UM dunks RedHawks
UMass guard Chaz Williams slices through the lane to throw up a shot in traffic Saturday at the Mullins Center in Amherst, where the host Minutemen beat Miami (Ohio), 73-65, in their independent college basketball game. Williams had another fine day at the office with a team-high 18 points and eight assists. Recorder/J. Anthony Roberts
AMHERST — The truly best teams may never look past seemingly lesser opponents, but UMass had only to look back to last year’s game at Miami (Ohio) to get an idea of what to expect in Saturday’s rematch at the Mullins Center.
One year and two days earlier, the Minutemen had escaped from Oxford, Ohio with a one-point win, 70-69. The RedHawks put up just as dogged a resistance Saturday, and although 23rd-ranked UMass led for all but the first four minutes, head coach Derek Kellogg had few plaudits to hand out after his team’s eventual 73-65 non-conference victory before 5,834.
Chaz Williams led the Minutemen (12-1) with 18 points and eight assists. Maxie Esho came off the UMass bench to score 15 points, including eight in a row for the hosts early in the second half, and pulled down seven rebounds. Cady Lalanne had 12 points and six rebounds and Trey Davis hit three 3-pointers en route to 11 points.
“Good to come away with a win, but I didn’t think we played as good as we can,” said Kellogg. “Miami picked us apart a little bit with some basic basketball stuff. I didn’t think we played with the energy across the board that we need. We’ve gotta get a little better come conference time.”
That time lies straight ahead, beginning Wednesday at 7 p.m., when UMass hosts Saint Joseph’s in its first Atlantic 10 Conference game of the season.
“We’re basketball players, and we’re supposed to come out with that intensity and energy every night,” said Williams. “We’ve got to make sure we’re ready and prepared for Wednesday. Every practice from here on out, we’ve got to bring that energy at a top level, so we know that next game, it’s gonna be there.”
Will Felder led a feisty Miami squad with 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field and pulled down seven rebounds. Geovonie McKnight scored 15 points, Joshua Oswald had 10 and Quinton Rollins contributed seven points, nine assists and five steals for the RedHawks (4-7).
Miami scored the first two baskets Saturday before Raphiael Putney (eight points) and Williams answered with 3-pointers to give the Minutemen the lead to stay. Lalanne added five straight points as UMass went up 11-4 just over 51/2 minutes in.
After Miami cut the lead to 25-23, the Minutemen used a late 11-4 run to go ahead 36-27, capped by back-to-back treys by Davis. The RedHawks then scored the last five points of the half, including Felder’s layup that beat the buzzer, to make it 36-32 at the break.
Lalanne’s layup and a dunk by Putney began the second half for a 40-32 UMass lead. Although Miami narrowed it to four points, the visitors got no closer. Esho’s 3-point play with 11:26 to go gave the Minutemen their first double-digit lead of the night at 49-38.
UMass kept it comfortable from that point forward, as Miami only made it a two-possession game once. The Minutemen’s largest lead, 61-48, came on Sampson Carter’s first two points of the game with 4:29 left.
“We came into the game thinking we had to win it,” said Lalanne, when asked if UMass took Miami lightly. “We were ready to play hard. Coach has been preaching that the whole week. But some of the mistakes we made kept them in the game.”
UMass shot 51 percent from the floor, including 7-of-16 from 3-point range, compared to Miami’s 48 percent and 1-of-14 from deep. The RedHawks held a solid 34-27 rebounding advantage.
“We had a pretty good week of practice, so I thought we’d come out and play a little better,” said Kellogg. “We’ve got to up our game. To get outrebounded by anybody is really not acceptable at this point. We should be a better rebounding team, with all our supposed size and length and athleticism.”
Part of UMass football’s entrance into the Mid-American Conference required the university’s men’s and women’s basketball teams to play four independent games against MAC opponents each season. The Minutemen completed a 4-0 sweep of MAC teams Saturday, following their earlier wins at home against Northern Illinois and on the road at Eastern Michigan and Ohio.