NEW YORK — When Chaz Williams missed a layup in the first half of the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s victory over Fordham on Sunday afternoon, the junior point guard had an unlikely teammate giving him heat for it.
Standing on the other end of Williams’ mistake was freshman point guard Trey Davis, who got in his ear, something one wouldn’t normally expect from a freshman to do.
“Being a freshman, you wouldn’t expect him to get on me, but he actually told me, he was like, ‘Chaz, you missed a layup, like, what are you doing?’” Williams said. “So I had to redeem myself on certain situations.”
Williams did redeem himself, scoring a game-high 22 points and adding seven assists, numbers expected out of the star point guard at this point in his career. But what wasn’t expected was the play of Davis, who, in an increased role, delivered in a tough spot, finishing with 12 points, four assists and zero turnovers in a career-high 21 minutes off the bench.
Davis’ role was suddenly increased Wednesday night after Jesse Morgan, the Minutemen’s second leading scorer, went down with an ankle sprain in UMass’ loss at Saint Louis. That opened the door for Freddie Riley to start in Morgan’s place, which meant Davis would be the first guard to come off the bench Sunday at Fordham.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Davis said. “I told Chaz, I said, ‘I got your back, I’m going to come in and do what I do.’”
Doing things that most hadn’t been accustomed to seeing until Sunday. Before Sunday, the freshman was averaging just 6.8 minutes per game, highlighted by a 13-minute performance against Northern Illinois.
But the DeSoto, Texas native looked more than comfortable. With Morgan out, UMass coach Derek Kellogg opted to play guard-heavy lineups that included both Williams and Davis on the floor at the same time. Davis played the point for the majority of those situations, letting Williams roam free as an off-guard.
With the ball in his hands plenty on Sunday, Davis made plays in the second half that helped his steam stave off a strong Fordham rally. With the Rams knocking on the door of what was once a substantial halftime deficit, Davis responded midway through the half with three mid-range jumpers and an assist to Williams for an important 3-pointer that helped create separation as the game winded down.
“Coach put us in the right positions,” Williams said. “Now he’s accustomed to playing the type of pace we like to play, and even better, he told me in practice that he was ready for his opportunity, and it came today and he showed up, so I’m really proud of him.”
Davis was even responsible for icing the game for UMass in the final seconds. With the Rams still within striking distance and trailing by three with 13 seconds left, Davis went to the line and sunk a pair of free throws. Then, after Branden Frazier made a pair of foul shots to bring Fordham back to within three, Davis was again sent to the line, where he made one of two to put the game out of reach.
“(Davis) is one of those guys that gets more composure and plays better in real games,” Kellogg said. “He’s a competitor, he did a nice job and I’m happy he made those free throws down the stretch. That gave me even more confidence in him.”
With Morgan still out for an unknown amount of time, Davis will likely be getting called upon more in the very near future.
And if his performance Sunday is any indication, he seems more than ready to answer the call.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.