Previews For Wednesday's Game Vs. Temple - UMass Athletics

Previews For Wednesday's Game Vs. Temple

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UMass basketball faces perhaps its stiffest test of the season as the three-time defending A-10 Champion Temple Owls comes to the Mullins Center for a huge contest on Wednesday night. Here are the previews.

• Daily Hampshire Gazette: Win against Temple would boost Minutemen for home tourney game

Win against Temple would boost Minutemen for home tourney game

Photo: UM home run hangs in balance
AP Photo Temple coach Fran Dunphy directs his team against Duke in Durham, N.C., on Feb. 23. The Owls play the University of Massachusetts at the Mullins Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

AMHERST -- A strong performance tonight by the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team could go a long way toward extending the Minutemen's season at the Mullins Center.

UMass hosts Temple at 7 on senior night. Anthony Gurley, Gary Correia and Hashim "Big City" Bailey will all be honored prior to what is scheduled to be their final career home game. UMass has won seven straight games on senior night. Stretching that streak to eight could help it get back to their home court in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which begins Tuesday.

At 7-7 in the conference, the Minutemen (15-12 overall) still could finish fourth with two wins and help. If Duquesne, George Washington, Rhode Island, UMass and St. Bonaventure all finish 9-7, the Minutemen would earn the tiebreaker and the first-round bye. Since they're about as likely to get hit by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket than see that exact situation play out, UMass is more realistically battling for one of the tournament's first-round home games, which go to the teams that finish fifth through eighth.

The Minutemen are tied for seventh with Dayton and St. Bonaventure, a game back of George Washington (8-6). Because UMass beat both the Flyers and Bonnies this season, the Minutemen would get the higher seed if they finish tied. If UMass wins one of its last two games and either Dayton or SBU loses a game, the Minutemen will get a home game in the first round.

The Flyers host Saint Louis tonight and are at George Washington Saturday. The Bonnies are at Duquesne tonight and host Rhode Island Saturday.

After Sunday's loss to La Salle, Gurley said the Minutemen are trying to regroup.

"We're putting that behind us and looking forward to (tonight's) game," he said. "It's going to be a big-time game for us if we play the way we're capable of playing. ... It would be nice to end the season on a good note."

Coach Derek Kellogg said the magnitude of the game lessened the emphasis on senior day, but saluted his three soon-to-be graduates.

"They've done a nice job of bringing stability back into the program," Kellogg said. "They've helped put the program back on solid footing. It was good to have some older guys in the program that have been through the wars."

Correia was sad to think about his career winding down.

"It's been a long journey. It's had its ups and downs," he said. "I'm sad to see it end. For us as a team, the season's not over. There's a lot we can do. We have to take it one game at a time from here on out."

Winning tonight figures to be particularly challenging. The Owls (22-6, 12-2 Atlantic 10) are considered a lock for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They've won nine straight league games and have already sewn up a bye in the first round of the A-10 Tournament. They were ranked last week but fell out after losing at No. 1 Duke.

The Owls are banged up headed to the finish line. They've lost starting junior big man Michael Eric for the season with a broken leg, and junior wing Scootie Randall for at least the end of the regular season with a foot injury. Randall was the Owls' No. 2 scorer at 11.6 points per game to go with 5.1 rebounds. Eric, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound widebody, provided an interior presence with size few teams could match. He averaged 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds before the injury.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy hopes to get Randall back in the mix.

"We're monitoring (Randall) every single day to see if he can start to jog," he said. "We're handling it OK. It's not easy to play at this level with the minimal up-front guys, but that's the way it is and we have to mix and match a little bit and sometimes play four guards a little bit."

Even without them, the Owls aren't lacking weapons. Junior guard Ramone Moore is 10th in the league in scoring at 15.0 ppg. Senior big man Lavoy Allen is a handful inside, averaging 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while junior Juan Fernandez (10.0 ppg) is close to full strength after an early injury.

Temple has maintained its strength defensively, giving up a league-low 60.9 points per game.

"They're a very, very good team," Kellogg said. "It's a big game, we've got a team coming in that's been the benchmark in this conference for many, many years."

NO CBS 3 NOW - The game was originally scheduled to be on CBS 3 Now, the extra digital station connected with the Springfield CBS affiliate. But the athletic department thought that the games being televised were hurting the home attendance, so the game was taken off the air.

UMass basketball team's priority on Senior Night is Temple, not sentiment

Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 9:43 PM     Updated: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 10:54 PM
Gary CorreiaUniversity of Massachusetts guard Gary Correia, whose final regular season home game is Wednesday against Temple, is his team's only senior who has played all four years with the Minutemen.

AMHERST - Senior Night for theUniversity of Massachusetts men's basketball team will be a business meeting, not a celebration.

"Everybody respects what our seniors have done, but our main goal is to play well against a team that is playing very good basketball,'' UMass coach Derek Kellogg said about Wednesday night's game against Temple at the Mullins Center.

"We're on a mission. Temple is on a mission. Different missions.''

Once a fight for squatter's rights atop the Atlantic 10 Conference mountain, and for a larger share of the national spotlight, the matchup is now about best-case scenarios for UMass (15-12, 7-7 Atlantic 10).

The Minutemen could finish as high as sixth in the A-10. Temple (22-6, 12-2) has loftier goals.

The Owls trail only Xavier (13-1 Atlantic 10) in the conference race. They look to be headed back to the NCAA tournament

As usual, they are doing it with defense. The Owls are allowing 60.9 points a game, lowest in the conference.

"Temple plays a style that's hard to get them out of,'' Kellogg said.

""Our goal is to get to where we are playing well, though, to be ready for the postseason. That's still possible.''

Sunday's 72-51 loss at La Salle kept the Minutemen in a three-way tie for seventh place in the A-10.

Two of those three teams will likely finish in the league's top eight, earning home games for the first round of the A-10 tournament on March 8.

UMass has beaten Dayton and St. Bonaventure, the other two 7-7 teams. The Minutemen hold tiebreaker advantages, but nothing is guaranteed yet.

UMass is trying to reclaim its modest momentum that was flattened Sunday, when La Salle handed the Minutemen their 12th loss in their last 20 games.

Seven times in their last 18, they have lost by more than 15 points. Now they face the league's top defensive team, whose eight-game winning streak was snapped at Duke last week.

Temple bounced back for a 57-41 win over George Washington Saturday. Ranked No. 24 in The Associated Press poll last week, the Owls fell out of the Top 25 this week as a result of losing to Duke.

They rank third in A-10 field-goal defense, a category where UMass has quietly risen to first.

The Minutemen rank near the bottom in offensive shooting percentage, though, and last in 3-point shooting. Unless UMass can find ways to penetrate the Temple defensive interior, or discover a 3-point touch it has lacked all season, it could be a long, low-scoring night.

Seniors Anthony Gurley, Gary Correia and Hashim Bailey will play their final regular-season home game. An A-10 first-round game at Mullins is possible next week.

Gurley and Correia are starters. Bailey normally comes off the bench, but he will get a Senior Night start as well.

Only Correia has played all four years at UMass. Fellow guard Gurley transferred from Wake Forest after his freshman year.

Bailey, a 6-foot-10 center, spent two years at Memphis, where Kellogg was John Calipari's assistant.

Gurley's climb up the all-time UMass scoring charts has stalled down the stretch, as opponents have concentrated on stopping him. He scored a season-low four points Sunday on 1-for-9 shooting at La Salle.

That left Gurley with 1,266 points as a UMass player. He ranks 17th all-time, and could pass Bill Tindall (1,277) with 12 points Wednesday.

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