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UMass faces Miami (Ohio) on eve of Atlantic 10 season

Derrick Gordon and the University of Massachusetts host Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

Derrick Gordon and the University of Massachusetts host Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

By MATT VAUTOUR @GazetteUMass
Friday, January 3, 2014
(Published in print: Saturday, January 4, 2014)

“I call this the season of the counters. You have to be able to counter everything,” Williams said. “Everyone has a lot of game film on you now. You have to be ready to counter or make adjustments as far as your game plan.”

As he got set to face Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m., Saturday, at the Mullins Center, UMass coach Derek Kellogg focused on getting his own team better with Atlantic 10 play beginning next week.

“We’ve prepared for that for a while. With so many tapes available at some point it becomes a test of wills,” he said. “Will you do what you do better than they can stop it? That’s why it was important this week to get better at our own stuff. We’ve used this week to really worry about UMass. We’ve tried to get better on our full-court defense. We’ve tried to get better at sharing the ball better. We need to shoot the ball better and make free throws. We’ve done a lot of shooting and we’re going to continue to do that in practice.”

As they have all year, most of the No. 23-ranked Minutemen’s opponents will be setting their game plans on Williams, who is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s another time for me to elevate my game to another level,” Williams said.

The Minutemen are trying to elevate their play back to the level it was at for most of the season after consecutive inconsistent offensive performances against Florida State and Providence.

“We’re just trying to get back to playing UMass basketball,” Williams said. “We’re just trying to get better and work hard.”

Miami (4-6) arrives in Amherst on a rare two-game winning streak. The RedHawks opened the season 0-4 with the first three of those double-digit defeats to Notre Dame, Arizona and Xavier. The fourth came to Division III Wilmington College. Since then, Miami has gone 4-2 beating Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, Wright State, Tennessee State and Southern Illinois, while losing to Missouri-Kansas City and Evansville. Miami’s been outscored by an average of 7.6 points per game and have more turnovers (140) than assists (120).

There has been roster turnover since the semester break. Sophomore guard Reggie Johnson, who was averaging 11.8 points and 2.1 assists per game, announced that he’s transferring. Oregon transfer Willie Moore stepped in for him and scored 14 points in his debut against SIU. Senior forward Will Felder leads Miami with 13.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

The RedHawks are trying to win their three straight for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

UMASS VS. MAC — The Minutemen are trying to sweep their four contractually required games against Mid-American Conference foes for the second straight season. UMass is required to play the MAC as part of the school’s agreement to join the conference for football. The Minutemen beat Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Northern Illinois earlier this season.

NOTES — Williams needs 12 points to pass former teammate Anthony Gurley (1,331) and move into 16th place on UMass’ career scoring list. Cady Lalanne needs one blocked shot to become the 12th Minuteman player with 100 in his career.

Many former players, coaches and staff were mourning the death of Pamela J. (Sadowski) Sampson, a 32-year-old Hadley native who was a team manager in the early 2000s. She died unexpectedly Monday. Calling hours will be Sunday from 2-5 p.m. at the Douglass Funeral Service in Amherst.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage