UMass men’s basketball escapes against Howard with season-opening win Saturday

By Anthony Chiusano

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Over the first 15 minutes of the second half Saturday, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team shrunk Howard’s lead – once as large as 14 in the first half – to four points or less on four separate occasions. But each time the Minutemen went on a run, the Bison seemingly had an answer waiting on their next turn down the court.

Then the fifth time proved to be the charm for UMass (1-0), who escaped with an 85-79 season-opening win over Howard (0-1) at the Mullins Center.

Senior guard Trey Davis scored 12 of his 19 points amidst a 17-to-3 run for the Minutemen over the final three minutes, 30 seconds of regulation.

The run was capitalized by a deep 3-pointer by Davis just in front of the half-court UMass logo that gave the Minutemen a four-point lead with 34 seconds left, allowing UMass to clinch the victory with free throws on ensuing possessions.

“I told (point guard Jabarie Hinds) that when I come off the screen, just pass me the ball and I’m going to shoot it,” Davis said about the shot.

On the possession prior to his 3-pointer – one of his three for the day – Davis hit two free throws to give the Minutemen their first and only lead of the final half. Davis’ 19 points were equaled by Hinds for the team lead, while three other UMass players reached double digits Saturday.

“It’s a good way to start off the season with a win. It didn’t exactly play out the way I envisioned it in my head, but I did like the way our team fought and scrapped,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said. “I thought our guys showed some character today.”

UMass entered the halftime break down nine points behind poor free throw shooting (12-for-21), sloppy turnovers (10) and rebounding struggles (Howard held a 17-to-10 advantage, including 8-to-1 on the offensive side).

The Bison, led by James Daniel III (30 points, nine steals) and James Miller (27 points, seven rebounds) broke open a double-digit lead over the final five minutes of the first half, turning a 35-34 game into as much as a 47-37 lead in the final minute. Howard was sparked by good perimeter play, converting on 5-of-8 first half 3-point attempts.

Coming out of intermission, Kellogg turned to a predominantly small lineup and a six-man rotation over the final 20 minutes that included forwards Zach Coleman and Seth Berger playing extended minutes in the post.

While starting freshman center Rashaan Holloway (two points) played the first three minutes of the second half, he was subbed out at the 16:44 mark and never checked back in. Backup center and fellow freshman Malik Hines only played four minutes and sat out for the entire second half.

According to Kellogg, the decision was made due to a combination of Berger and Coleman’s first half play and the fact that the pair of freshmen needed more time to get acclimated to the college level of play.

“I thought that Seth and Zach were playing fantastic and also we are trying to win and I thought (Malik and Rashaan) were still trying to catch up to the pace of play, and figure out if we are going to press, how hard you really have to play,” Kellogg said. “It was a good learning curve for them pretty quickly, but I thought they did decent stuff.”

Coleman went to the free throw line 15 times and finished with 13 points while Berger (10 points) was a catalyst on both sides of the court before fouling out.

“There was a stretch in the second half where the group that was in, we had a solid run,” Berger said. “That’s not easy to do down (14 points) in a safe place to come back like that.”

Kellogg said the come-from-behind victory is something that gives him confidence moving forward but also shows the further improvement and development that is needed for the team.

“I’ve seen some good spurts out of them but we haven’t really put up a full 40 (minutes) together, even in our scrimmage or exhibition games,” he said. “I thought at times they chinked our armor a little bit and I think we battled back, which is nice to see. I’m getting more confident that this is going to be a team that’s going to fight and claw every time we step on the floor.”

He added: “I’m happy with the win and know that we have a lot of work to do to get better.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.