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

T.J. Weeks shines in dominant UMass men’s basketball win over Rhode Island

Weeks finished with a career-high 30 points
McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

T.J. Weeks was more than just a spark for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, he was a whole fire in its 78-67 win at Rhode Island on Saturday.

Weeks started the second half by hitting three 3-pointers in a row for the Minutemen for a 9-0 run by himself. His 22-point second half performance was the reason UMass (10-11, 3-6 Atlantic 10) never looked back and held its lead throughout the rest of the game.

“I even said it in the locker room before the game, it’d be great to have [T.J. Weeks] get it going,” UMass head coach Matt McCall said. “It wasn’t just the threes, he made six of them, he had five steals as well. It was his physicality rebounding, and when someone like that has it going, I thought everybody did a great job of wanting to find him. But it wasn’t just the 3-point shots, he was scoring in and around the basket, he had two huge dunks.”

Most of the Minutemen’s transition offense was generated by Weeks. The Rams (12-9, 3-6 A-10) could not find a way to deal with his catch-and-shoot fast break threes and perfectly timed cuts to the basket.

Weeks’ off-the-ball movement was vital all game. He consistently found the soft spot on the weak side of the defense and effectively positioned himself for kick-outs from the likes of Noah Fernandes and C.J. Kelly.

The Rhode Island native finished the game with 30 points in 12-for-17 shooting, including 6-for-9 from downtown. His 30 points are a season high for UMass and a career-high for him. Throughout the season his shooting has not been his strong suit, though. Instead, his rebounding and defense have been a cornerstone for the Minutemen, and that was even more clear against URI.

“To start the game, he’s playing the bottom of that zone and he’s got to be physical down there,” McCall said. “He’s got to know where shooters are at in the perimeter and then he’s got to be extremely physical down there in and around the basket, and I thought he did that.”

Weeks ranks second in the team in rebounds per game with five, and on Saturday he grabbed six of them, including three on the offensive end. But his five steals in the game were even more impressive. Weeks terrorized passing lanes and gave his team several extra possessions while also taking them away from the Rams.

“We played [Weeks] the whole game at the power forward spot, and that’s really the first game we’ve done that with him,” McCall said. “And he was cutting, he was moving, and then on the other end of the floor I thought he was absolutely outstanding.”

Weeks playing at the four-spot in a small-ball lineup meant that Rhode Island would have a big forward matched up on him. He took advantage of that and found ways to exploit an advantage in quickness both cutting to the basket and popping to the 3-point line.

When the Rams’ forward guarding him messed up a switch he’d easily slip for an open three, and when they turned their heads to look at the ball he timed a hard cut behind them for an open layup.

It was a commanding win for the Minutemen and it was evident that Weeks was more than up to the challenge returning to his home state of Rhode Island.

“I got booed in the intro [of the game], and I was like ‘Alright, game on’,” Weeks said. “It was like LeBron returning to Cleveland.”

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares.

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