Minutemen and Friars clash in regional matchup

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Updated: 12/28/2013 11:03 am

Amherst, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - The No. 23 Massachusetts Minutemen will attempt to bounce back from their first loss of the season when they host the Providence Friars in an all-New England duel at the Mullins Center.

For the Friars, the first portion of the season has largely gone their way. They are holding a 10-2 overall mark, which includes a win over Rhode Island (50-49) in their only true road test. The win over the Rams began a three-game winning streak for Providence, which continued last Saturday with a 94-70 triumph over Maine. The Friars begin their Big East slate next against Seton Hall.

After sprinting out to a 10-0 start, the Minutemen finally tasted the bitterness of defeat last Saturday in a 60-55 letdown against Florida State. After the setback they are sporting a still impressive 10-1 mark, including a 3-0 ledger in games played at the Mullins Center. The success at home will need to continue as UMass hosts its next three games as well beginning against Miami-Ohio on Jan. 4.

Terrell Vinson tipped in a missed layup from Chaz Williams as the buzzer sounded to lift UMass to a 77-75 victory over Providence last year, during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The victory was just the sixth for the Minutemen in 28 all-time meetings.

All five starters scored in double figures and both Kadeem Batts (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Bryce Cotton (22 points, 10 assists) finished with double- doubles in Providence's win over Maine. The Friars doubled up the Black Bears in rebounds (46-23) and outscored them, 33-15, from beyond the arc.

Getting all the starters in the mix is the key for Providence, which has four players averaging in double figures on the campaign. Chief among the group is Cotton (19.1 ppg, 5.7 apg), who is a gunner from 3-point range and a much improved passer this season. The 6-foot-1 guard is on pace to more than double his career average for assists and his 6-of-12 showing from beyond the arc against Maine proved how lethal a shooter he can be. Tyler Harris (13.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Batts (12.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and LaDontae Henton (12.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) complement Cotton, forming a versatile trio in the frontcourt.

The normally potent Minutemen fell short on the road against Florida State. They were only able to connect on 33.3 percent of their shots from the floor, including a ghastly, 1-of-15, showing from beyond the arc. Cady Lalanne did finish with 10 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks, but he took 11 shots and got to the free-throw line just once.

Aside from the stumble against the Seminoles, UMass has been lighting it up regularly. The Minutemen are netting 81.3 points per game, shooting 47.8 percent from the floor and assisting on 15.8 field goals a contest. They are also ranked 17th nationally on the glass (41.2 rpg). Chaz Williams (15.7 ppg, 7.4 apg) runs the point and does most of the heavy lifting for a roster that features five double-figure scorers. Lalanne (14.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg) is a constant double-double threat and solid rim protector. Sampson Carter (12.6 ppg), Raphiael Putney (11.4 ppg) and Derrick Gordon (10.2 ppg) all contribute as well.

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