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UMass men’s basketball team eager to get started Tuesday

JERREY ROBERTS
University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg, second from left, applauds after calling his players in from a drill including, from left, Tyler Bergantino, Freddie Riley and Cady Lalane Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage.

JERREY ROBERTS University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg, second from left, applauds after calling his players in from a drill including, from left, Tyler Bergantino, Freddie Riley and Cady Lalane Tuesday at Curry Hicks Cage. Purchase photo reprints »

AMHERST — Neither University of Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg nor point guard Chaz Williams anticipated getting much sleep Monday night.

The buildup for Tuesday’s season opener against Harvard at 10 a.m. at the Mullins Center figured to be too much.

“It’ll be one of those times where you wake up every 15 minutes hoping it’s Tuesday,” said Williams, who shouted “only 23 hours and 45 minutes to go” when he looked at the Mullins Center clock that read 10:15 during a drill.

Kellogg joked that he hoped the final open spot in his starting lineup would come to him while he slept. But since he didn’t expect many Z’s, he might use some of those tossing and turning hours to determine which sophomore, Cady Lalanne or Maxie Esho, to start at center. “I’m going to lay and think about it,” Kellogg said laughing. “I’m still figuring out how I want to start that game, whether I want a little more athleticism in (Esho) or do I want to go with someone a little bit bigger (Lalanne).”

Whoever he chooses will join Freddie Riley for the opening tip. Riley came off the bench last year, but his strong showing in the exhibition win over American International College and in preseason practice convinced Kellogg to give him the nod over returning starter Jesse Morgan.

“In his opportunity against AIC I thought Freddie played really well and brought some energy and intensity,” Kellogg said. “As long as he continues to do that he’ll stay in the starting lineup.”

Williams will start at point guard. Forwards Terrell Vinson and Raphiael Putney return as starters.

The early start is because the contest is the sixth game in ESPN’s Season Tipoff, which airs college basketball for 24 hours beginning Monday at 11:59 p.m. with West Virginia at Gonzaga. UMass students planned to camp out in tents on the fields next to the Mullins Center to mark the event.

“I think (the early start) will be a positive,” said Kellogg, whose team practiced at 10 a.m. Monday. “It worked out well. We did it a couple of times over the weekend and again today just to get acclimated to being up early and ready to play.”

Williams liked being included of the event.

“It’s an honor to be part of it. Thank god it’s at 10, not at 7,” Williams said.

Harvard arrives in a bit of an unexpected rebuilding mode. The Crimson were 26-5 last year and won the Ivy League. They were expected to bring back three of their top four scorers and would have been Ivy favorites again.

But top returning forward Kyle Casey and starting point guard Brandyn Curry were implicated in a campus cheating scandal. Both withdrew from school to avoid losing eligibility as they defended themselves against the allegations. That left Northfield Mount Hermon product Laurent Rivard as the only Harvard player returning who’d averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season.

“We don’t want to give them a lot of easy open shots,” Kellogg said. “We want to make the game hard on them for 40 minutes. If we can do that, hopefully it will be a good result for the Minutemen.”

The game will mark the first for UMass freshmen Trey Davis, Tyler Bergantino and Izzy Freeman.

Shortly after the game, the team will head to the airport and leave for the Puerto Rico Tipoff, where they’ll face Providence Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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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