Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘UMass basketball’ returns in victory over Fordham

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

“UMass basketball” returned Saturday afternoon at the Mullins Center.

It’s a phrase Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg coined to describe the Minutemen’s style of play. It’s up-tempo, predicated on defensive pressure and transition scoring and, when executed correctly, can mount impressive momentum swings in a hurry.

In UMass’ 82-74 victory over Fordham, the types of plays which Kellogg’s vision is predicated upon returned and helped snap a three-game losing streak.

“I thought our guys came out and fought and battled,” Kellogg said. “We didn’t have everything going obviously early in the first half or even throughout the first half, but they fought and persevered.”

The Minutemen forced nine steals, topped Fordham in fast break points 10-2 and received significant contributions from a number of veterans – something Kellogg’s waited for over the last two weeks.

It was a defensive breakthrough which allowed UMass to surge in the second half.

Over a span of three minutes, the Minutemen created six steals which sparked a 13-0 run. They trailed 41-36 when Donte Clark started the sequence with a steal and led 49-41 when Esho capped it with his own steal and dunk.

The Rams never even attempted a shot over the stretch.

“It gave us some energy,” Esho said. “Everybody had good ball pressure, our guards were pressuring the ball. We were able to do that and we communicated. I think it’s a team thing.”

The Minutemen spoke at length leading up to the game about finding more consistent energy. That stretch indicated that, when they’re playing the way they want to, those types of energy plays are still accessible.

Guard Trey Davis forced steals in consecutive possessions which led to five UMass points. He finished his first steal on his own to take a 42-41 lead and found Clark on the second steal, who converted on an and-1 layup opportunity to stretch the lead.

The 5,238 in attendance approved, but it was Esho’s two straight dunks to end the run which stirred them into a frenzy – something that hasn’t happened often in recent memory at the Mullins Center.

“Yeah I think we feed off of energy from ourselves and also from the crowd,” Kellogg said. “There were a lot of good hustle plays within that, which is something that we pride ourselves on.”

Seniors make an impact

No player thrives in energetic, “UMass basketball” pretenses more than Esho.

The senior forward struggled over the Minutemen’s three-game losing streak, averaging just 7.3 points per game. But he scored 17 points – 14 of which came in the second half – and added eight rebounds against Fordham. Combined with Cady Lalanne’s six points, 12 rebounds and five blocks earned high praise from their coach.

“It was good to see our seniors play like seniors this time of year,” Kellogg said.

“Cady and Maxie weren’t coming out unless they asked for a sub,” he later added. “I knew that at halftime. We’re going to put it on your, as the seniors. If you don’t do what you need to do then we’re not going to win the game.”

Kellogg used a lineup which consisted of Esho, Lalanne, Clark, Davis and Derrick Gordon for most of the second half. UMass shot 51.5 percent in the half, played significantly better and held on to the victory.

Kellogg said he was apprehensive to substitute away from the group and was pleased with their improvement from half to half.

“They showed me they didn’t play as good as they can,” Kellogg said of their first half.

“I thought they could give me a lot more. They should have a whole pocket full of energy. Once the flow of the game looked the way I wanted it to I was going to stick with Maxie for a long time. Cady makes a big difference down there with his five blocks.

“It’s just one of those things. You’re seniors. You should be able to play as many minutes as I really need.”

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

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