basketball game at the Mullins Center.

"This is a very big rivalry,'' said Gurley, a University of Massachusetts guard who sized up Sunday's game against Rhode Island.

"There is always a high level of intensity and emotion. I can't wait to get out there, because it will be fun.''

"I've known coach (Jim) Baron since I was 12, and they recruited me once,'' UMass guard Correia said of Rhode Island.

"The crowd for this game is always good, and the teams in the Atlantic 10 are bunched up. This is a chance to separate ourselves (in the standing).''

Correia is right on all counts. The Rhode Island game is always a good draw for UMass students, and the stakes are high for the Minutemen (12-7, 4-2 A-10), as they play the Rams (13-7, 4-2).

It's Kids Day, with games and rides on the Mullins concourse. The game is at 4, but doors will open at 2.

It's Rally Towel Giveaway Day. And hardly incidentally, the 135th meeting of these teams could go a long way to determining where both wind up iin the currently bunched Atlantic 10 standings.

Had Rhode Island reversed a one-point loss to La Salle last week, the Rams would be right up with the A-10 leaders. As it is, Rhode Island and UMass entered the weekend as two-thirds of a three-way tie for fourth place with Temple.

They trailed only Duquesne (6-0), Xavier (6-0) and Richmond (5-1). The only Richmond loss was a 78-74 home defeat to Rhode Island on Jan. 13.

Years ago, UMass-Temple was the defining rivalry of the Atlantic 10. But those teams meet only once a year, as opppsed to UMass-Rhode Island, an annual home-and-home series that continues a rivalry begun in 1908.

"We haven't played well at home, especially in the conference,'' Correia said.

Actually, UMass is 2-1 at home in league play. Correia had last week's 84-68 loss to Richmond in mind, but a 78-69 road win at St. Bonaventure got the Minutemen back on track.

UMass will have to contend with Rhode Island 6-foot-8 senior Delroy James, who is averaging 17.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

James and UMass center Sean Carter both played for Laurinburg Prep in North Carolina, but not as teammates.

"We know each other. I talk to Delroy now and then,'' Carter said.

"He's definitely having a good year. URI is a big test for us - two good teams that are close in the standings.''

UMass hopes 13 will be its lucky number. A victory would give the Minutemen 13 wins, one more than in each of coach Derek Kellogg's first two seasons.

Baron interviewed for the UMass job in 2001, before Steve Lappas was hired. UMass has had three coaches since then, but Baron has become the face of the Rams, who won 59-57 at Saint Louis Wednesday.

Gurley has been on fire for UMass. The 6-3 senior is 18th in NCAA Division I scoring with 20.4 points a game.

He has averaged 29 points in his last two games for UMass, which holds a 77-57 series lead over Rhode Island.

Kellogg wants team to focus on URI game at hand

AMHERST - University of Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg said it's too early to start examining the standings. His team hasn't played consistently enough yet to project what a result might or might not mean down the road.

"With this team it's been a one game at a time situation. We've played well at times and not so well at times. We need to be focused every day on the task at hand," Kellogg said. "I haven't really looked at the standings. It's a little early for that yet. Maybe 10 games in, I'll start peeking a little bit."

Six games into the 16-game conference slate, the middle of the Atlantic 10 is bunched together. Heading into Sunday's 4 p.m. game against Rhode Island at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen (12-7 overall) are tied for fourth with Temple and URI at 4-2 in league play. And while it's too early to know what a win or loss could mean, there's a decent chance it could significantly impact the standings as the season winds down in just over a month.

UMass senior guard Anthony Gurley was aware of the game's potential significance.

"It's a great opportunity for us. We have a good URI team coming to our place. We have the same conference record. This is the type of game we could use to start making some separation," he said. "We're confident we can compete with anyone in this conference. Sunday could be a great game to make a statement in the conference and let everybody know that UMass is for real."

Coming off Wednesday's strong effort in their win over St. Bonaventure, the Minutemen are looking to carry over strong play, something they haven't done reliably since November.

"I think it would show that we have the maturity to have a little success and build on it and continue that," Kellogg said. "It seems like every time we take a couple steps forward we take a step back or a couple steps back. I would hope through the progression of a season we would have a couple games in a row where we'd play well. We're in position to try to accomplish that."

Sophomore Javorn Farrell thought this game offered UMass a chance to prove something.

"Coach always talks about having a statement game to show people we're one of the top teams in the league," he said. "He thinks Sunday could be one of those statement games to take another step forward. We feel like we're one of the best teams in the league personnel wise. We just want to show people that because people still doubt us."

Rhode Island arrives in Amherst at 13-7 (4-2 A-10). After losing their league opener to Xavier, 72-45, the Rams have played exclusively in tight games with no result decided by more than five points. Their results have been hard to predict. They upset Richmond on the road and lost to La Salle at home.

A year ago, a late basket by Ricky Harris gave the Minutemen a 69-67 win over the Rams in Amherst in both teams' last regular season game. The result earned UMass a spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and may have crippled URI's chances to make the NCAA Tournament. Gurley expected URI to be motivated by that game.

"We always seem to beat them at the right time for us and the wrong time for them. I'm sure they still have a sour taste in their mouth," Gurley said. "The games have had high intensity and a lot of emotion. I think Sunday's going to be the same thing."

Senior big man Delroy James leads URI in scoring (17.7 points per game) and rebounding (7.7 rpg.). Sophomore Nikola Malesevic has been one of the league's most improved players. After averaging 3.6 minutes in 17 games last year, the 6-foot-7 forward from Serbia is the team's No. 2 scorer at 10.7 points per game.

Orion Outerbridge, who sat out the first semester for academic reasons, has given the Rams a lift since returning eight games ago. The 6-foot-9 junior forward is averaging 9.3 points and 4.4 rebounds off the bench.

"I think it's helped them a ton. He's another big guy who can run the floor and finish," Kellogg said. "He actually fits in really well to what they do. He's a big boost for them."

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