No. 13 UMass regroups from loss, handily beats Fordham
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) Massachusetts’ signature this season has been defensive pressure. The 13th-ranked Minutemen decided it was time to test Fordham early and ran away to an easy win.
Chaz Williams had 18 points and eight assists and UMass rebounded from a loss earlier this week with a 90-52 victory Sunday.
Playing in front of a sellout crowd, UMass coach Derek Kellogg wanted to spark his team after a shaky start.
”I think we’re committed to pressing. How much depends on where you are and how it’s going,” Kellogg said. ”When you’ve got 9,000 people in the building you want to press to get the game moving, get them involved.”
UMass combined its swarming fullcourt press along with tough halfcourt man-to-man defense to take its largest lead of the season, 40-24 at halftime.
”In my opinion with the exception of Syracuse, they’re the best in the country in getting out off the break in turnovers and blocked shots,” Fordham coach Tom Pecora said. ”They do a tremendous job in transition from getting from their defense their offense.”
The Minutemen turned it into a rout by scoring the first 17 points of the second half. Raphiael 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.
Putney and Trey Davis each had 13 points, and Maxie Esho added 10 points and six rebounds for the Minutemen (17-2, 4-1 Atlantic-10), who lost at Richmond on Wednesday.
”Especially coming off the loss the last game, we wanted to come out in the game and feel like we were getting our swagger back and feeling like we were playing UMass basketball,” Williams said. ”We didn’t feel like we were doing what we were doing.”
Chris Whitehead led the Rams (8-11, 1-5) with 13 points. It was Fordham’s seventh loss in eight games coming off a win against George Mason.
Fordham guard Jon Severe, who leads all Division I freshmen in scoring at 20.9 points per game, was held to seven points.
After UMass’ quick run to start the second half, the Rams finally ended it on Mandell Thomas’ 3-pointer.
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.
”I thought other than the start that it was a nice complete game for us,” Kellogg said. ”I thought we shot the ball really well.”
The Minutemen shot 51.6 percent from the field (33 of 64) and hit 13 of 27 from behind the 3-point line. Fordham was held to 30.5 percent (18 of 59) and missed 21 of 27 from beyond the arc.
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.
”We feel like games when we were playing close, we weren’t playing UMass basketball and (like) the top (teams) in the country,” Williams said.
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.