Event: UMass Minutemen (7-3) Vs. Siena Saints (3-5)
Date/Time: Friday December 9, 2011-7 p.m. EDT.
Location: Mass Mutual Center (Capacity: 7,283)-Springfield, Massachusetts.
Broadcast Info: The Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase can be heard on the radio on 1510 AM in Boston with Josh Maurer and Tim Kenney on the call.
Series History: UMass has dominated the series that dates back to 1974 between the two teams, winning six of seven matchups including all three at home. The last time these two teams played, the Minutemen knocked off the Saints 78-69 in December 2005.
Last Time Out: In a game of two halves, UMass barely hung on to beat East Carolina 63-58 Tuesday to end one of their longest road trips of the season. After jumping out to a 40-21 halftime lead, the Minutemen needed four free throws in the final minute to put away the Pirates. Freddie Riley continued his hot shooting with four 3-pointers and a team-high 14 points, all coming in the first half.
Siena mounted a huge 19-point comeback to overcome cross-town rival Albany 64-60 in the annual Albany Cup. Junior forward O.D. Anosike led the charge with a 21 point and 18 rebound double-double as Siena continued their dominance of the series.
Storylines: UMass will host Siena Friday night in their sole game of the season at the friendly confines of the Mass Mutual Center in their annual Hall Of Fame Holiday Showcase Game. The Minutemen bring a perfect 5-0 record in Massachusetts this season including four home wins on their two traditional home courts. Playing in Springfield has been just quite kind to UMass, with the Minutemen going 17-4 since 1990 and winning all three games last season.
For UMass the formula for winning has been quite simple this season: strong 3-point shooting and being efficient with the ball. In seven wins this season, UMass is averaging 10 3-pointers a game, 19 assists per game and just under 15 turnovers per game. A big part of the change has been Chaz Williams, the team's primary ball-handler has been fantastic for the most part, leading the team in scoring and assists.
The rebuilding process is now in its second year in Albany after the Saints went to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons. After opening the season with two wins, Siena dropped five in a row before Monday's much needed win against Albany. Siena boasts three double digit scorers with Anosike the most dangerous player on the floor; the Staten Island native averages a double-double and is hitting at higher than a 45 percent clip.
Players to Watch: Chaz Williams was fantastic to begin the season but has started to slow down over the team's past four games. The sophomore turned the ball over 10 times in the team's win over East Carolina and has seen his assist-to-turnover ratio drop from nearly 3:1 to less than 2:1. Williams needs to slow himself down a little bit and take better care of the ball if UMass is going to start playing more consistently.
Evan Hymes, is Siena's version of Chaz Williams. The freshmen guard leads the Saints with 14.9 ppg and 2.75 apg and loves to push the pace. Hymes has also hit half of the team's 3-pointers and leads the team in free throw attempts, not bad for a guy who has played just eight games.
Prediction: UMass is a perfect 7-0 in games they should win this season and this is another one of those games. Siena has struggled over the past month and their youth has hurt them especially in road games. If Williams and crew can take care of the ball, they should have no problem knocking off the Saints.
UMass 83, Siena 68