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UMass Vs. Northeastern: In-state Rivals Play Rare Contest

Chaz Williams looks to keep the Minutemen undefeated as they open their home slate at the Mullins Center against the Northeastern Huskies at 7 p.m.

Event:  UMass Minutemen Vs. Northeastern Huskies

Date/Time: Monday, November 14, 2011-7p.m. EDT.

Location: Mullins Center (Capacity: 9,493), Amherst, MA.

Broadcast Info: The Massachusetts rivalry will be broadcast live on WBIN-TV Boston with Josh Maurer and Tim Kenney on the call. A radio broadcast of the game will also be available from Adam Frenier and Tim Collins on 1510 AM The Zone in Eastern Massachusetts.

All Time Series: UMass and Northeastern meet up for the 52nd time with UMass holding a 34-17 lead. They haven’t played since November 2006 in the Carrier Classic when the Minutemen won 79-56 in a game that took place in Pittsburgh. It will be only the third time these teams have met since 1989.

Last Time Out: Both teams are coming off wins in their season openers Friday night. UMass used a big second half to put away a pesky Elon University group 85-67. Three Minutemen combined to score 52 points in the victory including point guard Chaz Williams who dazzled the home crowd. After trailing by four at the half, UMass went on a 21-6 over the first 5:25 of the second half to take control of the game.

Playing in front of a rowdy road crowd, Northeastern outlasted Boston University 82-74 in overtime behind double-doubles from Joel Smith (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Reggie Spencer (16 points, 10 rebounds). The Huskies let an 11-point second half lead go but managed to earn the victory by closing the extra session with a 13-2 run.  

Storyline: UMass and Northeastern square off in an early season showdown trying to improve to 2-0 and earn some Massachusetts bragging rights. Three nights after both teams needed pivotal runs to put their games away, the Huskies and Minutemen will match up in a series that dates back to 1921-22.

Both teams seemed to find a solution to their Achilles heels from a year ago in their season openers. After struggling to find a consistent point guard last season, transfer Chaz Williams proved to be more than competent Friday for UMass. Williams finished with 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds and was the spark plug for a Minutemen offense that will look to push the ball more this season.

A year after struggling to control the paint and constantly being dominated on the boards, Northeastern pulled down 20 more rebounds than the Terriers (52-32). Four players pulled down eight rebounds or more including Smith, Spencer, Kauri Black and Alwayne Bigby, who was playing in his first game since December 2010. The Huskies turned 19 offensive rebounds into 22 second chance points and finished with 42 points in the paint.

Players To Watch:

Chaz Williams saw his first game action in over a year Friday and proved to be the most impressive player on the floor. Northeastern should be a tougher test with bigger and more athletic guards but it will be interesting to see if Williams can take advantage of his speed. Terriers point guard D.J. Irving was able to get to the lane quiet often against the Huskies defense Friday night.

Joel Smith recorded his first career double-double Friday night and added five assists for good measure. The junior co-captain did a little bit of everything Friday and did it well. Tonight he might even draw the task of trying to slow down Williams for stretches while serving as the leader of the Huskies on the offensive end.

Junior Terrell Vinson didn’t get the start on Friday but still managed 17 points and a team-high 11 rebounds for UMass. The junior swingman’s versatility, he can play any position from point guard to power forward, could come in handy against a Northeastern squad that will use a variety of looks and lineups.

Prediction: This is a game that could easily go either way. Both teams are projected towards the bottom of their respective conferences after down years but have rosters infused with new talent. UMass has the slight edge with the more proven big men and the better floor general though.

UMass 73, Northeastern 68