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Break over, UMass hits the court Sunday vs. Richmond

AMHERST — When the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team returns to the court for Sunday’s 2 p.m. game against Richmond at the Mullins Center, the long breaks are over.

After this seven-day layoff, the Minutemen will play conference games twice a week for the final seven weeks of the regular season, a stretch that will determine where UMass finishes in a tight Atlantic 10 and what postseason possibilities might lie ahead.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg said his team used its time off accordingly.

“We really tried just to get back to playing at a high level and try to extend it from however many minutes we’ve been playing at that level and push it closer to 40,” Kellogg said. “We’re inching toward it, but we still have a little ways to go. We have some things to get better at.”

Junior point guard Chaz Williams thought the week off was productive.

“We practiced hard and work on some things that were holding us back. We just concentrated more on defense,” he said. “It’s been a good week. It’s pretty helpful for us.”

The Spiders (13-7, 3-2 A-10) have been up and down all season. After narrowly edging Rhode Island at home to open conference play, Richmond dropped its next two games to La Salle and Butler, both on the road.

But the Spiders will arrive in Amherst on a high note. After drubbing Charlotte 81-61 on Jan. 12, they stunned No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth 86-74 in overtime Thursday.

“They know how good Richmond is already, but (beating VCU is) obviously an attention grabber,” Kellogg said. “For them to be able to accomplish that, they did a great job of controlling play and controlling tempo. They made big shots in big spots.”

Richmond plays a modified version of the Princeton offense, but doesn’t slow the ball nearly as much as most schools that use the system that’s built on ball movement and backdoor cuts.

The Spiders have attempted 440 3-pointers, third most in the Atlantic 10, and have made 169 (38.4 percent), which is more than anyone else in the league.

Darien Brothers has made quite a few of those. The Spiders’ senior guard leads Richmond at 16.3 points per game. He’s made half of his attempted 3-pointers (59 for 118), a percentage that leads the A-10 and is 12th in the nation. He scored 39 points, including eight 3-pointers, in their win over Charlotte.

“He’s playing at a high level right now, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range. I haven’t seen that in a college guy that we’ve played against in a long time. You have to be aware of where he is at all times,” Kellogg said. “They play a unique style and shoot a ton of 3s and really spread you out. Some it is taking them out of what they want to do and then hoping they miss some of those shots so you can rebound and go on them.”

When Richmond does miss, it is vulnerable on the boards as its rebounding margin (minus-5.4 per game) is worst in the conference.

TREY DAVIS VS. TREY DAVIS — The game will feature a rare meeting between two players with the same name as UMass freshman guard Trey Davis will face Richmond freshman forward Trey Davis.

Richmond’s Davis averages more minutes (13.3-7.1), but UMass’ has a slight edge in scoring (2.1 ppg to 2.0.).

Davis was surprised to learn of his namesake.

“It’ll be awkward,” he said, pausing to ponder. “But oh well. I guess it’ll be fun.”

SUITS AND SNEAKERS — Both coaches are expected to participate in the 10th annual Suits and Sneakers event during the game. College and high school coaches around the country wear sneakers with their suits to raise awareness of the work of Coaches vs. Cancer, a branch of the American Cancer Society.

“Any time you can increase awareness and raise money for research that can save lives is a welcome opportunity, not just for us as a program but as a community is a positive,” Kellogg said in a statement.

There will be promotional materials and giveaways on the Mullins Center concourse during the game.

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

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