No. 13 UMass looks to bounce back before sell-out crowd against Fordham

Last modified: Monday, February 17, 2014
AMHERST — After Wednesday’s loss at Richmond, University of Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg drew up a practice plan Friday designed to help his players shake off the setback and move forward.

“We had some fun. We had a fun day of a lot of shooting and a lot of competitive games,” Kellogg said. “The last time we lost (Dec. 21 vs. Florida State), they bounced back pretty good. When you have a good group that likes each other and enjoys each other’s company, that’s beneficial when things aren’t going perfect. The best way to get it out of your system is to practice and play again and be around each other.”

Senior forward Sampson Carter said the 13th-ranked Minutemen (16-2, 3-1 Atlantic 10) remained focused despite Wednesday’s disappointment. The Spider fans rushing the court got their attention.

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“It was a game that humbled us. It took people storming the court to let us know that we’re kind of a big deal now,” Carter said. “We’re going to keep working hard and focusing on the little things.”

Sunday’s noon game against Fordham will be the Mullins Center’s second sellout this season. UMass also announced that its Feb. 21 game against Virginia Commonwealth has sold out. The students’ return from semester break figures to increase the atmosphere.

“I’m excited. It’s tough when you’re having a pretty good year and students haven’t had an opportunity to be a part of it,” Kellogg said. “It’ll be nice to have them back so they can have a fun time and support the team.”

Carter agreed.

“We’ve been on the road so much,” Carter said. “It’s going to feel good to get back to the Mullins for one game and get the feel of some support back.”

Fordham (8-10, 1-4) is coming off of Wednesday’s home win over George Mason that snapped a six-game losing streak. The Rams might have the conference’s toughest January schedule. After opening with a loss to Duquesne, they lost to Richmond, Dayton and Saint Louis, who are all projected to be near the top of the conference. They then play UMass and Virginia Commonwealth, the league’s preseason favorite, before the calendar turns.

Freshman guard Jon Severe leads the A-10 in scoring at 20.9 points per game. Senior guard Branden Frazier is third at 18.1 points per game, helped by his league best 86.8 free-throw percentage. Frazier is also fourth in the league with 4.3 assists per game.

“They may be the best one-two offense in the league,” Kellogg said. “They do a really good job of making plays for themselves and their teammates. They’re both really good players. Severe can really score. You have to make sure he’s taking tough shots.”

UMass has won all seven games at the Mullins Center this season and all nine games in Massachusetts.

HALL OF FAME — The enshrinees for the UMass Athletic Hall of Fame will be honored at halftime. Tony Barbee headlines the class and is expected to attend. Barbee is the head coach at Auburn, which plays at Arkansas on Saturday at 6 p.m.

He’ll be joined by fellow honorees: Ned Deane (football, 1973-75), Rebecca Donaghue (cross country/track & field, 1995-98), Julie Ready-Mulvey (women’s basketball, 1978-81), Doug Welenc (baseball, 1977-79) and Jim Weller (men’s lacrosse, 1979-82).

Former UMass softball coach Elaine Sortino, who died in August, will also be recognized. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past October during a Celebration of Life.

LEAMAN CLINIC — A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will go toward the Leaman Legacy Fund, which helps pay for athletic scholarships. The annual Leaman Legacy game honors beloved former coach and broadcaster Jack Leaman.

In addition, Dr. Jonathan Bayuk is sponsoring a free “Get Moving Clinic” for area kids before the game from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Participants at the event, which is sold out according to UMass spokesman Brian Henry, will receive tickets to the game as well as a copy of “Henry Gets Moving,” a children’s book promoting active lifestyles written by UMass team doctor Pierre Rouzier.

SUITS AND SNEAKERS — It’s Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers weekend, when coaches wear sneakers with their suits to raise funds and awareness for the American Cancer Society. The UMass and Fordham staffs are expected to participate.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed.