Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s

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(Jong Man Kim/Daily Collegian)

Entering the 2016-17 season, much of the hype surrounding the Massachusetts men’s basketball team featured its talented freshmen class as well as an expected step forward from the returning starters and veterans.

One storyline, however, that didn’t get as much attention or publicity was the addition of Canisus transfer Zach Lewis. The former leading scorer for the Golden Griffins was never expected to carry the offense or take the bulk of the shots.

Wednesday night against Saint Joseph’s, Lewis returned to his old form and carried UMass to a 62-57 win at Mullins Center behind a 23-point scoring outburst powered by eight 3-pointers.

“It felt good to get into a flow,” Lewis said. “As a team I didn’t think we played that well but coach kind of leaned on me toward the end of the first half to make some plays. It felt good to be back in that position.”

Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg envisioned this kind of role for Lewis since joining UMass (12-7, 7-4 Atlantic 10).

“I figured he’d be a guy who could come off the bench, or even start, and score some baskets,” Kellogg said.”

“It’s been hard because there are a lot of guys that deserve to play and there is only so many minutes in the game.”

The Minutemen struggled to get into any offensive rhythm early in the game and didn’t reach double digits until their bench took over at the end of the first half. Lewis’ 3-pointer eight minutes, 47 seconds into the game finally got UMass in double-digits, as it missed 11 of its first 12 3-pointers.

Trailing by 10 with 3:19 remaining in the half after the Hawks (8-9, 2-4 A-10) had led by as many as 12, Lewis and C.J. Anderson sparked a 15-5 run to end the half for the Minutemen behind a combined five 3’s.

“When we were hitting, it was finally getting us the energy that we finally needed,” Anderson said. “Once we were hitting, everyone was dapping each other up, you know, celebrating, having fun with the game

Anderson joined Lewis as the only other UMass player in double-digit scoring adding 12 points while also grabbing six rebounds and dishing out four assists. Seth Berger added four points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench.

In the first half, the Minutemen bench outscored their starters 27-2, and 46-16 overall. For comparison, St. Joe’s bench contributed two points.

“Tonight was an opportunity to me for me to say whoever is ready to play, is playing,” Kellogg said. “We even started a different lineup in the second half. Maybe we start looking at that minutes should be cherished a little bit more than just taken.”

Tied at 53 with 1:55 remaining, Rashaan Holloway grabbed an offensive rebound and converted the layup to give UMass a lead it would not surrender.

In a fairly contested second half, the Hawks only increased their lead to as much as five, while the Minutemen saw theirs extend to eight after Holloway’s layup gave UMass a 50-42 lead with just over eight minutes left in the game.

James Demery led St. Joe’s with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Charlie Brown and Markell Lodge each added 11.

The Minutemen’s five freshmen combined for only five points.

“It’s a good lesson for the young guys. You have to come every day prepared for a fight,” Kellogg said. “This is a tough basketball league where every time you play it’s a dog fight, and I think they are going to have to mature quickly and get back at it.”

With one game left before the spring semester starts, UMass hosts Fordham this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Mullins Center. The Rams (8-11, 2-4 A-10) are coming off their best win over the season after beating Virginia Commonwealth in overtime Wednesday night.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

 

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