No. 13 UMass beats Fordham 90-52
AMHERST, Mass. (AP)
Fordham coach Tom Pecora isn't about to listen to excuses for his team's rough start in Atlantic-10 play.
''I'm tired of saying we're inexperienced,'' Pecora said. ''No complaining, no excuses, no regrets. We've got to get better. This is a tremendous league, but we have an opportunity to get better by going to VCU Wednesday and you can see how thrilled I am about that.''
The player that hurt Fordham the most, though, was Williams, who transferred from Hofstra after his freshman season when Pecora was the coach of the Pride.
''I think he's just developed tremendously,'' Pecora said. ''As you all know I had him as a freshman. His ability to involve everyone and basically to be a surgeon, with a great quarterback and the great length he has around him.''
Chris Whitehead led the Rams (8-11, 1-5) with 13 points and Branden Frazier had 12. It was Fordham's seventh loss in eight games coming off a win against George Mason.
The Rams shot just 30.5 percent (18 of 59) from the field and missed 21 of 27 on 3-point attempts.
''We weren't able to, for whatever reason, get the ball consistently to the rim,'' Pecora said. ''In the first five minutes of the second half, they come out - boom, game over.''
UMass broke the game open by scoring the first 17 points of the second half.
Fordham guard Jon Severe, who leads all Division I freshmen in scoring at 20.9 points per game, was held to seven points.
UMass combined a swarming fullcourt press along with tough halfcourt man-to-man defense to take its largest lead of the season, 40-24 at halftime.
The Minutemen turned it into a rout with its run to start the second half. Putney opened the run with a 3 and Williams nailed one in transition from the left wing as they went ahead 57-24 on Derrick Gordon's short jumper 4 1-2 minutes into the second half.
The Rams finally ended the run on Mandell Thomas' 3-pointer 30 seconds later.
The Minutemen cleared the bench for most of the final 10 minutes and gave some reserves time to join in the fun with 3-pointers and crowd-pleasing fastbreak baskets.
Coming off the loss in the final game of a three-game road trip and in danger of dropping low or possibly out of the AP Top 25, the Minutemen turned up the fullcourt pressure early after falling behind 7-0 in the opening 3 minutes.
Sporting new white T-shirts with red lettering that read: ''UMass. Time for Pain,'' the Minutemen seemed focused to rebound with a convincing win in front of a sellout crowd.
The Minutemen struggled against Fordham's 2-3 zone on their first few possessions, forcing passes and running the shot clock low, but it didn't matter when they used the press to pick up the tempo during a 20-2 run over a 5 1-2-minute stretch that was filled with fastbreak baskets and transition 3s.
Esho started the spree with a putback basket and breakaway jam before the 5-foot-9 Williams, the team's playmaker, nailed consecutive 3s and set up teammates for easy shots. Williams connected on 3 of 5 attempts from beyond the 3-point line in the opening half and added five assists.
UMass pushed its lead to double digits for the first time at 22-12 on Esho's jam and Williams fed Putney with an alley-oop pass for a dunk on the next possession with just under 9 minutes left in the half. The Minutemen never had the lead fall below 12 points the rest of the half.
It was the eighth time this season the Minutemen scored at least 40 points in a half.
UMass is in the midst of its first ranked season since 1998.