TJ Weeks Jr. pours in 30 points as UMass snags road win at Rhode Island

  • TJ Weeks Jr. scored a season-high 30 points to lift UMass past Rhode Island, 78-67, in Atlantic 10 action on Saturday at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer 
Published: 2/5/2022 6:03:42 PM
Modified: 2/5/2022 6:02:05 PM

Three weeks ago, the Rhode Island men’s basketball team strolled into the Mullins Center and sent the UMass fans home disappointed, defeating the Minutemen 81-68. 

UMass was more than happy to return that favor on Saturday, besting the Rams 78-67 in an Atlantic 10 contest at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I., and extending the home team’s losing streak to five games.

T.J. Weeks Jr. put up 30 points for UMass, blowing his previous season-best point total out of the water (previously 21 points against both Harvard and Davidson). Not content with just posting a career-high in points, Weeks Jr. also led the team in steals with five, and grabbed six boards just for good measure.

It was a bit of a personal victory for the Rhode Island native to get the ‘W’ in his home state as well – even if his welcome back was less than friendly. 

“It felt like a coming home game,” Weeks Jr. said on his return. “And then I got booed during the intro, and I was like ‘All right, game on.’” 

There were a lot of strong performances across the board for UMass. C.J. Kelly finished with a double-double, leading his team with 11 rebounds, 10 of those on the defensive end, and picking up 12 points and seven assists. Rich Kelly posted 14 points of his own, and Noah Fernandes knocked down 11 points and snagged seven steals in his return to the Minutemen lineup after missing time with a concussion.

Rhode Island used the home crowd to its advantage early. After the Minutemen pulled ahead 12-6, the Rams went on a 16-2 that put Massachusetts back on their heels. With eight minutes to go, the Minutemen were able to turn the tables however, using an 11-0 run of their own to snatch back the lead that they maintained until halftime. 

The Minutemen knew going into this game that they were going to have to attack the Rams in order to walk away with the W. They wanted to be aggressive, especially on defense, and that showed on the stat sheet with 13 steals.

“(We were) just being more aggressive. He definitely challenged us, especially me, to be better defensively because we can do it,” C.J. Kelly said, referring to head coach Matt McCall. “So we were trying to practice just changing our mindsets like, in practice we have to go hard. We locked in our defensive schemes and translated it today – they made a plan for our defense and we executed it.”

The second half was a much more back-and-forth affair – UMass led by seven at intermission, and though Rhode Island tried to nickel and dime its way back into the contest, the Minutemen were always ready to answer back quickly and keep them just out of reach.

The Rams started to get a little too close for comfort in the middle of the final half, pulling to within three points at one point, but UMass answered with an 11-point run with just over eight minutes to play, stretching its lead to 15 points and putting the win firmly out of reach for the Rams.

With the win, UMass improved to 10-11 overall, 3-6 in the A-10. Rhode Island slipped to 12-9, 3-6. Next up for the Minutemen is a home game Wednesday against George Washington (7 p.m.).


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