Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass basketball escapes with 78-72 win at Fordham on Wednesday night

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(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)


NEW YORK — The Massachusetts men’s basketball team didn’t panic, even when it had plenty of reasons to sound the alarm.

Its two highest scorers per game scored eight combined points, the Minutemen fell behind by as many as nine points to the worst team in the Atlantic 10 Conference and even when they appeared to right the ship, nearly lost it again.

But the Minutemen (13-9, 6-3 Atlantic 10) withstood Fordham’s best shot, instead relying on a triumvirate of guards to mount a second half comeback, topping the Rams 78-72 Wednesday night at Rose Hill gym.

“We just had to stay together,” UMass guard Trey Davis said. “I wasn’t really panicking, I knew in the second half we were going to get going, people were going to be more aggressive. That’s what we did. We locked in defensively and got the win.

The Minutemen shot 36.7 percent in the first half and trailed at one point 37-28. They managed to cut the Fordham (5-15, 0-9 A-10) deficit to 41-35 at halftime, but it was Davis’ play to open the second frame which provided the initial spark.

He hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to 43-41 and hit a layup to tie the game at 45-45. Defensively, Davis predominantly guarded Rams guard Jon Severe, who missed three shots and added a turnover during that stretch.

Davis finished with a team-high 26 points, 21 of which came in the second half.

“I thought we continued playing a little bit better defense and started contesting some guys,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said of the second half. “And you know, I thought we made some shots. In the first half, I don’t know if we’ve ever been more wide open and not made a few of those shots, so it was nice to see the ball go in.”

The Minutemen held Fordham’s leading scorer Eric Paschall, who scored 14 points in the first half, to only three in the second frame. Severe, who scored 10 points in the first half, scored four in the second. UMass went on a 20-8 run to open the half.

And then Jabarie Hinds turned it into a full sprint.

Hinds scored all 12 of his points in the final 20 minutes and nailed a 3-pointer to give UMass its first lead of the second half (50-47). He used a slick crossover dribble to open up enough space to hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 58-49, then forced a steal on defense, received a pass in transition and finished with a thunderous right-handed dunk.

Exclamation point.

“I thought that was a huge stretch for him and really gave us momentum in the game,” Kellogg said. “From that point, I thought we hung on to come away with a win.”

UMass pushed the lead to 60-49, but the Rams responded with an 11-2 run, cutting the lead to 62-60 with 8:02 left. But Minutemen guard Derrick Gordon calmed the situation, something that occurred for most of the night.

Unlike Davis and Hinds, who came on strong in the second half, Gordon was a constant. He finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but perhaps none were bigger than his layup with 4:42 remaining to give UMass a 64-60 lead. On the following defensive possession, it was Gordon who came down with the defensive rebound.

The Minutemen scored four straight points to open up a comfortable 68-60 lead.

“It was the right plays, right time,” Gordon said. “I was finishing my plays rather than my past games where I was missing a lot of chippy’s. I was finishing around the rim, getting my teammates involved and rebounding like I’ve never rebounded before this year.

It was just taking my game to another level, it felt good.”

Gordon finished with 11 points in the first half and was a major factor in helping UMass withstand its early shooting woes.

The guards carried the Minutemen offense, which received only four points apiece from Maxie Esho and Cady Lalanne. Both players and Kellogg said that despite their lack of scoring, they never forced the issue offensively.

Instead, the guards took over, which was a welcome sign for Kellogg.

“We need Cady and Maxie if we’re going to dominate games and if we’re going to make a run at this thing,” Kellogg said, “But it’s nice to know that, on a given night, (the guards) can come in and do some things. It’s nice when you have a few different weapons.”

Notes

Lalanne’s second field goal, which came with 2:56 remaining, gave him 1,000 points for his career. The win was UMass’ third in a row, and the Minutemen return to action Sunday at home against La Salle.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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