Minutemen miss defense from injured guard Jesse Morgan
AMHERST — Almost all questions about how the University of Massachusetts would handle the absence of injured junior guard Jesse Morgan had been about replacing his 13.4 points per game.
But Thursday’s 79-66 win over Duquesne showed losing Morgan’s defense might have been costlier. Morgan had guarded the opposition’s best perimeter player all season and certainly would have been assigned to Dukes senior guard Sean Johnson.
But without Morgan to check him, Johnson exploded for a career-high 29 points, including 18 in the second half.
“When the guys get hot like that, you just, you try to stay on them and in a few instances, pray that they miss,” Minuteman coach Derek Kellogg said. “It’s one of those things where he was on fire. ... I think the last two games, we’ve missed Jesse’s defense. (Fordham’s) Brendan Frazier did a great job in the second half, and then Johnson.”
RILEY’S MINUTES — For the third straight game, UMass guard Freddie Riley set a new career high in minutes played as he was the on the floor for 38.
After not scoring in double figures in the first nine games, he’s now had at least 11 points in five of the last seven games including 12 on Thursday.
During that stretch, Riley has shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range (21-for-49).
“I’m just trying to go out there and be confident. I’m known as a shooter, so when I get an open shot, I need to put them in, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” said Riley, who has made big 3-pointers in each of the last two games. “They definitely give me confidence in myself. I know it gives my team confidence in me, and it also gives coach confidence in me, so I just want to make every shot I take.”
The Mullins Center has been particularly good for Riley. He’s made 16 of 36 3-pointers at home (44.4 percent).
NEXT UP – The Minutemen will have just one day to prepare for George Washington which visits the Mullins Center at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Kellogg said he does not expect to practice much.
“We don’t have a lot of turnaround time for GW, so it’s going to be a mental day (Friday) and really 4 o’clock Saturday is probably a very quick turnaround,” he said. “I think we’ll just get ready mentally and watch some tape (Friday) and do a little shooting and I think the players will be happy I can’t practice them for two days.”
The Colonials are 7-9 (1-2 Atlantic 10) after losing to Temple 55-53 Wednesday at home.
UMass will retire former star Marcus Camby’s No. 21 at halftime Saturday.
MISCELLANEOUS — Cady Lalanne rebounded in double figures for the third straight game with 11.
The crowd was 3,421 for the Minutemen’s last game with no students on campus. They will begin moving back this weekend for the second semester which starts Tuesday.
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.