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UMass Vs. NJIT: Minutemen Look To Stay Unbeaten

Derek Kellogg's new look squad tries to stay unbeaten before their showdown with Boston College Monday.

Event: UMass Minutemen vs. New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders

Date/Time: Thursday, November 17, 2011-7p.m. EDT.

Location: Mullins Center (Capacity: 9,493), Amherst, MA.

Broadcast Info: A radio broadcast of the game will be available on 1510 AM The Zone in Eastern Massachusetts with Josh Maurer and Tim Kenney on the call.

All Time Series: UMass and NJIT will meet for the first time. The Highlanders are in their third full season at the Division I level and play in the Great West Conference.

Last Time Out: Monday night, the Minutemen welcomed Northeastern to the Mullins Center with full-court pressure, constant fast breaks and some sharp shooting. UMass forced 21 turnovers, recorded 28 fast break points and shot 50.9 percent from the field, in short Derek Kellogg’s new look version of UMass basketball. Chaz Williams turned in another stellar performance with 20 points and 10 rebounds and Terrell Vinson and Sampson Carter reached double-digits for the second game in a row in an 83-67 win.

NJIT has played two vastly different opponents in their two games this season. In the team’s opener, the Highlanders led Manhattan by seven with 11 minutes to go, only to lose by 14 when the Jaspers finished the game on a 30-9 run. Playing against a much lesser foe in Division III Penn State Abington, NJIT won 113-61 with five players finishing in double-figures.

Storyline:

While the Minutemen were able to hold a lead from start to finish and dominate throughout against Northeastern, foul trouble and turnovers could become potential causes for concern for Kellogg. A combination of over aggressiveness and players being late to switch on defense, led to 32 UMass fouls and three players fouling out. A bigger issue could be the team’s lack of a backup point guard. Chaz Williams has a 3:1 assist to turnover ration (18:6), while the rest of the team has committed 30 turnovers and created just 18 assists.

Forward Raphiael Putney should be back after missing last game with a shoulder injury. Putney started the team’s season opener but played just six minutes before getting tangled up with an Elon player.

Four seasons ago NJIT was the worst basketball program in America, losing 59 of 60 games over two seasons. After making the slow and painful transition to the Division I level, NJIT is coming off its first non-losing year since the 2002-03 season, the year before they decided to move up from DII.

Head coach Jim Engles in just his third year led the team to a 9-3 conference record in the Great West Conference, an assembly of six formerly independent teams.

He brings back four of the team’s top five scorers. One player to watch for NJIT is sophomore guard Chris Flores who will be playing in his first game in Massachusetts since high school. The Dorchester native averaged over 12 points per game last season and finished second in assists.

Players To Watch:

Terrell Vinson started 60 of 62 games over his first two seasons but when coach Kellogg announced his starters Friday night, Vinson was on the bench. It sure hasn’t affected him; the junior is second on the team in scoring (15.5 points per game) and leads the team in rebounding (7.5 rebounds per game). He’s provided a nice one-two punch with Chaz Williams and as an added bonus has avoided foul trouble.

Senior forward Isaiah Wilkerson is slightly undersized at 6-3, but led NJIT in scoring (13.6 points per game) and rebounding (6.2 rebounds per game) a season ago. Wilkerson was named to the first-team in the Great West Conference and Collegeinsider.com selected him as the Player of the Year in the conference.

The McCarthy brothers will face off for the first time at the collegiate level. UMass redshirt-freshmen center Andrew McCarthy and Sean McCarthy, a junior center for the Highlanders will get a chance to square off, even if it’s in garbage time. The Scituate natives haven’t made big impacts on their team this season, both come in averaging less than five minutes a game, but sibling rivalries are always fun, just ask the Williams sisters.

Prediction:

NJIT’s signature win last season was an overtime win over Fairleigh Dickinson out of the Northeast Conference, beating UMass is asking a bit too much, especially with the way the Minutemen are playing.

UMass 82, NJIT 58