UMass simply hoping to contain Northeastern’s Jordan Roland

  • UMass forward Samba Diallo (left) and guard T.J. Weeks (right) trap a UMass-Lowell player in the Minutemen’s press during UMass’ 79-64 win over the River Hawks on Nov. 5, 2019 at the Mullins Center. J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/11/2019 8:33:15 PM

AMHERST — It’s not often a college player can be compared to Steph Curry.

No one is saying Northeastern’s Jordan Roland is the next Steph Curry, but it might be an apt comparison for the fire-blazing start Roland has had for the Huskies. Through two games against quality opponents, Roland has scored 81 points and made 65 percent of his shots.

The challenge for UMass (2-0) is to do what Boston University and Harvard could not and slow down the nation’s scoring leader on Tuesday when Northeastern (2-0) visits the Mullins Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

“One of our coaches compared him to a young Steph Curry when he was at Davidson, just coming off screens,” freshman guard Preston Santos said. “He pretty much does everything, so if we just apply pressure to him and also their point guard, I think we’ll be straight.”

It isn’t as easy as it sounds for the Minutemen to slow down a player like Roland. Coach Matt McCall said one of the biggest dangers Roland possesses is how confident he feels right now with his shot. He said the Minutemen will need to be close to perfect when defending Roland and deny him clean looks at the rim, especially early in the game to prevent him from getting on a roll.

“When you are guarding him, you’ve just got to be solid, you can’t reach,” McCall said. “The second you come out of your stance for a split-second, it’s over. When they put him in pick-and-rolls, you’ve got to be aggressive with him, you can’t just allow him to come off and see the rim. If he can come off and get his eyes on the rim, it’s going up and it’s going in.”

The Minutemen have been able to use their press as an effective weapon through two games, helping to speed up the tempo of the game and tire out opponents. McCall said even the open shots UMass does allow in the press are alright because it forces teams to shoot quicker than expected and those shots can take a toll on the legs. He said it was a potential factor in Saturday’s win over Fairfield because the Stags started to miss some open shots that fell earlier in the game, a potential byproduct of fatigue.

What McCall has hammered his team about is being better at closing out on perimeter shooters in half-court sets. He said oftentimes when the Minutemen collapse back out of the press, they are too aggressive at running at shooters and giving those players opportunities to attack the rim and score easier baskets.

“When we come out of (the press) then we close out to a guy and he ball fakes and drives to the middle of the floor, that’s just a simple closeout, that’s the issue. ” McCall said. “It’s not necessarily the press itself, the press has been very good for us, it’s been effective for us. ... When you come out of it, you’ve got to identify where guys are then you have to be solid and not give up the middle of the floor which can lead to a 3. That’s been a focus.”

Even in the press, Santos said it’s important UMass not lose sight of a player like Roland. He said the Minutemen have some schemes within their press to deal with a shooter behind the pressure and making sure he doesn’t get one of those open looks at the rim.

The freshman said it’s vital for he and his teammates to be vigilant at all times and hustle back once a team breaks the press and crosses half court to even out the numbers on defense.

“Knowing if they’re as good of a shooter as our coaches say he is, he’s probably going to hit a wide open shot,” Santos said. “We need to watch out for the shooters on the opposite side, especially when the press breaks down, we have to come back together and not jog but sprint back into the half-court set and just guard.”

UMASS DOWN A PAIR — Sophomore Sy Chatman is expected to miss his third straight game Tuesday as he continues to deal with personal issues. McCall said he didn’t have a timeline on when Chatman could return to action, although he was on the court for practice Monday according to an Instagram video posted by a member of the team.

The Minutemen will also be without the services of freshman guard Kolton Mitchell, who broke his hand during last week’s win over UMass-Lowell. McCall said Mitchell didn’t know about the injury when it happened and actually returned to the game and played through it. The coach described the injury as a small fracture in the area of the hand where the fingers meet the palm, and that Mitchell will be re-evaluated in two weeks. In the interim, he is in a soft cast on his left hand.

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.



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