Minutemen tame Tigers

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

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Erica Baptiste/Collegian

It took the first nine minutes of regulation for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team to hit its stride. From that moment on, Towson didn’t stand a chance.

UMass (6-2) turned a five-point first half lead into a 19-point advantage in just under three minutes, as the Minutemen cruised their way to an 86-56 drubbing of the Tigers on Wednesday night at the Mullins Center.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg felt it was a big bounce-back game as the win helped erase its pair of losses to College of Charleston and Florida State in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

“I thought coming off that long kind of trip we had … this would be a good game for us to come back and play a team that is a little less experienced, that is in kind of the growing stages and we came away with the victory,” said Kellogg.

Chaz Williams and Freddie Riley found themselves coming off the bench for the first time this season. Both responded positively as Riley shot 6-of-8 from the field for a team-high 15 points while Williams chipped in with 12 points and 8 assists.

Kellogg said the decision not to start the guards was not a discipline issue, but rather an attempt to shake up the lineup after the team’s disappointing showing in the Bahamas.

“I wanted to let them know that really there is no set lineup in that the way things went in the Bahamas, I wasn’t happy with and I thought maybe shaking it up a little bit would get their attention,” said Kellogg.

Sophomore Jesse Morgan had nine points and dished out eight assists in his first start of the season, which was an encouraging sign to Kellogg who feels he is an important factor to how good the team can be. Raphiael Putney added 10 points of his own as the sophomore filled in for Riley in the starting five.

Robert Nwankwo was the only Tiger who could muster any sort of success against the UMass defense as the senior led all scorers with 19 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, nine coming off the offensive glass.

Kellogg made the decision in the second half to guard Nwankwo with freshman Cady Lalanne, who answered the call and was able to neutralize him on the glass, which helped seal the victory.

“He just told us, ‘Keep him off the boards and box him out so I just went out there and did that,” said Lalanne.

Lalanne continues to flourish for the Minutemen as he develops into a prominent big man that UMass utlilizes in the paint. Kellogg has high expectations for Lalanne, saying that he expects double-double performances on a consistent basis.

The rookie pitched in with 11 points and nine boards, while also defending the basket with six blocks. Lalanne attributes his growth to progressively getting back in shape as the season wears on.

The Minutemen will need to rely on Lalanne and the rest of the bench to replace the production of Sampson Carter, who was inactive for the game with a torn labrum in his hip.

Kellogg called surgery “a definite possibility,” which would be a critical loss for his squad. Carter has gotten off to a fast start this season, averaging 8.6 points per game coming off the bench.

Towson coach Pat Skerry was very impressed with the depth and talent UMass featured throughout its roster.

Skerry, whose Tigers have played nationally recognized programs Kansas and Michigan, dubbed the Minutemen as the “most athletic team and deepest team we’ve played this year.”

The Minutemen’s schedule stiffens with a trip to Miami (Fla.) on Saturday as they tip-off with the 5-2 Hurricanes.

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