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 dominates Saint Joseph’s in second round of Atlantic 10 tournament, win 100-66

Minutemen shot 15-of-38 from beyond the arc
Atlantic 10 Conference

Coming off back-to-back blowout losses to end the regular season, some level of uncertainty surrounded the Massachusetts basketball team entering the Atlantic 10 tournament.

That uncertainty was quickly washed away as the No. 5 seeded Minutemen (8-6, 7-4 A-10) pounced on No. 13 seed Saint Joseph’s early en route to a 100-66 blowout victory. The 34-point win marks the largest margin of victory in Atlantic 10 tournament history and makes UMass the first team to score 100 points in the tourney since 1999.

“We talked a lot the last two days about controlling the things we can control,” said head coach Matt McCall. “Two things we always have control over are our ability to play unselfish on offense and our ability to play with great effort. We did those two things today and I was very proud of our team. I thought we came out with the right focus, the right mentality.”

After the Hawks (5-15, 2-9 A-10) converted a lay-up off the opening tip, they would not see the lead swing their way again. Ronnie DeGray III opened the scoring attack for UMass, nailing a pair of 3-pointers and scoring 10 points in the first 4:26 of play.

“It’s really great seeing guys hit shots,” DeGray III said. “It’s contagious and makes the game a lot more fun to celebrate for your guys. You love to see it.”

The 3-point contagion spread like wildfire for the Minutemen in the opening half. Possession after possession, the hot stroke of the UMass offense poured in buckets, highlighted by an 18-0 five-minute run that built the Minutemen lead to 33-10.

Whether it be dribble pull-ups, step backs or wide open 3-pointers, the Minutemen could not be stopped beyond the arc in the opening half. TJ Weeks converted four, Noah Fernandes three, DeGray III two and Tre Mitchell, Javohn Garcia and Carl Pierre each converted one for a 12-of-20 first half clip, good for an outrageous 60 percent from three.

By halftime the Minutemen had blown open a 59-36 lead.

“They sent two or three guys at me and we’ve got more than enough weapons on the perimeter,”  Mitchell said.

In the second half, the tone continued. Pierre largely carried over the momentum by nailing three consecutive 3-pointers in the first minute as part of an 11-0 run. Another massive 16-2 run midway through the period saw UMass extend its lead to 37, the largest it would grow to all game. Pierre would finish with 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

“When you go into the half with a 23-point lead and then come out of the half and start the second half like that, the energy on the bench goes through the roof,” McCall said. “That’s the focus we needed to have, unselfish.”

All in all, six different Minutemen finished with 14 or more points on a collective 39.5 percent from beyond the arc and 55.6 percent overall from the field. UMass also dominated the rebounding battle 47 to 30.

“Just being more aggressive, getting 50/50 balls, that was our attack,” DeGray III said. “Play hard, play together, box out because they were shooting lots of threes so there would be a lot of long rebounds.”

Mitchell had a quiet double-double, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Freshmen DeGray III and Garcia impressed in their first career conference tournament game. The former finished with a team-leading 19 points on 8-off-11 shooting along with four rebounds. The latter poured in a second-best 17 points on 7-of-9 from the field, five rebounds and a team-high seven assists.

A major surprise of the contest was the revival of Dibaji Walker. The junior forward was thought to be out for the season due to wrist surgery, but after receiving a second opinion and a cortisone shot, played seven minutes in the contest. He put the cherry on top for UMass, dunking the ball with a minute left to bring the Minutemen to 100 points.

“It was definitely great to see,” DeGray III said of Walker’s presence in the lineup. “He’s still pushing through his injury but he’s willing to do anything for the team. He wants to help us win, if that’s locking up the best player or getting rebounds or driving, he does whatever it takes to win and I’m happy to see him on the court and back with us again.”

The Minutemen will have a quick turnaround, taking on Saint Louis at 1 p.m. on Friday in the quarterfinals.

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

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