The Cougars hit the road on Saturday to face their third ranked opponent of the young 2013-14 season as they face No. 21 UMass at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.
UMass earned its first AP Top 25 ranking since the 1998-99 season after upsetting No. 19 New Mexico and beating Clemson to win the Charleston Classic. Clearly, this team deserves BYU’s full attention.
From Chaz Williams to Cady Lalanne, here’s everything you need to know about the Minutemen.
Lafe Peavler is a sportswriter intern at the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @MasterPeavler
Williams directs the UMass offense with 15.4 points and 6.4 assists per game. He can be dangerous from behind the arc as he went 5-for-5 against Boston College and 3-of-6 against New Mexico.
However, Williams isn’t consistently hot from the field. For example, he went 1-for-12 against Clemson and finished with just four points. He’s a lot like BYU’s Matt Carlino in that both players can explode for a lot of points or have a quiet day. That makes this matchup all the more fascinating.
Gordon isn’t much of a threat from deep as he has just one three-point attempt on the season. Rather, Gordon excels at driving to the hoop.
The sophomore averages 11.0 points per game, rounding out a starting five that all average double-digit points. He led the way for the Minutemen against Nebraska with 20 points in their 96-90 win.
Putney has a knack for stepping up in big games. His season high of 18 points came against then-No. 19 New Mexico. He contributed nine points during UMass’ critical 16-0 run in the second half against the Lobos.
Talk about good timing.
Putney’s numbers are solid with 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. The Cougars will need to keep a close eye on this clutch player.
Carter is a dangerous combination of a big man that can shoot threes. At 6-8 and 220, he’s shooting 42.1 percent from behind the arc.
Carter also averages 4.7 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game. While he’s not UMass’ most explosive player, he’s more than capable of hitting a big three.
Lalanne is literally BYU’s biggest threat at 6-10, 253. While Eric Mika is about the same height, Lalanne has a 20-pound advantage on the freshman. Lalanne’s size and 2.7 blocks per game will also challenge BYU’s guards who love to drive to the basket.
Lalanne is also the Minutemen’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 17.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. BYU’s big men will have their hands full managing Lalanne, no doubt about it.
The Minutemen aren’t a terribly deep team. UMass’ primary backups are guard Trey Davis (6.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game) and forward Maxie Esho (6.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game). Everyone else averages 1.0 point per game or less. BYU’s bench holds a 23.7-13.5 points per game advantage over UMass.
Still, both Davis and Esho have had double-digit point games this season. Esho had 13 against Nebraska and Davis scored 13 against Eastern Michigan.
Derek Kellogg is in his sixth season with the Minutemen and has a 91-77 record. While this is Kellogg’s first job as a head coach, he was an assistant at Memphis, with current Kentucky and former UMass head coach John Calipari. In fact, Kellogg played under Calipari at UMass from 1991-95.
UMass is a solid team with five solid starters. From Lalanne to Williams, each of them can go off for a big night and compensate for an off night from another starter. While this isn’t the deepest team the Cougars will face this season, UMass’ size will pose a problem, particularly if BYU’s big men like Mika and Nate Austin get into foul trouble.
This will be a tough road test at the MassMutual Center, but it’s also a winnable game for the Cougars as they look for a signature non-conference win over a ranked opponent.