Daily Collegian Previews Hoops At St. Joe's - UMass Athletics

Daily Collegian Previews Hoops At St. Joe's

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The Daily Collegian has a pair of previews of the UMass at Saint Joseph's basketball game slated for Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Minutemen schedule lightens against Hawks

Michael Wood/Collegian

After being covered in 3-pointers in its 69-53 loss to Saint Louis on Wednesday, the Massachusetts men's basketball team is in need of a confidence booster.

"You've got to find a way to win on the road," guard Anthony Gurley said following the SLU game. "It's not always going to be easy ... you've got to find a way."

Wednesday night's affair against the Billikens snapped a two-game winning streak for the Minutemen, as well as a three-game conference road streak that they had going. Instead of traveling back to Amherst following the loss, UMass went right on its way to Saint Joseph's.

On Saturday night, the Minutemen (13-8, 5-3 Atlantic 10) will have a chance to gain some of their lost confidence back as they face SJU, which is riding a 10-game losing streak.

For a team like UMass, which has had a relatively tough schedule this season in the A-10, the game against the Hawks (5-17, 0-8 A-10) gives the Minutemen a break from top-tier opponents and pits them against the bottom team in the A-10 table.

The Hawks boast two players in double-digits for scoring despite their low record, including Carl Jones, who is in fourth in the A-10 in scoring with 17.9 points per game, which is two spots below Gurley.

Langston Galloway also averages double-digits in scoring for SJU with 10.8 per contest. More intimidating is his ability to steal, as Galloway is tied for ninth in the conference with 31 steals and a 1.5 average per game.

Along with Galloway's ability to steal, the Hawks' defense also has a top shot-blocker to its credit in C.J. Aiken.

Aiken has 83 block shots on the season and is averaging four blocks a game, which could put a defensive wall on the Minutemen who like to drive into the paint. On Wednesday night, UMass outscored the Billkens inside the paint, 36-16.

In the last meeting between the two sides, from the Mullins Center, UMass held the Hawks scoreless for the final 10:49 of the game, and went on a 16-0 run to shutdown the SJU side, 70-62.

"It was a good game," Kellogg said following the game last season. "I thought we played hard, at times we looked like we were a little lethargic. We had stretches where we played great defense."

Gurley scored 15 points in last year's contest, and will look to put on a repeat performance during this weekends affair.

"[He's] starting to get back to the Anthony Gurley we all know and love," Kellogg said on Gurley's performance after the game.

Conversely, Jones, who leads the Hawks in scoring, put up seven points against the Minutemen, which was the team's fourth highest during that game.

Neither team shot particularly well in last season's affair, with UMass going 20-for-57 (39.1 percent) and SJU shooting just over 40 percent.

The victory came on Valentines Day and was the first win after a five-game losing steak for last-season's Minutemen. Following the victory, UMass went on to lose four-straight competitions.

This game will also be a good place for UMass to catch a breather, as the team will make the transition from playing the worst to playing the first team in the conference. Next for the Minutemen are George Washington and Duquesne, who rank eighth and first, respectively.

With the undefeated-in-conference Dukes on the horizon, the Minutemen will be looking to release all their faults and mistakes on the lower-ranked SJU this weekend.

Halftime leads work for Minutemen's basketball team

Michael Wood/Collegian

Going into halftime with a lead does more than just give a team a cushion in the second half. It allows players to gain confidence and believe that they are on their way to winning.

Such is the case with the Massachusetts men's basketball team, which usually attributes wins to a strong first half effort and intensity to begin a game. It's no coincidence then that the Minutemen (13-8, 5-3 Atlantic 10) are a perfect 10-0 this season when entering the locker room at half with a lead.

"That right there tells you when we come out and play hard and we go at the team first, we're definitely a better team and that's how we win games," UMass guard Javorn Farrell said of the statistic after defeating Rhode Island on Sunday.

Conversely, the Minutemen struggle when entering the second period in a deficit. The tough starts usually carry into the second half and comeback wins have been hard to come by for UMass. One exception this year was the season-opener against Rider, when the Minutemen rallied from being down 22 points early in the second period to win, 77-67. That, however, has been it as far as comeback wins.

Farrell, along with the rest of the UMass squad, knows it's especially important for this team to come out swinging at the opponent.

"We go out in some games, we start off with a lot of energy, go play hard and that's how we play and that's how we're supposed to win," Farrell said. "Other games, we come out flat and we see ourselves getting in a hole early."

Since the start of A-10 play, coming out strong in games in order to win has held to be even truer for the Minutemen. In all three of its conference losses, UMass has entered halftime with an average deficit of over 10 points per game. In each of those contests, the Minutemen lost by 16 or more points. Two of those losses though, came against Xavier and Richmond, two strong programs who have been to the NCAA tournament multiple times this past decade.

On the flip side, UMass has averaged a lead of over eight points heading into the intermission in A-10 games they've won this season.

"Since conference play has started, we've come out and played pretty good the first half, with the exception of the Xavier game," Farrell said. "So, we're getting a better feel for how to come out."

A good example of UMass' mentality when leading at halftime came in the last home game against Rhode Island on Sunday. Despite hitting their stride to begin the contest, the Minutemen cooled off towards the end of the first period and allowed the Rams to climb back in the game.

On its last possession of the half with a tied game, however, UMass received a much-needed 3-pointer from guard Anthony Gurley as time was winding down to take a three-point lead into the locker room.

To the Minutemen and UMass coach Derek Kellogg, that shot sparked a strong second-half performance which led to the victory.

"I thought that gave us a good boost and some confidence coming into the locker room," Kellogg said after the win. "Sometimes as a coach, you go into the locker room at half with a different kind of vantage point. Being up three, having Anthony [Gurley] and Javorn [Farrell] not played a lot of minutes, I thought that we were good shape, at least energy-wise that we'd be able to come out with energy."

Since that contest though, the Minutemen dropped the first game of a two-game road trip against Saint Louis after trailing by eight points at halftime. As they look to climb the standings in the A-10, UMass will look to sustain a consistent start to games.

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