Derek Kellogg still seeks answers for Minutemen’s shooting woes
UMass guard Jesse Morgan pulls up for a jump shot against Elon Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »
UMass forward Raphiael Putney floats a shot over Elon defenders Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — University of Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg does not have a magic cure for his team’s shooting woes as the Minutemen get ready for Wednesday night’s game against Ohio University at the Mullins Center.
“When you’re not shooting a high percentage, you have to make sure the ones that you’re taking are good ones, which I think we’ve done a decent job of,” Kellogg said Monday. “We can definitely get better. We have to try to get to the free throw line and get in the paint some.”
Making 3-pointers was a key ingredient in last season’s success, but despite having most of the same people attempting shots from behind the arc, the Minutemen are shooting just .282 (55-for-195) in their first eight games compared to .349 (288-for-825) last year.
Kellogg said the improvement has to come gradually.
“It’s foolish to think you’re all of a sudden going to shoot 50 percent when you’re shooting a certain level. When they’re good shots, I usually have no problem with it,” Kellogg said. “We just have to make sure they’re good shots. We’re trying to attack the paint a little bit more.
“... Basketball is a mental game and I think guys can think about it too much or worry about a good shot or a bad shot,” he added. “I’ve given these guys a lot of freedom to play. Sometimes that equates to being looser and making more shots. I’m a little surprised that we’re not shooting at a higher clip right now.”
Other than a late hot stretch against Northeastern, junior Jesse Morgan has been cold from outside, but Kellogg remains optimistic.
“Watching a guy like Jesse not shoot the ball real well and then hit three in a row against Northeastern ... sometimes we wonder when that streak of hitting five and six in a row is going to come,” Kellogg said. “That’s really what separated us last year. When we played well we would hit three or four 3s in a row and play good defense. We haven’t had that run to a certain extent this year.”
Wednesday’s game is the second half of a women’s and men’s doubleheader and is scheduled to start about 7:30 p.m. The Minutewomen will play Bowling Green at 5:30 p.m.
EAST CAROLINA START MOVED UP — To accommodate East Carolina’s travel plans, Saturday’s game between UMass and the Pirates will tip a half hour earlier at 1:30 p.m.
SPARKING PUTNEY — While junior Raphiael Putney continued to struggle offensively against Elon in Saturday’s 78-73 overtime win by the Minutemen, Kellogg said he saw signs his play was improving.
“I’m trying to get him to concentrate on defense and defensive rebounding,” Kellogg said. “He ended up with nine rebounds (against Elon). He just hasn’t had that breakout game yet where you think ‘Wow I think he’s back.’ He’s got to keep at it, get in the gym early and work on his game.”
GRAND COMING — UMass senior forward Terrell Vinson will likely be the next Minuteman to join the 1,000-point club this week. Vinson, who is averaging 13.3 points per game, enters Wednesday’s contest with 976 points in his career.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.