UMass’ Jesse Morgan will be out for the season with a knee injury.
UMass’ second leading scorer Jesse Morgan, a junior, will be out for the rest of the season after injuring his right knee in the team’s loss to Saint Louis last Thursday.
Morgan is averaging 13.4 points per contest and is shooting over 35% from three point range. Morgan is one of the Minutemen’s most experienced players and consistent scorers, having averaged 9.9 points a game in his sophomore season. In addition to missing the junior on the offensive side of the ball, the 6’5″ Morgan is also a valuable perimeter defender who often matches up against opposing team’s best scoring guards. Morgan was a key three point threat that played in integral role in the UMass offense that is not shy about putting up shoots from long range.
In his absence coach Derek Kellogg says that senior Freddie Riley will see the bulk of the minutes at that position.
Earlier this season we wrote about how it was Riley’s time to step up as a senior. This injury to Morgan will only force that issue.
Thus far, Riley has yet to step up in a major way. This injury however, will give Riley every chance to make a difference during his senior year.
Riley has been somewhat of a disappointment after arriving in Amherst as a top 100 recruit in the country. Currently averaging just 5.9 points a game, Riley is a 31% three point shooter who sees 21 minutes per outing. Riley has seen his scoring totals dip each of the last four seasons from 9.3 to 8.0 to 6.5 to the 5.9 he produces at time of print. The 6’5″ senior can be a streaky shooter and mercurial type player. That said he will be vitally important to Kellogg’s team going forward.
UMass’ interior players will also have to help shoulder the scoring load left to Chaz Williams and Terrell Vinson on the perimeter. Cady Lalanne (6.1 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Maxie Escho (6.1 points and 5.5 rebounds) will need to be more aggressive and assertive on the blocks to free up Williams and company on the wings.
All things considered, Morgan’s injury is a crushing blow to a team trying to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Morgan was the team’s best wing shooter and a solid defender. Given that Riley hasn’t shown improved play or increased production over his career, the drop off between Morgan and he is a big one. Chaz Williams (15.8 points) may need to become even more aggressive which could ultimately hurt the UMass half court offense.
An an ideal world, Riley would step up and replace Morgan’s numbers with increased minutes but that won’t be an easy task. Morgan’s injury could be a significant roadblock for Kellogg’s club going forward. That said, great teams find ways to move on and win after injuries and setbacks. Right now, UMass is about to get a major test and find out what kind of team they are.
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