UMass finds attacking style in Fordham blowout
When the Massachusetts men’s basketball team took the floor for warm-ups prior to Sunday’s 90-52 thrashing of Fordham, it unveiled a new t-shirt.
Each player jogged onto the floor in matching white shirts with “Time For Pain” emblazoned across the chest in maroon lettering. The team wore them on the bench throughout the game, replacing the usual warm-up attire. And while the moniker P.A.I.N. isn’t a new rallying cry for UMass – it stands for pressure, agitate, interrupt and neutralize – the Minutemen finally reminded fans of the reckless abandon their shirts suggested was capable.
It was the most dominant performance of the season. UMass put together impressive runs throughout the entire game, burying a Rams team with a 20-2 explosion after initially trailing 7-0. Eleven different Minutemen scored and each of those players tallied at least nine minutes of playing time. UMass overwhelmed on both the offensive and defensive ends, attacking in droves against a Fordham squad that quickly shied away from matching the energy level.
The performance was a far cry from a recent string of dicey conference performances, which included a 58-55 loss to Richmond this past Wednesday.
“Especially coming off a loss last game, we wanted to come out and feel like we got our swagger back,” Minutemen point guard Chaz Williams said.
The victory served as a reminder to a UMass squad still learning how to play consistent basketball as the conference schedule unwinds. Building on impressive team success is imperative to future success within the conference, especially as new situations present themselves.
“We feel like we weren’t playing UMass basketball and doing what we’re used to doing, Williams said. “So coming out today, we just wanted to focus on executing coach’s game plan and doing what we’re used to doing.”
Williams led all scorers with 18 points and chipped in eight assists in 27 minutes of play, a relatively light workload on his standards. Fourteen of his 18 points came in the first half of play. He opened the floor offensively as well, hitting four 3-pointers in the game.
But the scoring and energy displayed by Williams also reverberated up and down the entire bench. Trey Davis added 13 points and nine assists in 28 minutes of play; Maxie Esho chipped in 10 points of his own and freshmen Demetrius Dyson, Clyde Santee and Seth Berger combined for 15 points in 44 minutes, much to the delight of veterans on the team who spent most of the second half celebrating and enjoying the performance on the bench.
“What made me most happy and I guess proud was that the freshmen had been practicing really hard and giving the starters and the top eight (players) a good run in practice,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “And to see them come in and duplicate during the game lends for more confidence and more guys we think we can go to.”
Saturday’s game at Mullins Center was played in front of 9,493 fans, marking the third sellout this season. The team clearly reveled in the added attention, signaling to the crowd on numerous occasions and adding a number of flashy dunks in transition, much to the delight of the Mullins Center faithful.
“It’s really nice to see that people are supporting the team and the program and coming out,” Kellogg said. “I mean, to have a sellout was a big, big time deal for us and we appreciate that as a team and I think the guys buy into it.”
The crowd’s impact wasn’t lost on Kellogg after the game, either.
“I was a little worried because we were down 7-0 but I figured we’d come out and at least put forth a good effort,” he said. “The reality of it is when you have the crowd that we had it’s tough not to come and play and compete. …When you have all those students and the fans cheering for you and waiting to get into the game, I think that’s a huge boost. That’s the sixth man we’ve been looking for for a long time.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.