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Minutemen set for East Carolina

JOSH KUCKENS
UMass guard Trey Davis gets physical against the Elon defense Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield.

JOSH KUCKENS UMass guard Trey Davis gets physical against the Elon defense Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »

AMHERST — When Chaz Williams picked up his second foul late in the first half of Wednesday’s win over Ohio, nothing about it seemed like a good thing for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

The junior point guard, who was just named to the watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, is essential to everything the Minutemen (6-3) do. But he went to the bench in favor of freshman Trey Davis.

It was Davis’ second stint of extended playing time stepping in for Williams this season. He played well enough to not only keep the Minutemen ahead, but help extend the lead despite playing against Ohio standout D.J. Cooper, who is also on the Cousy watch list.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg was impressed enough with Davis’ four first-half minutes that he gave him six more in the second half. When the Minutemen face East Carolina at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Mullins Center, Williams might not need to get into foul trouble for Davis to see additional action.

“It was nice to see him get some minutes and feel more comfortable out there. I thought he was a positive. We made a couple runs with him in the game. It was good that he could come in an spell Chaz when he was in foul trouble,” Kellogg said. “Now maybe he can come in and spell Chaz not only when he’s in foul trouble, but as a guy we can rely on. It takes a lot to earn a coach’s trust, especially for freshmen and even more so for a point guard. Slowly but surely, he’s starting to earn my trust.

“He’s made a few mistakes out there,” Kellogg added. “Sometimes you’re trying to impress the staff so much that you’re trying to do too much. But all in all I’m happy with where he is and I think he’s going to improve.”

Davis hoped to build off Wednesday’s game.

“It felt good. I’ve been waiting all year for a game like that to get in and get into rhythm,” Davis said. “I’m glad I showed Coach Kellogg that I’ve got some confidence. I’m glad he left me in the game.”

Davis said that learning from Williams has been valuable to his development.

“It’s been a great learning experience behind him, watching him do what he does. When I was in (Wednesday) he was talking to me through the whole game, letting me know where I needed to be. I appreciate that,” said Davis, who has been practicing at shooting guard as a way to potentially earn more minutes. “We’ve been working me running the two or Chaz running the two. We can be even faster. Whoever is close to the ball and get it and we can take off and go.”

Kellogg hoped if Davis continued to play well that it could help make Williams fresher and stronger at the end of the game and the end of the season.

“Chaz plays better when he’s rested. He’s fresher and he can score a little easier and make the plays we need him to,” Kellogg said. “Because he plays so low to the ground and so physical, his body can wear down over the course of the season and I’m conscious of that. Hopefully Trey can help alleviate some of that.”

ECU’s 7-2 record is slightly deceiving because three of the wins have come against Washington & Lee, Methodist and St. Andrews, none of which are Division I schools.

In the Pirates’ last two games, they just missed a huge win, falling 93-87 to North Carolina, and a huge loss, beating Gardner-Webb 62-60.

The Minutemen will face their second straight Bob Cousy Award candidate in the game. Senior point guard Miguel Paul, who is in his second year at ECU after transferring from Missouri, is averaging 12.1 points and 4.7 assists per game. He had 10 points, four assists and six steals against UMass last year.

Kellogg said Paul is different from Ohio’s Cooper.

“They’re both very good point guards. Cooper was a little more methodical,” Kellogg said. “Paul is just an attack guy.”

Senior forward Maurice Kemp leads East Carolina in scoring with 17.1 points per game to go with his 8.9 rebounds per game.

The Minutemen are familiar with two players on the Pirate bench. Junior guard Akeem Richmond began his career at Rhode Island, while Shamar Bowden started at Charlotte.

“They’re talented. They have a good well-rounded team. It’s going to be another tough game,” Kellogg said. “We’ve been in a lot of tough ones. This one is just status quo.”

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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