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UMass men’s basketball’s offense shines in win over Ohio

Entering the season, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s up-tempo, high-flying offense was the talk of the town. On Wednesday night, it proved why.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

On the road against an Ohio squad that hadn’t lost at home in six games this year, No. 22 UMass shot 60 percent from the floor on its way to an 83-71 win, handing the Bobcats their first home loss of the season, while remaining perfect to open in 2013-14.

“I thought we played well offensively,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said in a radio interview following the game. “The guys played well, I thought offensively. We still gotta do a better job defensively in transition and keeping them off the glass.”

Despite a rather pedestrian night shooting from Chaz Williams, the Minutemen (10-0) still found ways to get offensive production. In fact, without Williams’ 4-for-11 shooting performance, UMass shot an even more astonishing 67 percent from the field.

The hot shooting got even better from behind the 3-point line as the Minutemen went 9-of-14 from deep, a 64 percent clip.

UMass never trailed in the game, but every time it went up by double-digits, it had to withstand an Ohio run. The Bobcats (7-3) cut the Minutemen lead down to as little as six early in the second half, but each time it got close and gained momentum, Maxie Esho had an answer.

Esho led the way for UMass with 16 points off the bench, swinging the momentum back in UMass’ favor. He played important minutes down the stretch with Raphiael Putney in foul trouble for most of the game, and was one of five Minutemen in double figures.

“I’m just playing the way I know I can play,” Esho said. “Not thinking. One of the coaches told me yesterday that I play my best when I don’t think, so I’m just trying not to think as much.

“It’s been a few games where it’s been (five guys in double figures),” Esho added. “It’s nice. It’s different and it’s new this year.”

All of that scoring came against an Ohio team that entered the game holding opponents to only 37 percent shooting entering Wednesday’s game. UMass was also the first team this season to score at least 80 points against the Bobcats.

The hot shooting wasn’t the only thing that stood out on the stat sheet for the Minutemen. They also finished the game with 20 assists on 32 field goals.

Williams had 11 of those assists, not letting his 36 percent shooting performance affect his game as a facilitator. Williams entered Wednesday’s game tied for second in the nation in assists with an average of 7.6 per game and Kellogg was quick to give him credit afterward for getting his teammates involved.

“That’s what happens when you have one of the best point guards in the country,” Kellogg said. “I think he can recognize what the other team is in (defensively and) the other guys are all on the same page with him”

With its 1oth straight win to open the season, UMass has a double-digit winning streak for the first time since the 1998 season, the last time it made the NCAA Tournament.

The Minutemen will put their unblemished record on the line again Saturday when they take on Florida State at 2 p.m. in the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at pstrohec@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @P_Strohecker.

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