UMass basketball heads to Fordham to take on the Rams

Fordham just 1-4 on the season

By Dan McGee, Assistant Sports Editor

After the buzzer sounded on Wednesday night, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team was hyped up. An overtime win against rival Rhode Island had the Minutemen (4-3, 3-1 Atlantic 10) dancing to “Crunk Ain’t Dead” in the locker room after the game.

UMass will look to take that energy and momentum with them as they head to the Bronx to take on Fordham on Jan. 17. With victories over Rhode Island and La Salle that followed an extended hiatus between games, the Minutemen have put together a mini two-game win streak.

“We’re just onto the next game,” said point guard Noah Fernandes. “We’re just right onto the next one trying to keep this win streak going.”

The Rams (1-4, 1-4 A-10) have struggled so far this season, averaging just 50.6 points per game. Despite playing what can be considered a lesser opponent, the Minutemen will look to avoid a ‘trap game’ following Wednesday night’s big victory.

Though Fordham has lost three games by double digits this season, their lone win came in an upset 55-54 victory against Atlantic 10 giant Dayton, who was pegged to finish third in the conference in preseason polls.

“We’ve shown what we are capable of and how we are capable of playing,” said UMass head coach Matt McCall. “We haven’t won a tremendous amount in the Atlantic 10 over the last four years, but every A-10 game is important.

“You’re going on the road, playing with no fans and you have to completely create your own energy in a gym that the majority of our team hasn’t played in. We have to be ready to go. Our approach today, our approach tomorrow is whether or not we’re going to win the game.”

The methodically slow offense of the Rams is something to watch out for, believes McCall. The Minutemen rank second in the nation in possessions per game with 81.4, but Fordham’s playstyle does not follow that trend. With how the Ram’s play, the Minutemen will need to make the most of it each time they have the ball.

“They play a style that completely can frustrate you at times,” McCall said. “It can frustrate you on offense, and if you play frustrated on offense, it bleeds to your defense. That’s when they have success.”

Leading the scoring charge for the Rams are sophomores Chris Austin and Joel Soriano, averaging a team-leading 11.2 and 10.8 points per game, respectively. Soriano is a glass cleaner leading the Rams in rebounds with 9.6 per game.

Though he has only played two games this season, one Fordham player that could fly under the radar on Sunday is guard Ty Perry, who is averaging seven points per contest. A familiar face to forward Dibaji Walker, who played with Perry at Woodstock Academy in 2017-18, Perry has potential to be lights out from three. However, he is 0-for-10 this season shooting beyond the arc.

“[Perry] hasn’t been playing this much this season but he was a deadeye shooter at Woodstock,” Walker said. “He dropped 52 points in a game. I had never been so happy to pass someone the ball in a game. Passing it to him, he would shoot with two or three guys on him and it was just going in. It was like he was throwing it in the ocean, it was crazy.”

Whether Perry plays or not, the Minutemen will have to maintain their own style of play to keep up their mini win streak and avoid any chance of a trap.

“We have to know how to attack them, we have to attack them the right way, and we’ve got to go down there with a workmanlike mentality to get the job done,” McCall said.

Tip-off is slated for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. The game can be watched on NBCSN.

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