UMass pulls away late to knock off feisty Youngstown State
It took the Massachusetts men’s basketball team 35 minutes, six seconds to find the killer instinct to put away a feisty Youngstown State squad.
It was better late than never.
With the Penguins hanging around for most of the game, the Minutemen used a 13-6 run to open up an 18-point lead late in the game en route to an 85-69 victory in front of 4,321 fans at the Mullins Center on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought we could’ve maybe stepped on it a little earlier at different times of the game,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We let them come back (with) a couple missed layups, so we still have a ways to go, but I would say we’re more mature than we might have been last year and the year before where you’re up eight and then all of a sudden you’re down one before you step on the gas.”
Senior Raphiael Putney finished off Youngstown St. with a thunderous dunk over Josh Chojnacki that caused the Mullins Center to erupt and put the final exclamation point on the game.
In past years, UMass has been known to play down to its competition and Sunday was no different. The first half was sloppy for the Minutemen, committing 12 first-half turnovers and keeping Youngstown State within striking distance with a 34-26 score despite the Penguins (4-1) only shooting 32 percent.
“They were rushing too much,” Kellogg said. “Putney had two travels; I was like ‘Come on, stop.’ In transition a few times we’re trying to throw lobs and they’re hitting off the front of the rim and bouncing and ricocheting. … So, we trim that down to 12 or 13, the lead should be, that should mean we’re playing a full game.”
The second half was more indicative of how UMass can play, getting numerous players involved on offense. In total, the Minutemen (3-0) had four different players with double-digit point totals. Chaz Williams and Sampson Carter both had a team-high 19 points, followed by Putney and Cady Lalanne, who had 17 and 13 points, respectively.
“It’s just knowing that we‘re all playing together,” Williams said. “Years ago it would just be one or two guys in double figures and then the rest is just in single numbers. But now it’s like, you see us growing as a group.”
UMass was helped out on the defensive end by poor shooting from the Penguins. Youngstown State only shot 37 percent from the field for the game, including going 5-for-26 on 3-pointers, well below its season average of 36 percent from beyond the arc.
The Minutemen also held the Penguins’ leading scorer Kendrick Perry to only 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting. Perry entered the game averaging 21 points per game, but was held in check all afternoon by the entire team.
“We told our guards, Chaz, Putney, Trey (Davis) and Derrick Gordon and even Demetrius (Dyson) a little, that he gets no open looks,” Kellogg said. “They connected to him and I thought our big guys, whether it’s Cady, Maxie (Esho), Sampson, or even Tyler (Bergantino) for his three minutes, did a good job recognizing when he had the ball and kind of helping out.”
The Minutemen will travel to South Carolina to take part in the Charleston Classic. Their first game in the tournament is against Nebraska on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @P_Strohecker.