GAMES NOTES: In a Bay State showdown the Massachusetts Minutemen will travel to Matthews Arena to battle the Northeastern Huskies in non-conference action Tuesday night.
The Minutemen come into play on the heels of a 75-62 loss at home to Miami- Florida. The defeat was the third in four games for UMass with the only win coming in a 64-63 decision when Chaz Williams hit a game-winning shot with 3.3 seconds remaining. That win was the first true road game of the season for the Minutemen. The Minutemen will play Elon in Springfield, Massachusetts next time out.
Northeastern has dropped back-to-back decisions to fall to 4-3 overall this season. Most recently the Huskies were defeated 76-73 by Maine in the first game of a four-game homestand that continues against La Salle on Saturday. Northeastern is just 1-2 at home overall.
With wins in each of the last two outings, including an 83-67 rout at the Mullins Center last season, UMass extended its all-time series lead to 35-17.
UMass hung right with Miami for a majority of the game on Saturday but fell apart down the stretch. The Minutemen led 52-51 with 8:29 to play but allowed the Hurricanes to close out the game on a 24-10 run. UMass managed only nine field goals in each half and shot just 28.6 percent from the field overall. Terrell Vinson had a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, but hit only 3-of-11 shots.
That poor shooting performance was just another in a list of them this season for UMass. The Minutemen are connecting on only 38.3 percent of their shots from the floor which has led to a scoring differential of -6.5. UMass is also a team that has not gotten to the free throw line often enough with only 97 attempts. Williams is the focal point of the offense. The 5-foot-9 guard leads the team in scoring (15.3 ppg), while putting up big numbers in assists (7.3 pg) and rebounds (5.0 pg). Jesse Morgan (14.8 ppg) is Williams' running mate in the backcourt and a capable scorer. Vinson (12.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is both a double-digit scorer and the top rebounder. Raphiael Putney (8.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) also mans the interior but has seen his scoring and rebounding numbers drop from last season.
Northeastern clawed its way back from an 11-point deficit late in the second half against Maine to come within a point (74-73) with less than a minute to play. However the Huskies had a turnover and a missed 3-point field goal attempt in their last two possessions and were unable to complete the comeback. The Huskies shot just 41.0 percent in the game, while allowing the Bears to connect on 59.2 percent of their field goal attempts including a 16- of-21 effort in the second half. Reggie Spencer had a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double in the setback.
Despite its winning record, Northeastern has actually been outscored by its opponents this season (-1.1 margin). The Huskies also shoot worse than their opponents as they hit on 43.1 percent of their shots, to 46.5 percent from foes. Spencer (11.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is the top rebounder for the club and is actually one of the better finishers, as he connects on 60.0 percent of his shots, although those are primarily right around the basket. Joel Smith (18.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 apg) is the primary scorer and ball-handler and capable of erupting for big point totals any game. Quincy Ford (13.3 pg, 6.4 rpg) is a forward that can stretch the floor and rebound well. Outside of those three no player is scoring more than six points a game or bringing in more than 2.1 rebounds.
These teams match up extremely well with the duel between Williams and Smith in the backcourt and the two-headed frontlines of each side duking it out. While Northeastern has the homecourt edge, UMass has just a bit more depth, which will prove vital.