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UMass men’s basketball returns to action against Siena

AMHERST — A University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team with a penchant for the dramatic is headed to the site of two of the program’s more dramatic postseason games.

It was Knickerbocker Arena when Tony Barbee hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in 1991 to force overtime in an 82-80 win over Siena in the National Invitation Tournament.

It was Pepsi Arena in 2000 when Shannon Crooks’ driving shot rolled around the rim and out at the buzzer as the Minutemen bench called for a foul in their 66-65 loss to the Saints in the first round of the NIT.

It’ll be the Times Union Center when the Minutemen, who’ve already won two games at the buzzer this year, take on Siena at 7 tonight.

The Saints are 2-4 after Sunday’s 72-66 loss at Maine. They lost their opener to Vermont 54-53 before edging Navy in overtime 54-49.

In the NUCDF Basketball Classic in San Diego, they fell to Cal State Northridge and San Diego, while beating Northern Kentucky, which just moved to Division I.

Siena was struggling last year too when the teams met. The Saints arrived at the MassMutual Center in Springfield at 3-5 and took a 10-point lead early in the second half before Chaz Williams and Freddie Riley sparked a comeback in an 82-78 UMass win.

O.D. Anosike had 22 points and 14 rebounds for Siena in that game. The 6-foot-8 senior forward is averaging 14.7 points and leads the nation with 14.3 rebounds per game this season.

The game will feature a matchup of two talented guards under 6-feet in Williams and 5-foot-8 Saints sophomore Evan Hymes, who is averaging 14.3 points and 3.0 assists per game.

This will be UMass’ first game in 10 days since the Minutemen (2-2) returned from Puerto Rico, where they beat Providence then lost to North Carolina State and Tennessee in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

“I’m hopeful that we were able to alleviate some of the things I thought hurt us against Tennessee in our last game out there and get the guys confident and playing together,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I thought at times we drifted a little bit and didn’t share the ball as much as I would have liked. We had a few defensive breakdowns. I’m hoping that we play a little better Wednesday night or at least look a little better as a team and bring the energy that I think we have.”

Williams said the team is refreshed.

“It gave us time to fix things that we needed to work on. The time off was well-used. We got to points we needed to get to, to win these next couple of games,” Williams said. “We worked on playing together, playing UMass basketball. We got away from it the last couple of games. That’s not like us. That’s uncharacteristic of us. We’re looking to fix that. We were just off. That happens at the beginning of the year to most teams. It happened to us. Thank god it did. It gives us an opportunity to correct things. We did that and now we can move on.”

Kellogg said time was spent in practice to better utilize sophomore center Cady Lalanne as well as increase his stamina.

“Cady at times when he got tired was getting in the way a little offensively. We worked on getting him in different spots to get Chaz and those guys some better driving lanes,” Kellogg said. “When he’s playing and he’s energized, we’re really a better team. Some of it was realizing we have to get him in and out of the games a little quicker and out of foul trouble.”

Lalanne saw progress.

“I need to get mentally in basketball shape and physically in basketball shape too. Over the break I felt pretty good. Day by day I felt like I was starting to get better,” he said. “I feel like Coach is still trying to figure out where I fit in and I’m figuring out where I fit in too. But over the break I felt like he found out a lot more where I fit in and I found out too.”

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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