UMass men’s basketball overcome Fordham on senior day in last home game of the season

Minutemen bounce back from loss to the Rams on Monday

Brianna+Alexander+%2F+Daily+Collegian

Brianna Alexander / Daily Collegian

By Pedro Gray Soares, Collegian Staff

Senior night went down to the wire in the final home game of the season for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, but the Minutemen pulled off an 81-73 win against Fordham on Wednesday.

It was Matt McCall’s last home game as a head coach for UMass (13-16, 6-11 Atlantic 10) after five years in charge. McCall made adjustments following the loss to the Rams (14-15, 7-10 A-10) and found a way to leave the Mullins Center for the last time with a win.

“I just thought our physicality on [Chuba] Ohams [was better],” McCall said. “We were sending multiple bodies at him. We talked the whole game, ‘make him see bodies,’ that was a key on the board before the game. He needs to see bodies, so we got to be in our gaps.”

McCall noticed at the end of Monday’s game that pressuring Ohams rattled him, so he decided to start Wednesday’s game this way. When Fordham went five-out and Ohams drove from the perimeter, UMass sent its two players on the top of the key to plug his driving lane, sometimes even putting three bodies on the Rams’ star.

This led to back-cuts by Fordham for some easy layups, but the Minutemen could live with that if it meant Ohams, who is top five in the nation in double-doubles, didn’t do the same damage as last time. He finished Wednesday night with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

“You got to give Trent [Buttrick] and T.J. Weeks [credit], they spent the majority of the time on Ohams tonight, and I thought both of those guys did an outstanding job defensively,” McCall said.

Buttrick and Weeks’ impact on the court wasn’t limited to the defensive side. Weeks led all scorers in points while also leading his team in rebounds. He finished with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double and played the most minutes of any player with 36.

Buttrick scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The big man has progressively improved as a rebounder throughout the season, leading UMass with six per game. Both Weeks and Buttrick limited Ohams as much as one could ask for, keeping their personal foul count low and leading the team to an emotional win.

“Me personally, I was not accepting a loss tonight,” UMass guard Rich Kelly said. “I was like ‘We are not losing tonight. That is not happening.’ We came out pretty good in the first half and then they made their run, and I literally was like ‘losing is not even an option.’”

Another crucial change from the first matchup between the two teams was the Minutemen’s perimeter defense. The Rams shot 58 percent from deep on Monday, but UMass cut that number in half Wednesday night, holding Fordham to 29.6 percent from beyond the arc.

The past two days have been stressful to say the least for the Minutemen. It was unclear how McCall’s firing would affect the team in its remaining games, but they played light and confident with nothing to lose, a powerful quality going into the conference tournament.

“I was just telling Rich [Kelly], ‘we got to just keep the ball rolling,’ because why not us?” Weeks said. “Why not make a run now? It’s not too late for us, season’s not over, we still have another game and the A-10 tournament. So, why not us?”

The Minutemen will conclude their regular season on Saturday at George Mason, with the game set to start at 4 p.m.

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