SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – They are just 40 minutes from a trip to New York and the NIT Final Four. Following a 77-67 win at Seton Hall on Saturday, suddenly UMass is getting a good deal of attention. The assignment is traveling to Philadelphia to face a strong Drexel team. Regardless, the Minutemen are now on all cylinders and will be that proverbial “tough out”.
Back in November, Kellogg was at the Atlantic 10 Media Day held in Brooklyn. The UMass coach was asked about his job status, specifically was this year make or break? Kellogg basically responded by summing up the situation as he noted, “I don’t feel any outward pressure. Any pressure that is there is what I put on myself.”
This confidence and determination on Kellogg’s part, goes a long way in explaining what he has done the latter weeks of the season. That is, put the ball in the hands of his players and trust them.
“Chaz (Williams) does a great job of running the team and the program,” Kellogg said after the Seton Hall contest. “He has improved so much and at the end of a close game today he was poised.” Williams led UMass with 20 points. The sophomore guard and junior forward Terrell Vinson both hit huge three pointers late to give the Minutemen some separation.
“I have given the team back to the players,” Kellogg said. “I have kind of stepped back the last few games.” During that late stretch, UMass defeated Duquesne and top seeded Temple in the Atlantic Ten Tournament. They came from 16 down and narrowly lost a semifinal to eventual champion St. Bonaventure. In the NIT they took to the road winning at Mississippi State in two overtimes before defeating Seton Hall in front of a sold out Walsh Gym on St. Patrick’s Day.
While Kellogg says the players have more free reign, he is still in charge directing them day to day. “One of our goals today was to get four charges,” he said. “We got two, the other potential two did not go our way but we sent a message. We were going to stop their penetration.”
Now, the next assignment is at Drexel. A game with a trip to New York in the balance. And for added drama, there is Drexel mentor Bruiser Flint, a former UMass coach. And the one, as a John Calipari assistant, who recruited Kellogg to Amherst to play the guard position.
“We want to get to Madison Square Garden,“ Williams added. “We want that experience for our seniors.”