Despite the loss to Northeastern Noah Fernandes is proving himself as a star for UMass men’s basketball

Fernandes finished with 24 points for the second straight game

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McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

Noah Fernandes is solidifying himself as the main man for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team and he continued that status despite the 82-76 loss to Northeastern Tuesday night. Over the stretch of the last three games, the junior totaled 64 points, twice putting up 24 points.

In Tuesday night’s game against the Huskies (6-4), Fernandes wasted no time getting to the basket. The junior scored UMass’ (6-4) first three baskets, a 3-pointer followed by a mid-range jumper and then another 3-pointer to end the run. Fernandes was perfect from beyond the arc going 3-of-3 through the game’s first four minutes. Of the first fifteen shots made, Fernandes scored on eight.

“[Noah Fernandes] draws so much attention from the defense that I think it alleviates a lot of pressure from the other guys on the court,” Rich Kelly said. “We kind of hope we can do the same for him and for everyone else. If we can draw two [defenders] like he does a lot, [then we can] make the right play and kick to the open guy which he does a great job of.”

Fernandes went 10-of-18 from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the perimeter. His first half performance would’ve been good for second amongst the scorers by the time the game ended. Fernandes managed to only get six points in the second half against the Huskies who limited a lot of the open looks that he was getting in the first half.

The junior’s play making ability along with his scoring has been the focal point of discussion throughout the season, but his defense hasn’t lagged too far behind. Fernandes finished with three steals Tuesday night, the second-best total for him this season. The Minutemen have mixed in a full court press occasionally this season, something that used to be a staple of the team’s identity in recent years. Fernandes was a force on the press against Northeastern but was couldn’t use as much aggression late in the game due to foul trouble.

“I thought that our pressure in the second half defensively was terrific and then I thought we got put in a situation because of foul trouble where we had to take it off,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “Two of our better offensive players were in foul trouble in the second half, [Noah Fernandes] was outstanding on defense. He was a one-man press and he got into foul trouble and it’s hard because you can’t be nearly as aggressive.”

Fernandes dished out seven assists against Northeastern, six assists better than any other Minutemen on the stat sheet and two shy of the game high. His ability to create offense has been on full display this season and it wasn’t any different in the contest against the Huskies.

Outside of the scoring coming from Fernandes, the Minutemen had two other players finish with 15 points or more, while the bench put up a combined four points between Michael Steadman and T.J. Weeks. The lack of scoring on the bench was a big difference maker in the matchup against the Huskies who combined for 31 points off their bench.

“I think just continuing to play with each other [is key when Fernandes is off the court],” Kelly said. “We have a lot of good players on the team. A lot of guys who have transferred and have done really good things at other schools and now we have come together. We have agreed that we are going to sacrifice some touches, some minutes for the collective good. When one guy goes down, the next guy steps up.”

UMass heads onto the road for a game against North Texas on Saturday. Tipoff set for 4:30 p.m.

Frederick Hanna III can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @FrederickHIII