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NCAA Basketball Atlantic 10 BasketballMassachusetts Minutemen

Good Ball Movement Helps UMass Minutemen Hold Off Fordham Rams

Jim O’Connor – US Presswire

It helps when one of the best point guards in the Atlantic 10 Conference plays on your team.

That’s the case for the Massachusetts Minutemen, who boast junior Chaz Williams. Williams scored a game-high 22 points in a 77-73 win over the Fordham Rams on Sunday.

Williams led a smooth-handling Minutemen squad that committed just just seven turnovers.

Outside of Raphiael Putney‘s three turnovers and Terrell Vinson‘s two miscues, no other Minuteman had more than a single turnover on the day.

UMass plays its best basketball when Williams draws attention into the lane and creates space on the perimeter for guys like Vinson (19 points) and Freddy Riley (11 points). Williams picked up a new way to keep defenses honest recently, joining Vinson and Riley behind the 3-point line.

Williams is 11 of 20 from beyond the arc in the Minutemen’s last five games and expanding his game can only help UMass going forward.

The Brooklyn native is known for putting his body on the line, which can be listed as a major factor if coach Derrick Kellogg develops high blood pressure in the near future, but one thing Williams brings to the table is efficient scoring. Other teams are fully aware Williams is the key that turns the UMass engine but Williams’ ability to find teammates in space makes it that much more difficult for teams to defend the Minutemen.

One of the places players truly work on their own is rebounding, though, and the Rams exposed the Minutemen’s sore area with a 51-37 edge on the boards on Sunday.

Six different UMass players put up 3-point attempts on Sunday but only three players found the bottom of the net from deep. Further complicating the situation is the fact that there are only four guards on the UMass roster. Now, obviously forwards and centers have the right to take 3-pointers when given good looks. However, the 6-foot-9 Putney is just a 25-percent 3-point shooter this season while averaging just 4.8 rebounds per-game. That’s a waste of some quality height.

Furthermore, when there aren’t as many players working on the offensive glass, that creates a great situation for opposing teams to ramp up the transition points late in games, which is exactly what Fordham did.

Branden Frazier had 18 points in the second half for the Rams and Chris Gaston added another 16 points to his line after the break.

If the Minutemen can’t keep up the defensive pressure in the second half and finish games, rest assured they won’t be in a favorable position come tournament time.

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@gmail.com, or on Twitter:@mgillmei