There may have been a slight change in schedule, but the results were what the Massachusetts men’s basketball team envisioned all along.
A record storm that dumped up to 2 feet of snow on the Pioneer Valley this weekend pushed the start time back five hours, but the Minutemen never missed a beat, and even provided a little more high-flying entertainment in their convincing 80-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s in front of 4,479 Saturday night at the Mullins Center.
With the win, UMass (16-6, 6-3 Atlantic 10) earned its second consecutive double-digit victory – its first such streak this season.
The Minutemen held a 14-point halftime advantage, but saw that lead dwindle to five with 6 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in regulation.
Carl Jones hit a 3-pointer to cut the UMass lead to 59-54, but that’s when the Minutemen turned it on, embarking on an 11-0 run that proved to be the backbreaker for the Hawks. Terrell Vinson scored four straight points, Chaz Williams drove for a layup and then Sampson Carter scored five straight points, capped by a baseline jumper to make it 70-54 with 3:39 to go.
“I felt like it hurt them a little bit,” Carter said of the run. “I feel like they were on the ropes and they were still trying to get over the hump as it was. So I feel like that 11-0 run really put an end to it.”
The game will likely be most remembered for UMass’ number of highlight film dunks, particularly in the first half, when they helped create separation going into halftime.
The most memorable one came from Maxie Esho, who finished a reverse alley-oop off a feed from Chaz Williams, which helped ignite a full and raucous student section. From there, Freddie Riley, Raphiael Putney and Terrell Vinson each had their turn playing above the rim, as they finished dunks as part of a 16-2 run to end the half.
In all, the Minutemen finished with a season high 10 dunks on the night.
“We are not very fast,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “We got hurt by the speed particularly those last four or five minutes of the first half.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg thought it all started on the defensive end.
“I thought today looked like UMass basketball the way we like it to look,” Kellogg said. “We got some transition baskets, we shared the ball. I thought we played very good post defense … which gave us some rebounds that we could run out on.”
Despite holding a 14-point halftime advantage, SJU went on an 8-0 run to begin the second half, all on baskets from Langston Galloway, who finished with a team-high 14 points, to cut its deficit to six.
Four days after seemingly putting away their early second half woes when the Minutemen went on a 10-0 run to begin the half in their win over Rhode Island, Kellogg said he wasn’t concerned with his team giving up another run out of the break.
“It wasn’t like some of the other runs to start the half,” Kellogg said. “We got like two or three wide-open threes that we missed. I wasn’t really as worried because some of the other times it was we just did some crazy stuff or some things that were uncharacteristic.”
UMass answered with a 5-0 run of its own to restore the lead back to 11, but the Hawks (13-9, 4-5 A-10) kept staying around, and got to as close to five before the Minutemen broke it open.
Kellogg was particularly pleased with his team’s assist-to-turnover ratio. UMass finished with 22 assists and five turnovers, a season high and season low respectively, paced by Williams, who finished with nine assists to just one turnover in addition to his 11 points.
“I thought that was the difference in the game,” Kellogg said. “I thought our guys took care of the basketball, I thought Chaz did a very good job of running the team.”
Vinson led all scorers with 18 points, while Carter finished with 16 and Riley added 10. Cady Lalanne chipped in nine points and 12 rebounds and Esho added eight points off the bench.
UMass is now off until Thursday, when it travels to Richmond, Va., to take on Virginia Commonwealth, which is set for a 9 p.m. tip.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.