Minutemen ride Harris’ 23 to win over Yale

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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In what was a back-and-forth game between the Massachusetts men’s basketball team and Yale, it was the consistently solid play of Ricky Harris and Dante Milligan that led the Minutemen to a 89-80 victory at the Mullins Center Wednesday night.

Yale hung in with the Minutemen for much of the game, but Harris’ outside shooting and the inside play of Milligan down the stretch was too much for center Matt Kyle (20 points) and the Bulldogs.

Harris and Milligan carried the Minutemen while others struggled, as they combined for 28 of the 41 points UMass scored in the second half. Both players had six points in the opening half, but Harris led all scorers with 23 points as Milligan finished with 17. Milligan was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field in the second half, while Harris was 5-of-9 and 3-of-5 from the perimeter.

“Dante gave us a huge lift,” UMass coach Travis Ford said. “He made some big baskets at crucial times, and he rebounded well tonight. You got to give Yale a lot of credit, but we’re very excited to win this basketball game.”

UMass point guard Chris Lowe appeared to be favoring his ankle throughout the game and played seven minutes after halftime. That put the ball in Harris’ hands more frequently, and he took full advantage of it.

The high-scoring duo for the Minutemen combined to hit 10-of-14 shots in the second half, while teammates connected on 4-of-12. UMass forward Gary Forbes had 13 points in the first half, but finished with 19 after shooting 1-of-7 from the floor after halftime.

The first half of play featured the fast-paced game that fans will see a lot of this year at the Mullins Center. The two teams consistently answered the opposition’s made baskets, with the lead changing 13 times in the first half.

But the game ended with 15 lead changes with the Minutemen quickly answering the 11-2 run by the Bulldogs to open the second half. Trailing 55-50 after the Yale run, UMass went on an 18-5 run of its own to take an eight-point lead from which Yale couldn’t come back. The closest it would get was to a four-point deficit, at which point the Minutemen built the lead back up.

“I thought my kids fought and battled for 40 minutes, but we just need to have some better decision making down the stretch to give us a better opportunity to win,” Yale coach James Jones said. “We should have been a little bit more patient, and that’s where the smartness comes in.

“You know, they go to Yale, but they’re not the smartest kids in the world.”

UMass changed gears a bit in the second half, going to more of an inside game than it was in the first half. Milligan was the beneficiary of this adjustment, getting easy baskets under the hoop. After attempting 14 3-pointers in the opening half, the Minutemen took nine in the second half – with Forbes and Harris attempting all but one of them.

The Minutemen started off quickly in the game, getting quick and easy baskets early. Etienne Brower was the beneficiary of two of them, scoring on a tip-in off a missed shot and again on a dunk from a pass by Chris Lowe. Gary Forbes was also involved early, driving to the lane frequently and passing to the open teammate.

UMass scored nine points on the fast break in the first half but only four after halftime.

“We were fatigued, but I was disappointed we didn’t get to play our style of basketball for our fans on our first home game,” Ford said. “But we beat a very good team and they played well tonight, so there’s something to be said about that.”

Kyle struggled to get shots off in the second half, scoring seven points after the break. It was Caleb Holmes who kept the Bulldogs within striking distance, scoring 15 of his 23 points in the second half.

Yale hit one fewer field goal than UMass but missed key opportunities by turning the ball over (17 turnovers) and missing foul shots (10-15).

Game notes

UMass raised its Atlantic 10 co-regular season Championship banner prior to the game