UMass eager to take road test

AMHERST, Mass. -- There may be nothing like home cooking, but the No. 19 University of Massachusetts Minutemen are hoping the tastes they sample during their upcoming road swing will improve the sensitivity of their palates in time for the main course of the Atlantic 10 schedule.

UMass completed a perfect four-game homestand with a 73-68 comeback win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday, using a spirited second-half showing to overcome a 13-point Bonnies lead and improve to 14-1 overall and 2-0 in A-10 play.

The next three contests will occur away from the friendly confines of the Mullins Center, starting with Wednesday’s matchup at George Mason and followed by games at Elon and Richmond.

After the Minutemen started slowly against both St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph’s, coach Derek Kellogg is hoping the hostile atmospheres they’ll encounter on the road and a few subtle tweaks to their routine will help his team get off to better starts.

“I think we might need to just relax a little bit, maybe settle down from the media and things like that,” Kellogg said after the win over St. Bonaventure. “Like, let’s back up a little bit and just get back to the basics. No offense to anybody, we appreciate everybody coming, but you know, it’s, ‘All right, let’s get back to the basics of UMass basketball and how we do things.’ If you do that, all the other good stuff will come. Even myself, just trying to focus in a little bit more.

“The good thing of being where we are is you have everybody doing good stuff for you. The tough thing is there’s more stuff to do instead of just being able to watch film all day and lock in. So, you guys are the best and uh ...” he trailed off as the room burst into laughter.

Senior forward Raphiael Putney is excited for the games against the Patriots, Phoenix and Spiders.

“I think it’ll be a big test for our program,” he said. “We haven’t been on the road since early in the season. Just getting into conference play, first two games at home and get the Ws and go on the road for the next two games [is a good test].

“We’ve just got to come together as a team, stay focused and do what we have to do.”

Kellogg may have been joking around with the media, but the coach was serious when he said he believes the next three games all coming on the road will provide a good barometer for his team.

“It’s going to really test us now to see where we are,” the sixth-year UMass coach said. “These guys are going to see packed houses, teams that are coming for you. Three in a row is tough. I kind of wish we could have played the Elon game in the preseason, but it is what it is.

“We’ll know what we’re totally made of when we get back from that big, long road trip.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.