Minutemen beat Fordham 65-46, improve to 4-1 in Atlantic 10 play

UMass shot 64.3 percent from 3-point range in the first half

By Dan McGee, Assistant Sports Editor

Heading into Sunday’s game against Fordham, Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Matt McCall reiterated that the Rams (1-5, 1-5 Atlantic 10) play a slow and methodic style of basketball that can often frustrate opponents.

However, the Minutemen (5-3, 4-1 A-10) played unbothered basketball, running away in the first half to a 65-46 victory.

“Everyone kept talking about a letdown game,” coach Matt McCall said about the potential of losing to their lesser opponent. “We showed that we had the right approach. I thought we had great energy to start the game.”

After falling behind 2-0 in the opening minutes, UMass would not give up the lead again.

The first six field goals for the Minutemen came from 3-point range. Carl Pierre opened the three-point barrage for UMass before Tre Mitchell hit consecutive threes. TJ Weeks and Mitchell then alternated 3-pointers for the Minutemen’s next three baskets.

With 11:04 left in the first half, UMass had already built a 21-5 lead. The Minutemen would continue their air attack throughout the remainder of the first half, culminating into a 44-15 lead at the break. Ball movement aided UMass, who had assists on its first seven baskets. They finished the half with an 11-to-5 assist-to-turnover ratio.

The Rams had no answer for UMass offensively in the first half. The pressing Minutemen defense forced Fordham into committing turnover after turnover. The Rams entered the half with a 3-to-11 assist to turnover ratio allowing UMass to score 14 points off turnovers.

“We just stayed aggressive and dictated the pace,” Weeks said. “With pressing and getting rebounds, we didn’t wait for them to settle on defense, we got quick buckets. We sped them up basically.”

After the half, the Minutemen quickly extended their lead to 52-17, the largest of the game. However, consecutive scoring droughts presented an opportunity for the Rams offense.

In the second half, Fordham outscored the Minutemen 31-21 shooting 48 percent compared to 20.6 percent for UMass. The 3-point attack was largely quelled for UMass in the final 20 minutes, as they made just one of its final 14 3-point attempts.

However, any comeback effort was too little too late as the Minutemen had already ran away to a 65-46 blowout victory. Mitchell finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, Weeks with 11 points and Ronnie DeGray III with eight points and 10 rebounds for a near double-double.

For the Rams, Joel Soriano led the way with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Minutemen have built a three-game winning streak since an extended 10-day hiatus. Their next matchup scheduled for Jan. 20 against Saint Louis is likely to be cancelled due to COVID-19 protocol, but they’ll look to continue their winning ways on Jan. 24 at home against Davidson.

“I think it’s been our effort and our unselfishness,” said McCall of the win streak. “Our willingness to make the right play and share the basketball. It’s really been our effort and approach in practice leading up to games.”

Dan McGee can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TheDanMcGee.