Friday, January 03, 2014
AMHERST — Trey Davis thought the shot looked good when it left his hand from his launch point between the 3-point line and the front of the University of Massachusetts bench.
But he didn’t see it reach the hoop as late-arriving Eastern Michigan defender Glenn Bryant knocked him to the floor.
The shot and the subsequent free throw both went in, giving Davis a rare four-point play that stretched UMass’ lead from seven to 11 points with just under two minutes left, essentially icing their 69-57 win Tuesday.
“That was a good shot,” Davis said after Thursday’s practice. “I felt good when I hit that. When I fell, I felt Coach hit me on the head so I knew it went in.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg has had plenty of reasons to praise his sophomore point guard this season. Davis’ play Tuesday was especially critical.
“In the second half he was really good for us. In the first half, he forced some plays, but I thought he gave us a nice boost off the bench and made some nice plays on the offensive end,” Kellogg said. “He played better defense than he’s been playing. He made defensive plays that led to transition on offense.”
The four-point play took the air out of an Eastern Michigan crowd still hoping to see the Eagles upset the 21st-ranked team.
“I like playing on the road. I think I play a lot better on the road,” said Davis, who had 13 points. “I don’t know why. I think I’m more focused on the road.”
Davis is going to play a lot in every venue. Despite playing a high-energy system, Kellogg has essentially used an eight-man rotation. The lack of depth has made Davis’ contributions especially valuable. Because everyone on the roster — with the exception of centers Cady Lalanne and Tyler Bergantino — can play multiple positions, Davis can come in for anyone on the floor. He’s averaging 17.7 minutes and 6.1 points per game. His 81.3 percent free-throw shooting is tied for the team lead and it has made him an essential part of the lineup in late and close situations.
A year ago, Davis’ minutes were sporadic, playing when foul trouble or a wide margin dictated it. Kellogg made him earn his increased minutes later in the year.
“It built some character with him last year. When it’s too easy, sometimes kids don’t take advantage,” Kellogg said. “It made him more hungry and a better basketball player.”
Davis said not playing only made him hungrier last year.
“Last year I treated practice like I wanted to take the starters’ position. When practice went on and months went by, my time came. I know I have a big role coming off the bench. I try to come in, be aggressive and play like I’m a starter. I want to come in and bring energy,” said Davis, who encourages the freshmen who are playing sparingly. “I text them now and then and let them know I was in the same role.”
TICKETS SELLING WELL — UMass associate athletic director Tim Kenney said as of 4 p.m. Thursday, over 5,500 tickets, not including student tickets, had been sold for Saturday’s game against BYU at the MassMutual Center, which holds between 7,500-8,000 fans depending on seat layout.
The total could include a hefty contingent of Cougar fans. The BYU alumni association’s Boston branch purchased a sizable allotment of tickets.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage