Freddie Riley contributes with complete game in win by Minutemen



Last modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

AMHERST — Freddie Riley smiled Saturday as he sat at the table in the postgame press conference after the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s 88-81 win over East Carolina.

After his best game so far this season, the senior guard had a plane flight home to Ocala, Fla., for Christmas scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

“It felt real good to finally shoot the ball well. And we won,” said Riley, who had a season-high 14 points. “And I’m getting ready to go home. And it was against some of my friends from high school. (Pirates center Ty Armstrong and point guard Miguel Paul).

“It felt good,” Riley added. “ ... I know them from high school. They’re from Florida. So it felt good to play well against them.”

Riley arrived at UMass with a reputation as a shooter. He’s had moments where he’s put up big offensive numbers in bunches, but they’ve come inconsistently, which has affected his minutes.

But in recent games against Elon and Ohio, Riley had earned more time by playing better defensively. On Saturday he played about as complete a game as he’s had in a Minuteman uniform. In addition to playing well on defense, he shot 5-for-10 from the field (4-for-7 from 3-point range). One of those 3-pointers came in the 16-0 run by UMass that gave it enough cushion to withstand East Carolina’s late charge.

“It’s definitely a bonus. I feel like I’ve been getting some more playing time because of my defense more than my offense, so it felt good for my offense to finally come,” Riley said. “I’m just happy to be part of the runs because it’s just a way for me to make a case for more playing time. I’m just happy we make runs when I’m in the game.”

Minuteman coach Derek Kellogg said he was encouraged.

“I thought his defense today was fantastic,” Kellogg said. “He was really locked in. It’s great. His attitude’s been great this year. He’s really bought into the team concept.

“He’s playing defense,” he added. “And when you start worrying about those things instead of worrying about scoring, you score. It was nice to see Freddie put a good game together for us.”

His teammates were happy for Riley as well.

“It’s a great step for Fred,” junior point guard Chaz Williams said. “Fred is a great shooter. Once you get him going, it’s hard to stop him, so it’s good to see he got himself on today.”

CLUB 999 — With the next two games for UMass on the road, senior Terrell Vinson will likely score point No. 1,000 away from the Mullins Center as he is at 999 after scoring 15 on Saturday.

FREE THROW PROWESS RETURNS — After Williams missed two late free throws that would have earned the Minutemen a win in regulation against Elon on Dec. 15 (UMass won in overtime), he put some added emphasis on getting his stroke back from the line.

Before Saturday, Williams was shooting .660 this season, well down from last year’s .788 average. On Saturday, he looked like he has found the range again by making a career-high 15 on 16 attempts.

“I’ve just been working on my free throws,” said Williams, who was eight-for-eight in the last minute on Saturday’s win. “Just getting in the gym, shooting them.

“I’ve always been a pretty good free-throw shooter my whole life, my whole career, so it was unusual for me to be missing free throws the way I was when I was missing them,” he added. “So I just got to the gym and put in extra work on my free throws and they went down today.”

DAVIS HURT – Williams played the entire 40 minutes because freshman Trey Davis injured his ankle in practice Friday. Kellogg expects Davis to be back for next week’s game at Northern Illinois.

“He’ll be ready for the next game,” Kellogg said. ... “I’m not a trainer, but it didn’t look that bad.”

NEXT UP — The Minutemen are off until next Saturday when they travel to DeKalb, Ill., to face Northern Illinois (2-9) at 4 p.m. The Huskies lost 67-57 at Washington on Saturday.

MISCELLANEOUS — Runs of 14-0 and 16-0 by UMass were the team’s ninth and 10th of at least nine straight points this season. ... There were 4,123 fans in attendance.

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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