Massachusetts men's basketball point guard Chaz Williams is probably a little bit sick of traveling at this point, and you couldn't really blame him for it.
Derrick Gordon and the Minutemen complete their three-game road stretch Wednesday night at Richmond. (Photo courtesy Maria Uminski, Massachusetts Daily Collegian)
Between a bus ride down to Fairfax, Va., to face George Mason, a flight down to North Carolina to face Elon and another flight to Virginia to face Richmond, the Minutemen will have had played three road games in the span of seven days when their game against the Spiders is all said and done Wednesday night.
Each road trip, too, has included traveling back home to Amherst before going back out again. In all, over 3,000 miles will have been logged by the time UMass gets back to campus for good Thursday. And that's not even counting all the time the team had to spend in the airport last Friday awaiting its flight to Elon after mechanical issues on the original plane caused a long delay.
“That right there was a little absurd,” Williams admitted.
Travel burdens or not, however, a hungry Richmond team will be awaiting the 13th-ranked Minutemen at the Robins Center for a 7 p.m. tip Wednesday night.
The Spiders (12-6, 2-1 Atlantic 10) were picked to finish sixth in the conference in the preseason and aren't necessarily playing worse or better than expectations at this juncture of the season. They are coming off a good 73-64 win against Dayton on Saturday at the Robins Center, where they own a 7-2 record this season.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg agreed that Wednesday's game, the third and last of his team's road stretch, could be the toughest of the three, but he's not looking for excuses against a Richmond squad that figures to provide another stiff test for his players.
“They’re a team that played Florida tough. They just beat Dayton at home, so I’m sure they’re going to be up for our game and it will be a nice packed house like always,” Kellogg said. “It’s going to be a tough one. I look at the schedule and I feel like we can play with anybody on our schedule, like we can compete and have a chance, which is something that I like.”
Some things to watch for as the Minutemen (16-1, 3-0) square off with the Spiders:
ATTACKING RICHMOND'S ZONE: Richmond enters Wednesday's matchup with some of the best defensive numbers in the conference. The Spiders allow 65.4 points per game – good for third in the A-10 – and rank second in the conference in field goal percentage defense (.405). They're also second in the A-10 and 16th in the country in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.287).
Kellogg emphasized the importance of playing efficient half-court basketball against the Spiders' matchup zone.
“Their defense right now is what’s keeping them where they are,” he said. “We have to be proficient on the offensive end and don’t let that lead to easy baskets for them. I think that’s where teams have gotten hurt by them.”
ESHO FACES OLD TEAMMATE: UMass junior forward Maxie Esho and Richmond senior guard Cedrick Lindsay were AAU teammates on DC Assault in their prep days and will play against each other in college for the third time Wednesday. Esho owns a 2-0 advantage in the series.
Esho, whose hometown of Upper Marlboro, Md., is about two hours from Richmond's campus, said he'll have family and friends attending the game. But he's not interested in any hoopla. He said he and Lindsay worked out with each other over Christmas break but beyond that, they haven't spoken much about the game.
“I'm not looking at it like that at all,” Esho said. “It's just another game. We have to be focused and worried about beating Richmond.
“I know he's going to be ready to play and I'm ready to play too,” he added of Lindsay.
LAST TIME THEY MET: UMass won its last meeting against Richmond in a 70-65 victory on Jan. 27, 2013, at the Mullins Center. Williams led all scorers with 18 points and added six rebounds and five assists as the Minutemen came back from a seven-point deficit with six minutes left to win.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Based on previous lineups, here are the projected lineups for Wednesday night's game.
*G Chaz Williams, Sr.: 16.3 PPG, 7.4 APG, 1.5 SPG
*G Derrick Gordon, So.: 8.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG
*F Raphiael Putney, Sr.: 10.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG
*F Sampson Carter, Sr.: 10.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG
*C Cady Lalanne, Jr.: 14.2 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.5 BPG
*G Kendall Anthony, Jr.: 13.3 PPG
*G Cedrick Lindsay, Sr.: 19.1 PPG, 4.2 APG, 2.1 SPG
*F Trey Davis, So.: 4.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG
*F Derrick Williams, Sr.: 5.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG
*F Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, So.: 7.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.5 BPG
WHERE TO CATCH THE GAME: If you have DirecTV, this game will be on TV on channel 641, which is MASN2 (thanks to MassLive's Dan Malone for the tip). If you don't have DirecTV, though, you can catch the game on the Atlantic 10 Digital Network right here, but it does unfortunately cost $6.95 for a 24-hour pass. The game was originally going to air on ESPN3, but it's since been taken down from the schedule. As usual, you can also hear the game on the radio on 105.5 FM WEEI (Springfield), 1440 AM WVEI (Worcester) and 95.9 FM WATD (South Shore). I will unfortunately not be in attendance for this one.
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