Minutemen follows win over Davidson with shelling of CCSU

By Stephen Sellner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

What a way to wrap up non-conference play.

Not only did the Massachusetts men’s basketball team extend its season-high winning streak to five games, it did so in dominating fashion.

UMass (11-3) produced its greatest scoring output of the season, cruising to a 97-65 victory over Central Connecticut State on Friday night at the Mullins Center.

Five Minutemen reached double-digits in scoring, led by 18 from both Chaz Williams and Raphiael Putney, to help extend UMass’ perfect home record to 7-0. Freddie Riley also had 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting from downtown while Cady Lalanne and Terrell Vinson chipped in 12 and 10, respectively.

It was all Minutemen from the get-go. The squad stormed out of the gates, marching their way to a 16-4 advantage with less than five minutes shaved off the clock.

The early run came much earlier than the team has shown earlier in the season, often waiting until the second half to kick into gear and pull away.

“We’ve kind of waited to the second half to have those kind of runs,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg in a UMassAthletics.com interview. “It was nice to see … the team come out and play well and really jump on a team and I thought Chaz [Williams] spirited that with his play early on.”

Jesse Morgan, who dished out seven assists, felt the fast start was a testament to the team’s improved attitude from a year ago.

“It’s just showing maturity of everybody, the players, from last year to this year and the focus of all the players is really becoming like a job, like [the guys] want to win this year so we’re coming out strong and coming out to play,” he said.

The Minutemen doubled their 15-point halftime lead with 6:54 left to play on a Putney slam, breaking the game wide open at 82-52.

“That’s the style of basketball we want to play,” said Sean Carter. “We got the game up-tempo tonight, actually. That was one of our fastest games that we’ve played this season.”

Robby Ptacek led the way for the Blue Devils (5-7) with his game-high 21 points.

UMass limited Ken Horton, the nation’s third leading scorer to a mere 16 points, falling short of his season average of 22.5 per game.

That combined with holding CCSU to 1-for-15 from beyond the arc was an encouraging sign to Kellogg.

“We’re starting to run teams off the 3-point line and making them make tougher 2’s,” he said. “We really locked in on Horton. The guys paid attention to game plan and we didn’t give them a lot of open looks.”

Last year’s meeting did not go as well for the Minutemen, falling behind 33-9 to start the game on way to their 92-63 stomping at the hands of the Blue Devils on Jan. 3 in New Britain, Conn.

Kellogg felt his team played with more of a fire to avenge for last year’s showing.

“They wanted to prove something also after the way they took care of themselves last year at Central [Connecticut] last year so there was a little more motivation from the players,” he said. “I didn’t bring it up all week but I think that they understand what happened down there last year is unacceptable.”

Freshman walk-on Andrew McCarthy had a career-high six points, seeing six minutes of playing time in the blow out.

UMass is off to its best start to since 2007 when the Minutemen began the season with a 13-3 mark in non-conference play.

As the calendar turns to 2012, UMass opens up Atlantic 10 play on Jan. 5 with a home game against Fordham before traveling to Philadelphia to play La Salle on Jan. 8.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.