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No. 16 UMass hits the road to face 2006 Final Four darling George Mason

By MATT VAUTOUR @GazetteUMass
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
(Published in print: Wednesday, January 15, 2014)

“It’ll be great to see some familiar faces,” Kellogg said. “It’s a special time and place when you go to some place you started at. I’d really like to play well so people that I knew when I was there can be kind of proud of how I’m doing. That would be kind of special for me as a coach.”

UMass’ chances of playing well will increase if Chaz Williams (foot/ankle) plays. The senior guard’s status is uncertain and won’t be determined until game time, but Kellogg and Williams have each said they expect him to play.

Still, Kellogg said he might look for opportunities to limit his senior’s minutes for precautionary reasons. Trey Davis would see most of the point guard minutes if Williams is out or limited. Starting two-guard Derrick Gordon would be next in line at point guard.

“George Mason presses quite a bit so it’s a kind of a situation where we’re going to need two or three points guards and guys that can handle the ball and push tempo and play,” Kellogg said.

Freshman Clyde Santee and/or Demetrius Dyson would play more minutes off the ball depending on the situation.

“I’m not certain who the first guys would be. They’re all doing well in different ways in practice,” Kellogg said. “I feel a little more comfortable with Clyde on the offensive and probably a little more comfortable with Demetrius defensively.”

It’s UMass’ first trip to Fairfax, Va., home of the Atlantic 10’s newest member as George Mason emigrated from the Colonial Athletic Association last year.

The Patriots earned considerable acclaim in 2006 when they made a run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. They remained a solid CAA team since then with two NCAA tournament appearances, but haven’t had the same national attention.

This year, coach Paul Hewitt’s squad is 7-9 overall, 0-2 in the A-10. GMU has lost three straight and seven of its last nine, including conference losses to Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Joseph’s. Saturday’s loss to the Hawks came despite a 20-point, seven-rebound effort from freshman forward Jalen Jenkins, who earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors for that performance.

“He’s playing great. We recruited him some out of high school,” Kellogg said. “I thought he was going to be a good player.”

Senior guard Byron Allen leads Mason with 14.4 points and 3.6 assists per game. Fellow senior Sherrod Wright isn’t far behind with 13.3 points per game.

The game is just the third true road game this season for the Minutemen (14-1, 2-0), who won at Ohio and Eastern Michigan. It starts a three-game road stretch for UMass, which is at Elon on Saturday and at Richmond next Wednesday.

“We have to go out and perform. We’ve had two true road games and I thought we played decent in them. Hopefully we can go out and do the same in the next three,” Kellogg said. “That’s about as tough stretch as any we’ve had all year.”

Despite not being in class during intersession, the Minutemen have opted to return home between each of the road games.

“We’ve struggled some when we stay on the road and I wanted to get these guys back,” Kellogg said.

NOTES: The game will be carried on NESN-plus, NESN’s alternate channel usually used for Bruins and Red Sox conflicts. ... UMass senior Raphiael Putney grew up in nearby Woodbridge, Va. ... Williams enters the game needing three points to pass UMass and NBA legend Julius Erving (1,370 career points) in 14th place on the school’s career scoring list. He’s 19 points behind Marcus Camby.

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