Hometown next stop for Minuteman freshman Jesse Morgan
AMHERST - University of Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg would like freshman Jesse Morgan to be more like Gary Correia than Lou Roe, when the Minutemen play La Salle Sunday.
In 1995, Roe's senior year, UMass played La Salle in a nonconference game in Roe's hometown of Atlantic City, N.J. The Minuteman All-American and future second-round NBA draft choice struggled, scoring just two points in his homecoming.
On the other hand Correia, a Providence native, has thrived in his annual game at Rhode Island with two of his four career double-digit scoring games at the Ryan Center.
Morgan, who missed UMass' game at Saint Joseph's with the flu, will be playing his first collegiate game in his native Philadelphia when the Minutemen play at 2 p.m. at the Tom Gola Arena.
"I'm hopeful he just does what the team needs him to do," said Kellogg, who was Roe's teammate that year. "Being in Philly, we'll make sure he's not taking crazy shots and that he's sharing the basketball and doing what we need him to do."
Morgan pledged to stay under control.
"I'm not getting involved with that. I just want to get the win. I'll do whatever my team needs me to do," said Morgan, who expects a cheering section. "A couple people called me for tickets. I should have a nice little crowd there. I'm just happy to be going back home and playing in front of my family."
Gola Arena is familiar territory for Morgan, who went to Olney High School just over two miles away from La Salle. "In AAU, every practice was at La Salle, so I'm kind of used to the court," Morgan said. "I hope that helps me out a little bit."
UMass (15-11) heads into the weekend in a three-way tie for seventh place in the Atlantic 10 with Dayton and St. Bonaventure. All three are 7-6, but if they all finished tied, the Minutemen would get the higher seed in next month's Atlantic 10 Tournament because they beat both the Flyers and Bonnies.
Dayton figures to have its hands full hosting Xavier at 1 p.m. Sunday, while SBU plays Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia at 4 p.m. Saturday.
After back-to-back wins, Kellogg was curious to see if his team had broken its habit of backsliding after experiencing success. "It seems like they've learned, but you don't know until the next contest and you see how they come out and play and what focus they have," Kellogg said. "Are we going to go at this team at the level we need to play at?"
La Salle (12-16, 4-9 Atlantic 10) is still trying to clinch a spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. At two games ahead of Saint Joseph's (2-11) and Charlotte (2-11), a win would earn the Explorers a bid as La Salle holds tiebreakers over both teams. The Explorers are tied with Saint Louis for 11th place. The Billikens host Duquesne at 7 p.m. Saturday.
La Salle has lost five of its last six. The lone win came against Saint Louis with losses to Temple, Dayton, St. Bonaventure, George Washington and Xavier, which crushed the Explorers 100-62 on Tuesday.
When the Minutemen played the Explorers at the MassMutual Center, UMass led La Salle by 15 points in the second half, but the Explorers cut the lead to two before the Minutemen held on for a 74-71 win.