GAMES NOTES: In the first contest of a three-game homestand the Massachusetts Minutemen will host the Duquesne Dukes in an Atlantic 10 battle at the Mullins Center on Thursday night.
Duquesne is in desperate need of a win after falling for the fourth straight game last Saturday in a 74-66 setback against Saint Joseph's. The loss was the second in as many tries against league foes for the Dukes and pushed them two games below .500 overall (7-9). Taking to the road won't make things any easier for the Dukes who have just a single win in seven trips this season. Duquesne faces a stern test next against nationally-ranked VCU.
UMass bounced back from a 70-62 loss on the road to Saint Louis by posting a 77-73 victory over Fordham in the Bronx on Sunday. The win was the first in conference play for the Minutemen and pushed them to 11-4 overall. When the Minutemen have played at home they've generally found success with wins in four of five matchups at the Mullins Center. In the other two games of the homestand UMass faces George Washington and Richmond.
In last year's Atlantic 10 Tournament, UMass knocked Duquesne out with a 92-83 victory. Duquesne earned a victory in the only regular season matchup in that campaign but still trails the all-time series by a 35-25 margin.
In the loss to Saint Joseph's, Duquesne never led and trailed by as many as 11 points. The Dukes shot just 38.5 percent on their home floor and were outscored both from beyond the arc (33-21) and the free-throw line (19-9). Duquesne was the superior team on the inside with a 47-33 edge in rebounds led by a double-double from Andre Marhold.
The production that the Dukes got from Marhold (13 points, 11 rebounds) was a bit out of the ordinary for the senior forward who is averaging just 6.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Derrick Colter (13.3 ppg, 5.0 apg) and Sean Johnson (13.2 ppg) are the only players on the roster scoring in double figures although neither is shooting better than 40 percent from the field. Colter is also ranked third in the conference in assists. Off the bench Quevyn Winters (8.4 ppg) has been a nice spark but there aren't many scorers left on the roster after him.
In their first game without second leading scorer Jesse Morgan, the Minutemen got another strong effort from Chaz Williams to defeat Fordham. Williams scored a game-high 22 points, handed out seven assists and also collected six rebounds. The Minutemen led by as many as 15 points in the contest and hit five free throws in the last 30 seconds to seal the victory.
Morgan (13.4 ppg) was lost for the season earlier this month with torn ligaments in his right knee. With Morgan out there is even more pressure placed upon the 5-foot-10 frame of Williams. The senior guard is scoring 15.8 points per game, while handing out an A-10 leading 7.3 assists per game. Taking over at the other guard spot is Freddie Riley (5.9 ppg), who scored 11 points against Fordham. Terrell Vinson (11.9 ppg) and Raphiael Putney (6.7 ppg) will also be called on to increase their offensive production.
Even without Morgan the Minutemen are a dangerous offensive team thanks to the crafty scoring of Williams. As long as Riley can hold his own and the rest of the roster can take steps forward UMass should be in line for a win.