After a poor showing in their first twenty minutes of the season, Chaz Williams and crew put away Elon with a big run to begin the half in their 85-67 victory. Returning to the Curry Hicks Cage for just the second time in 18 years, a trio of Minutemen combined for 52 of the team’s 85 points as UMass extended its win streak to 18 at their former home.
Williams, one of the five new faces on a Minutemen roster that features just two seniors proved worthy of all the praise he’s gotten over the past 12 months on campus. The Hofstra transfer led the squad with 18 points, eight assists and even added six rebounds despite his diminutive size. Listed at just 5-9, Williams proved adept all over the court leading the team to 12 points on the fast break and earned five free throw attempts for his work in the lane.
"There’s nothing like it [playing with Chaz Williams]," forward Sampson Carter said. "He ups the tempo and when he’s out we all just follow, he’s our pitbull."
"He [Williams]'s played better than he’s been practicing," UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said. "He’s been a little complacent over the past four or five days but over the past two days it was really nice to see him step his game up for the game: to have a guy who can break some defenses down and make some plays."
Carter and fellow junior Terrell Vinson finished with 17 points apiece and combined for 18 of the team’s 41 rebounds. 16 of Carter’s points came in the second half as he helped spark an early run in the half to put away Elon. Vinson led all players with 11 rebounds including four offensive boards.
"My hat goes off to Terrell he’s been unbelievable this year," Kellogg said. "Whatever I need him to do: if I don’t start him, he doesn’t start, he plays whatever and his attitude this year is really what’s separated him. That’s why I think he’s playing the way he has. In practice he’s been one of the top three guys every day."
In the first half, Elon stayed in the game behind some hot shooting and poor decision making by UMass. Frustrated by their own poor shooting, the Minutemen were called for some sloppy fouls and failed to look comfortable in their new fast paced offense.
"I thought we had a few chances in the first half that we didn’t take advantage of," Kellogg said. "We got out and turned the ball over, we missed some shots. I was hoping that our guys would stay the course and do the same thing in the second half."
Elon was led by sophomore forward Lucas Troutman who poured in 15 points. Leading returning scorer Drew Spradlin managed 14 and freshmen Austin Hamilton added 12 points and seven turnovers in his collegiate debut.
UMass put away the Phoenix by forcing 25 turnovers and dominating the paint. The Minutemen scored 36 points off turnovers and nearly as many in the paint against their overmatched competition from the Southern Conference.
"It was a good team effort, I’m hoping that we can continue to play a lot of guys and we can try to wear some teams down," UMass head coach Derek Kellogg said.
The game was unfortunately highlighted by shoulder injuries to key starters for each team. Redshirt sophomore forward Raphiael Putney played just six minutes before getting tangled up with an Elon player. Putney lay on the floor for several minutes and finally got up holding his shoulder. His return was deemed doutbful at halftime and Kellogg sat him for the entire second half with the injury.
Elon sharp-shooter Jack Isenbarger had to have his left shoulder popped back in after he was injured early on in the second half. The junior and second leading returner scorer from a year ago managed to play for just 19 minutes and scored 3 points on one of nine shooting.
UMass will next be in action Monday when they host in-state rivals Northeastern at 7PM at the Mullins Center.