53 Reasons: UMass game

Dayton guard Kyle Davis, back, guards Massachusetts' Trey Davis on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. David Jablonski/Staff

Dayton guard Kyle Davis, back, guards Massachusetts’ Trey Davis on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. David Jablonski/Staff


The 2015-16 college basketball season is just around the corner. In honor of the Flyers winning 53 games the last two seasons (and because I couldn’t come up with 2,015 reasons), I’m counting down 53 reasons (in no particular order) to look forward to the season.

Follow the blog between now and the season opener against Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 13. I will have four to five updates per week.

I’ll post links on Twitter (@DavidPJablonski) and on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DavidPatrickJablonski.

NOTE TO READERS: I want to salute the fans at some point in this series. Here’s my idea: Email me a photo of your favorite piece of UD memorabilia (david.jablonski@coxinc.com). It could be a ticket stub, a T-shirt, a poster, a newspaper page, a photo of you at a game, etc. And write a paragraph or two or more about the story behind it: where you got it, what it means to you, why it’s special, etc. Also tell me how long you’ve been a fan, how and why you started rooting for the Flyers. I will include the story and the text in a blog entry. The best photo and entry wins an 8×10 print of Vee Sanford’s shot against OSU or Jordan Sibert’s shot against Boise. Your choice.

No. 22: Massachusetts game

After their best three-year stretch since the John Calipari years (25-12, 21-12, 24-9 from from 2011-12 to 2013-14), the Minutemen fell to 17-15 last season, tying for sixth in the A-10 at 10-8.

UMass, who the Flyers play in their A-10 home opener on Jan. 6, loses three of its top four scorers, two seniors, 6-10 Cady Lalanne and 6-8 Maxie Esho, and guard Derrick Gordon, who transferred to Seton Hall. The top returning scorers are guards Trey Davis (10.8), Donte Clark (9.6) and Jabarie Hinds (8.1).

UMass has three freshmen, one of whom may or may not be eligible. Like UD with Steve McElvene last season, UMass is waiting on a decision from the NCAA regarding 5-10 guard Luwane Pipkins. The two other freshmen, 6-9 Malik Hines and 6-10 Rashaan Holloway, sat out last season as academic non-qualifiers.

Holloway had a knee issue last season and is working his way back into shape.

“He has something that we haven’t had in a while, which is a huge presence in the paint. He’s highly-skilled, but can he keep up with how we want to play? That’s really the question,” coach Derek Kellogg told DailyCollegian.com. “He’s done it for short bursts. And when I say short, I mean very short bursts at this point. Now we’re going to see if we can elongate some of those bursts. He does have a chance to be a good player here if he can get himself in the kind of condition that we need him in.”

Hines and Holloway got a jump start on their first season on the court with the rest of the team in August when UMass traveled to Paris and London for a week of games. Dayton was scheduled to take an overseas trip this summer but pushed it back to next summer.

The Minutemen began practice Oct. 5 in a new practice facility. Is there anyone in the conference who doesn’t have a new facility of some sort?

If the Minutemen can’t overcome the loss of their two big men this season, there is hope on the horizon. Their 2016 recruiting class has raised eyebrows. In September, guard De’Jon Jarreau and power forward Brison Gresham committed to UMass in a package deal. They go to the same school in New Orleans, visited the same schools and picked UMass together.

SI.com reported on the announcement:

Minutemen fans will need to wait a year before Jarreau and Gresham arrive on campus, but their decisions raise expectations for what the program can achieve in 2016-17. In the bigger picture, Jarreau and Gresham picking UMass is a positively shocking development; recruiting packages this highly touted rarely choose to play in the A-10. UMass beat out a host of high-major programs for the duo.

The Flyers lost 66-64 at UMass last season. They’re 1-5 on the road against UMass since 2006. The Flyers have won three straight at home against UMass.

Here’s my report on last year’s game:

The Flyers fled Amherst as fast as they could Thursday night — not so much to escape the sting of a 66-64 loss at Massachusetts but to beat the bad weather threatening to delay their charter flight back to Dayton. They moved quickly but still had to stay the night in Springfield because of freezing rain and snow.

Life on the road in the Atlantic 10 has derailed the dreams of many teams. The Flyers have been unbeatable at UD Arena. They’re not so invincible on the road. They lost 77-60 at Davidson last week. They were never really in that game.

This latest defeat hurts for a different reason. The Flyers had plenty of chances to win. A team that almost always has the most poise in the final minutes didn’t have it at the Mullins Center.

In the second half of a tight game, Dayton shot 2 of 12 from 3-point range and 6 of 12 at the free-throw line. They led once and for only eight seconds.

“We had a chance, but we weren’t tough enough,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “We weren’t tough enough from the start to the finish. What I mean by tough, it’s not physical, it’s mental. We had a lot of winning plays that we had opportunities to make. We just didn’t cash in.”


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