Daily Collegian Previews For Finale At Fordham - UMass Athletics

Daily Collegian Previews For Finale At Fordham

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The Daily Collegian has a pair of stories on the men's basketball team as the Minutemen enter the final game of the regular-season at Fordham on Saturday, at 1 p.m. The Minutemen need a win to secure the No. 7 seed and home game in the A-10 Tournament. 

• UM looking for help on the road

Minutemen head to Fordham for final regular season game

Maria Uminski/Collegian

As the Massachusetts men's basketball team plays its final game of the regular season, it will be in control of its own postseason fate.

With a win at Fordham on Saturday, the Minutemen (15-13, 7-8 Atlantic 10) can secure a home game at the Mullins Center for the first round of the A-10 tournament.

However, following a heartbreaking loss to Temple on Wednesday, UMass is presented with a potential trap game against a Rams team which is playing on Senior Night. More so, Fordham (6-21, 0-15 A-10) is looking to salvage a disaster of a season which includes a current 17-game losing streak and zero wins in conference play.

"Anytime we're on the road, I think it's going to be a tough game, especially for Senior Night and honestly a team that hasn't won in the conference this year, I'm sure they're going to give it one last swipe to see if they can end the season on a positive note," said UMass coach Derek Kellogg.

While the embarrassment of affording Fordham its only A-10 win of the season is daunting, the Minutemen are focused on their own problems.

"I think just that we have the fate of our season in our own hands is probably more important than worrying about what Fordham's record is and where they are," said Kellogg. "If we win, I guess we're going to get a home game in the tournament so I think that should be motivation enough."

Though it may seem unlikely for UMass to slip up against the lowly Rams, it's not out of the question. The Minutemen have already dropped games this year to teams in the bottom half of the conference standings.

After claiming back-to-back wins against St. Bonaventure (on the road) and Rhode Island, UMass went on the road for two games which the Minutemen seemed more than capable of winning.

Nevertheless, a difficult offensive night resulted in a 69-53 loss to Saint Louis on Feb. 2 before UMass fell 67-64 to Saint Joseph's three days later. At the time, the Billikens were 7-13 and 3-5 in the A-10, while the Hawks' victory marked their first conference win in nine chances.

While the Minutemen may have taken those opponents for granted, they're not thinking that way against Fordham, especially with the implications of a win.

"I think we're going to come out with a lot of energy, a lot of intensity," said senior guard Anthony Gurley. "We know the magnitude of this game. I think we're going to come out with ultimate focus and be ready to play."

The Rams, despite suffering 17 straight losses, did have some success in their out-of-conference schedule, going 6-5, including a four-game winning streak, before entering A-10 play.

Since then, however, Fordham has been in a tailspin, dropping 12 contests by double figures or more. In the conference, the Rams sit near the bottom in nearly every team statistical category.

UMass will focus its attention on sophomore Chris Gaston, who leads Fordham with 15.8 points per game (good for ninth in the A-10) and a conference-leading 11.2 rebounds per game.

With the Rams out of contention for the A-10 tournament, they'll have nothing to lose on Saturday, something which Gurley recognizes as he'll look for his team to put away Fordham early.

"You let a team like that hang around, get confidence, stick around throughout the game, they're going to make a run, especially on Senior Night and in their own place," said Gurley.

The game will tip-off at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Rose Hill Gym in Bronx, N.Y.

UM looking for help on the road

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The Atlantic 10 regular season is just about over, and the Massachusetts men's basketball team will finish it out on the road at Fordham.

The Minutemen (15-13, 7-8 A-10) stroll into Rose Hill Gym on Saturday after a 73-67 loss to Temple. UMass hung around with the Owls for the majority of the game, but eventually landed on the losing end of the scoreboard in overtime.

On Saturday, the Minutemen will go from host to guest of a senior night game, as the Rams (6-21, 0-15 A-10) will celebrate their two seniors, guard Brenton Butler and forward Jacob Green.

Both UMass coach Derek Kellogg and guard Anthony Gurley expressed the difficulty in competing on the road against Fordham, especially on senior night.

"It'll be tough to beat them especially on senior night at their own place," said Gurley.

"Anytime we're on the road I think it's going to be a tough game, especially for senior day," said Kellogg.

There are some implications to this Saturday's road game. If the Minutemen fall short, then they will start the A-10 postseason away from the Mullins Center. Conversely, a win would, potentially, get them a home game.

"I'm an optimist so I'm going to look at it with an optimistic view. At the same token, you want to go into that A-10 conference tournament with a little bit of momentum," said Kellogg.

Gaining momentum from a road game might be tougher than expected, as the plane ride to St. Bonaventure, time on the road has been giving UMass some ups and downs.

"I think we've played better at home," said Gurley. "I'm not sure why. Don't get me wrong, we have some quality road wins, I just think we play better at home."

While they posted highly-competitive performances in wins against the Bonnies (15-13, 7-8 A-10) and Rhode Island, the Minutemen's road games have showcased some roadblocks.

One of the major roadblocks came against Saint Joseph's, a game that can directly correlate with the upcoming Rams contest. At the time of the game on Feb. 5, the Hawks were winless in the conference, but before a vibrant crowd, SJU pushed the tempo hard enough to steal a 67-64 win from the Maroon and White.

The loss to the Hawks (8-21, 3-12 A-10) came right off the heels of a road loss to Saint Louis, and was the beginning of a four-game skid for the Minutemen.

Other tough road losses this season include UMass' most recent away 72-51 loss to La Salle, a team that the Minutemen had beaten earlier in the season. Gurley was held to four points in the contest.

Another tough A-10 loss came against No. 23 Xavier back on Jan. 12 when UMass students were on their winter break. The Minutemen suffered a 21-4 first half run that ultimately was too tall of lead to come back from.

Looking back on 2010-11

With Saturday's contest being the final of the regular season, Kellogg had the chance to look back on how his team has played throughout the season.

According to Kellogg, one of the weaknesses of the Minutemen this season has been their offensive structure. Although it has shot well at times, UMass has put reliance on one scorer all too often.

"At times I think we've been too reliant on Anthony to be good," said Kellogg. "In games that we've shot the ball well we look like a good college basketball team."

Kellogg's positive reaction came from inspecting the Minutemen defense.

"We've been a good defensive team," said Kellogg. "We actually look like we know what we're doing, we're in the right position [and] we brought some good intensity on the defensive end."

The Minutemen have displayed some strong defense, especially against Temple on Wednesday night, holding the Owls to 20-for-55 shooting. On each possession in the game, UMass pressured the ball and was right up to speed with some of the nation's best.

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