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Minutemen keep rolling, rip Huskies

AMHERST — Forty minutes of basketball were required Saturday, but the afternoon still turned into a well-deserved breather for No. 22-ranked UMass at the Mullins Center.

The unbeaten Minutemen ran their record to 9-0 behind five players in double figures, led by 17 from Cady Lalanne, in an 80-54 no-doubter victory over Northern Illinois in front of 4,694 who braved the oncoming weekend snowfall.

The biggest surprise of the day was furnished by UMass freshman Clyde Santee, who came off the bench for the game’s final 5:34 with the issue already decided and made 5-of-6 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, and filed 13 points. He’d played a total of three minutes in four previous game appearances.

“It definitely feels good,” said Santee, a 6-7 guard from Houston who sat out last season as an academic non-qualifier. “I was just thankful that Coach gave me the time that I got, so I just wanted to go out there and do what I have to do.”

Raphiael Putney also scored 13 points for the Minutemen, all in the first half, while Chaz Williams (seven assists) and Maxie Esho (seven rebounds) each had 12. Sampson Carter added eight points and seven rebounds.

Northern Illinois (3-5) was led by Dontel Highsmith’s 10 points. Pete Rakocevic scored nine and Daveon Balls and Aksel Bolin each finished with eight for the Huskies.

“The nicest thing for us was that we were able to get the freshmen some minutes,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “I was really happy for Clyde that he made some shots and played well in a short amount of time. It’s all positive, except we could have played a little better in spurts, and our defense came and went. All in all, we took care of business.”

UMass trailed only once Saturday — after Darrell Bowie’s dunk off a turnover 38 seconds in — before running off 11 straight points, including three 3-pointers by Putney, and forcing a timeout from Huskies coach Mark Montgomery with 16:17 left in the half. The lead topped out at 14 on several occasions and Lalanne had a personal streak of nine straight points for the Minutemen late in the half. NIU managed to stay within shouting distance, getting a 4-point play by Balls with 1:15 to play on a 3-point shot and a foul by Williams to trail 37-28.

Williams then atoned with a trey of his own at the 51-second mark to push the lead back to a dozen at 40-28 entering halftime.

The Minutemen then went nearly 6 1/2 minutes without a field goal at the top of the second half, but still led by 12 at 47-35 before Trey Davis scored his only points of the day, a 3-pointer with 13:33 to go, to put the Minutemen up 50-35. Esho followed by a dunk off a lob from Putney, but hung on the rim and slapped the backboard for a technical foul.

A 3-pointer by Williams, Lalanne’s free throw and an inside bucket by Carter pushed UMass’ lead to 58-38 with 10:22 remaining, and the Huskies never got closer than 17 points thereafter. All that was left was for Santee and fellow frosh Seth Berger and Demetrius Dyson to get onto the floor for the last few minutes and for Santee to fill out his stat line coming down the end.

“I know I can make that shot, it wasn’t really a surprise for me,” said Santee of his late scoring flurry. “I was just doing what Coach wanted me to do, spotting up and making the shot, focusing, getting where I needed to be on defense, and all the right things.”

UMass shot an even 50 percent for the game (29-of-58), including 9-of-19 from three, and held a 41-27 rebounding advantage. NIU managed only 37 percent shooting (20-of-54).

“The intensity wasn’t exactly where it needed to be,” said Kellogg. “For all the time we haven’t played, we haven’t really had a chance to practice at a high level in a while. So they should be about as fresh as any team in the country.”

The Minutemen next travel to Athens, Ohio to play Ohio University (7-2) Wednesday at 7 p.m., before moving south to Sunrise, Fla., to face Florida State Saturday at 2 p.m. in the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

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