AMHERST---UMass used a swarming full court press and some hot shooting to cruise past Northeastern 83-67 and move to 2-0. With Chaz Williams leading the Minutemen fast break, they scored 26 points off turnovers and stemmed every Huskies attempt to get back into the game.
The Minutemen led by 10 or more for much of the game but when Northeastern finally threatened, cutting the deficit to seven with 11:45 to play, it was Williams who led an 18-5 run to put the game away. He led UMass with 20 points and 10 assists, his first double-double with his new team.
"Obviously we got a nice effort from the team once again," UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said. "I’m pleased with them playing hard, for competing and we’re starting to look like a Umass basketball team."
Terrell Vinson (14 points) and Sampson Carter (12 points) joined Williams in double-digits as the Minutemen shot just over 50 percent (50.9 percent). Nine UMass players finished with five points or more as the Minutemen won the first matchup between the programs since 2006.
"The points seemed to be spread around a little bit more than in previous years and I’m enjoying watching a lot of guys have success," Kellogg said.
Huskies co-captains Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith led Northeastern with 15 points apiece. Northeastern (1-1) seemed on the verge of getting back into the game at several points in the second half but couldn’t slow down the faster and more athletic Minutemen.
UMass jumped out to a 5-0 lead and followed it shortly afterward with a 14-0 run to take a 19-4 lead. It was that kind of game for Northeastern. The Minutemen shot 57.7 percent from the field in the first half by moving the ball around the perimeter, attacking the basket and making the extra pass to set up easy layups.
"Coach told us before the game we have to come out ready to play, if not we’re going to be down early," Williams said. "I think we came out with enough energy and me and all the guys we just want to win."
By halftime, Northeastern had cut the deficit to 40-28 and appeared capable of making a comeback. The Huskies consistently looked to get it inside to their new and improved front line but struggled to set up their offense against the Minutemen press. Three Huskies players committed four or more turnovers including five from Quincy Ford as Northeastern turned the ball over 21 times.
"It’s a really good team, coach has done a really nice job," Kellogg said of Bill Coen and Northeastern. "They can play up and down, they can push the tempo and I thought we did some good things in transition to separate the game a little bit."
Second half play was dominated by the frequent screeching of the referees’ whistles as both teams were in the bonus less than 10 minutes into the half. Overall the two teams were whistled for 51 fouls as three players fouled out and the teams took 50 combined free throws in the half.
Northeastern managed to cut the deficit to seven points after a crazy possession that saw Jonathan Lee score six points. Off an inbounds steal, Lee pushed the ball up court and was fouled by Maxie Esho as he went up for a dunk. Lee not only finished the dunk but received two free throws after the referees called Esho for a flagrant one foul. Lee preceded to hit both free throws and then after two missed Kauri Black free throws, took the ball to the hoop and made an easy lay up to cap a 10-0 Huskies run.
After the Huskies drew within six on the next possesion, Williams turned on the jets and left the Huskies lying in his wake. The tiny point guard who went 7-13 from the field, sparked an 18-5 run with eight of his game-high 20 points and an assist.
"You know every day at practice when we work at it I just tell them guys just get it up early," Williams said. "I really just want to get the assists, I’d rather have 10 assists than 10 points any day. You know getting my teammates the ball…it’s the best feeling in the world."
UMass will finish their opening three-game home stand when the play NJIT Thursday night at 7 p.m. The Huskies will have to wait till Saturday when they host Southern Illinois at 2 p.m., a rematch of last season’s dramatic 63-62 OT Northeastern victory.