Fernandes tops career high in scoring for a second straight game

Fernandes finished with a career-high 29 points

McKenna+Premus+%2F+Daily+Collegian

McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Assistant Sports Editor

In the second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Noah Fernandes carried the Massachusetts men’s basketball team to victory over George Washington with a career-high 29 points.

Fernandes surpassed his career-high point total of 28 points which he hit in the regular season finale. On Feb. 9, Fernandes connected on 1-of-11 field goals in the loss to GW (12-18, 8-9 A-10). In the matchup against the Colonials on Thursday night, the guard had 12 points by the time the halfway mark came around and was 5-for-6 from the free throw line.

His five steals in the first half were three more than his next closest teammate and he ended the game with a career-high seven, good for exactly half of the number of steals UMass (15-16, 7-11 A-10) finished with.

“If [he’s] not one of the best guards in the A-10 then I don’t know what [one] looks like,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I know he’s ours, but he is just a warrior and he leaves it all out there.”

Fernandes put in work to start the second half against GW. He knocked down 8-of-11 shots from the field and connected on one 3-pointer to finish his second with 17. Within the first 12 seconds of the second half T.J. Weeks picked up two quick fouls, bringing his total to four in the game and leaving the Minutemen without their top scorer at the time.

“When T.J. [Weeks] went out [with foul trouble] I just think we emphasized [being unselfish] more,” Fernandes said. “Obviously he was hitting the shots, so we were looking for him, but when he went out we were just looking for the hot hand. Teammates found me and we got it going.”

Weeks headed to the bench and didn’t check back into the game until the 6:30 mark. Fernandes took control of the game and was UMass’ most efficient player in the second half. The junior turned the steals and turnovers he created  into baskets on the other end for the Minutemen.

Fernandes rode the momentum he had from the last game and translated it into success in the win over GW. He shot 64.7 percent from floor, 12 percent better than his last career high in scoring.

“[Fernandes] plays the game with such a passion,” McCall said. “He’s had to really work and grind to get to every step of his career. When something doesn’t go well for him, he just continues to work and continue to battle. He was unbelievable… he was outstanding.”

Three of the last four games Fernandes scored in double digits. The scoring stretch that he’s been in the last couple games mirrors the type of numbers he was putting up to start the season. Fernandes had a streak of eight straight games hitting double figures before being sidelined with a concussion. When he returned, he wasn’t scoring anywhere near rate that he was earlier in the season and struggled to maintain any consistency on offense.

“Everyone wants to talk about Noah’s slump [but] he also missed games because he was hurt and had a concussion,” McCall said. “When you come back off an injury, sometimes it takes a little bit to get yourself going.”

After putting on an offensive clinic, UMass shifts its focus to Dayton. It’s the first time the Minutemen have back-to-back games since the Jersey Mike’s Classic in November. Tipoff against the Flyers is set for 6 p.m.

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