The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team has traditionally played well in Springfield. This would be a good time to draw upon that karma now.
"We play again Saturday. It's not a football season We have to regroup and get ready for La Salle,'' coach Derek Kellogg said in response to Wednesday's 79-50 loss at Xavier.
UMass basketball team hopes for a quick turnaround against La Salle in Springfield
Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011, 3:58 PM Updated: Thursday, January 13, 2011, 4:11 PM
AMHERST - The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team has traditionally played well in Springfield.
This would be a good time to draw upon that karma now.
"We play again Saturday. It's not a football season We have to regroup and get ready for La Salle,'' coach Derek Kellogg said in response toWednesday's 79-50 loss at Xavier.
It was the second 29-point loss in three games for UMass (9-6, 1-1 Atlantic 10). As the Minutemen face a quick turnaround and Saturday' afternoon's game against La Salle at the MassMutual Center, they face some of the same challenges they left behind in Cincinnati.
Xavier is a cut or two above La Salle (8-9, 0-2), which was picked ninth in the preseason A-10 poll. UMass was 11th.
Just as Xavier gave UMass problems with their size and muscle, though, the Explorers present 6-foot-10 center Aaric Murray, who was too much for UMass to handle last year in Springfield.
Murray had 18 points and nine rebounds in La Salle's 80-74 victory at the MassMutual Center. Now a sophomore, he leads the Explorers with 15.5 points a game, and is averaging 8.1 rebounds.
Jerrell Williams, a 6-8 forward who had 12 rebounds in last year's game in Springfield, is also back. The former Northfield Mount Hermon standout is averaging 14.8 points, and leads his team with 8.2 boards per game.
UMass will have to do a better job against them than they did against Xavier 7-footer Kenny Frease, who scored 16 points with eight rebounds Wednesday.
Center Hashim "Big City'' Bailey fouled out in only five minutes of play. Sean Carter did much better with nine points and five rebounds, but UMass still lost the interior battle decisively.
"Big City and Sean had a tough assignment guarding Frease,'' UMass guard Anthony Gurley said.
"We were a little overmatched against (Xavier) physically, and our zone looked uncertain at times,'' Kellogg said.
UMass stayed in its zone longer than anticipated. It looked like the best response to Xavier's interior strength, and for awhile, it worked.
But Xavier, which had not been known for 3-point shooting, launched a few long 3's and led by 17 at halftime.
La Salle is shooting 38.6 percent on 3-pointers. Point guard Rodney Green, who had 17 points and 12 assists in last year's Springfield game, has graduated.
The Explorers have an exciting replacement in freshman Tyreek Duren, who is averaging 9.1 points and 4.2 assists per game.
Duren is playing 32 minutes a night, but averaging only 2.9 turnovers per game.
UMass will try to regain its ability to create opportunities, rather than force them. After going to the foul line 36 times in a five-point win over Dayton, the Minutemen took only 15 free throws at Xavier.
"We did a pretty good job early on, but once they got ahead, we started taking quick, bad shots,'' Javorn Farrell said.
La Salle's record is below expectations, but the Explorers have faced some tough opponents. They have beaten Providence and losses against Villanova (84-81), Travis Ford's Oklahoma State team (92-87 in double overtime) and by 10 at Baylor.
They have also played 12 of their 17 games at home. One member who will feel at home Saturday will be Explorers' director of basketball operations Sean Neal, a Cathedral High graduate from Springfield who played for La Salle from 2003-07.