A few weeks ago, news emerged from UMass that junior guard Jesse Morgan would be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
The injury came as devastating news for a program that is looking to make a run within the Atlantic 10 Conference as this season continues to roll along. The loss of their second-leading scorer certainly hurt, but it also gave senior guard Freddie Riley the chance to shine and increase his production.
Through the first month and a half of the season, Riley had not scored in double-figures offensively until a 14-point outing back on Dec. 22 ended that stretch. Since that game, Riley has scored in double-figures in six of the past nine games, stepping things up on the offensive end in terms of his numbers and overall shot totals.
Riley is now averaging 6.8 points per game this season, but since Dec. 22 the guard is scoring at an increased 11.1 points per contest. That increase on the offensive end is exactly what the Minutemen need in the back court alongside star guard Chaz Williams. Ironically enough, UMass is 5-1 in games in which Riley scores in double-figures this season.
It’s been over a decade since UMass qualified for their lastNCAA Tournament and at 13-5 overall and 3-2 within the A-10, the Minutemen need a run if they hope to dance in 2013. A lot of that potential hinges on Riley’s production and the team’s ability to win games that they should.
A key week is on the horizon for UMass as they must hit the road against two teams that are currently positioned ahead of them in the conference standings. A trip to LaSalle on Wednesday night will be followed by a trip to Charlotte this upcoming weekend. The Minutemen will need to muster one, if not both to keep on their heading of a potential push for the postseason.
Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS