No. 21 UMass looks to bounce back at St. Joseph’s

Last modified: Saturday, February 22, 2014
PHILADELPHIA — For the second time in as many games, the University of Massachusetts will head into a little bandbox gym to face an opponent that plays well at home and that’s motivated by a loss to the Minutemen at the Mullins Center.

Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Saint Joseph’s has plenty of similarities to Wednesday, but the Minutemen are hoping for a different result from their loss to St. Bonaventure.

“I think there’s some familiarity to it. We’ve just got to respond a tad bit differently in our approach. I thought we played hard, but not to that next level” against SBU, Kellogg said. “We’ve got a little bit of adversity staring us in the face. I don’t think our overall record at Hawk Hill has been fantastic over the last 15 years. They’ve got a good home-court advantage and they sell out their games. I think it’ll be a true test for our team to see how we’ll respond against one of the top three or four teams in our league at the beginning of the year. They went through a little bit of growing pains and some injuries, and now I think they’re right there with us and a few other teams as definitely being a postseason team. I’m looking forward to the game to see how we respond in a tough environment.”

Kellogg hoped that losing two of its last three games would make his team hungrier.

“I’m anticipating that, but I think we should be hungry every time out from here on out. You only have, for some guys, 10 games left of college basketball regular season,” Kellogg said. “This is the time of year when ballers ball and players play. If you’re one of them, you should be hungry.”

The 21st-ranked Minutemen (17-3, 4-2 Atlantic 10) haven’t lost two games in a row all season, but Kellogg said he anticipated that there’d be adversity at some point during the season.

“I thought it’d be earlier, honestly. We’re fortunate that it kind of came at this point. Our mentality is now we’ve got to get a little tougher, play a little harder and demonstrate a little more maturity,” he said. “But I didn’t want to change as a coach or a person. I want to keep the same attitude with the guys and let them know now that some of the things we’re doing are unacceptable.”

Kellogg said he’s not planning to change the lineup.

“I don’t want to send the wrong message. I think we have a decent record, we’ve played pretty well for the most part of the season. As much as it would give (Trey Davis) a confidence boost, I wouldn’t want it to take away from say Derrick Gordon or Sampson (Carter) or (Raphiael) Putney, so I think we’ll keep it as is. I think he’s playing well coming off the bench just like Maxie (Esho). There might be a time down the line, but right now I’m going to see how we play Saturday night.”

Like the Minutemen, the Hawks (14-6, 4-2) are in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Atlantic 10. After losing to UMass, they won four straight over George Mason, Duquesne, Penn and Rhode Island. After losing at Richmond, they bounced back to upset Dayton, 60-57, Wednesday at UD Arena, where the road team rarely wins.

The Hawks are 7-2 at Hagan Arena, falling to Creighton and Villanova.

Senior big man Ronald Roberts, who was injured during the game against the Minutemen, missed George Mason and Duquesne, but has averaged 11.8 points per game since coming back. He averages 13.9 points this season.

Langston Galloway, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Dayton, is fourth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 17.2 points per game. This will be the last regular season meeting between UMass point guard Chaz Williams and St. Joe’s forward Halil Kanacevic, former Hofstra teammates. Kanacevic might be the league’s most productive player, averaging team bests in assists (4.4 per game) and rebounds (8.8) to go with his 10.9 points per game.

MORGAN AT TEMPLE — The Minutemen practiced on Friday at McGonagle Hall, Temple’s practice facility. Outside the gym were pictures of Temple players, including former UMass guard Jesse Morgan, who was dismissed from the school in the spring.

If Morgan completes his degree by the end of the summer, he’ll have one semester of eligibility remaining for the first semester of the 2014-15 season. Temple is petitioning to get him eligible for the second semester as well.

NOTES — The Western New England Walk for Autism has been encouraging people to watch the game on CBS Sports because Kellogg and the UMass coaching staff will be wearing Autism Speaks lapel pins in support of Autism Awareness in College Hoops.

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