Freddie Riley, Trey Davis contribute late as UMass men’s basketball holds off Fordham
BRONX, N.Y. — A familiar script produced the same ending for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team Sunday.
The Minutemen built a big lead at Fordham and — like they did against Northeastern, Siena and Northern Illinois — had to survive a late surge to prevail 77-73 at Rose Hill Gymnasium.
This game featured a new set of heroes in leading roles.
With Jesse Morgan out indefinitely with a knee sprain, UMass guards Freddie Riley and Trey Davis both rose to the occasion late.
The Minutemen led by as many as 15 in the first half, but the Rams climbed back quickly. The lead hovered around eight for most of the second half, but Fordham scored seven straight and cut its deficit to 67-65 with exactly two minutes left. Cady Lalanne tipped in a missed pull-up jumper by Davis, but Travion Leonard answered with two free throws to make it 69-67 with 1:04 remaining.
Riley was 1-for-7 from 3-point range when Davis found him in the corner late in the shot clock, but the senior did not hesitate and knocked down what might have been the biggest shot of his UMass career, a 3 that gave the Minutemen a 72-67 lead with 34 seconds on the clock.
“That 3 that Riley made when we went box-and-one on Chaz (Williams) was the game winner,” Rams coach Tom Pecora said.
Riley said the shot just came in the flow of the offense.
“I was just trying to focus on the next shot,” said Riley, who had 11 points. “My shot wasn’t really falling as much as I wanted it to. You can’t really hang your head when the game was going on. You just have to be ready for the next shot ...
“Whatever shots the team needs me to take, I’m going to take,” he added. “I just stepped up and made the shot. If they need me to take them next game, I’ll take them next game too.”
After Branden Frazier made one free throw, Fordham fouled Williams, who hit both of his.
Frazier answered with a 3-pointer that brought the Rams within 74-71 and Fordham called time out. Determined to make somebody else beat them, the Rams blanketed Williams and Sampson Carter got the ball to Davis, who was quickly fouled with 13 seconds left.
The freshman calmly stepped up and made both free throws to extend the lead to 76-71 with 13 seconds left.
Frazier made two more free throws to cut the deficit to 76-73 with eight seconds left and then quickly fouled Davis again. This time the freshman made just one of two, but it was enough to clinch the game.
“Chaz just told me ‘Let’s knock them down and get out of here,’ ” Davis said. “That’s what I did.”
Williams said he was proud of the way UMass bounced back from losing its Atlantic 10 opener Thursday.
“Losing at Saint Louis hurt us,” Williams said. “It’s not how you fall, but how you get up. We did what we had to do tonight. But there’s still more we can do.”
The Minutemen (11-4, 1-1 Atlantic 10) will host Duquesne at 7 p.m. Thursday.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said he was pleased with how Riley and Davis took advantage of Morgan’s absence.
“When somebody is hurt and can’t play a particular day, you take advantage of an opportunity. Freddie has tried to do that all year,” Kellogg said. “Trey is doing a nice job of trying to find some minutes.”
Leading scorers Chris Gaston and Frazier, who had two and three points in the first half respectively, carried the load in the second half for the Rams (5-12, 1-1 A-10). Gaston finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots, while Frazier had 21 points.
Williams, the junior point guard who is a Brooklyn native, had 22 points, seven assists, six rebounds and no turnovers in his first game back in New York City since last year’s NIT semifinals.
“We need him to play that way right now, especially with Jesse’s injury,” Kellogg said. “We need him to get other guys involved, score for yourself and continue to play great defense. He’s held to a pretty high standard.”
True to his word, Kellogg gave freshmen Davis and Tyler Bergantino (two points, one rebound in four minutes) more playing time in Morgan’s absence and both contributed.
But it was Terrell Vinson who carried the Minutemen early. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half — his most ever in a half — as UMass took a 40-26 lead at halftime.
After intermission Vinson was slowed by Fordham and foul trouble, and he eventually fouled out.
“I loved the way TV played, especially in the first half when he put us on his back and got us a nice lead,” Kellogg said.
The Minutemen took the lead despite getting being dominated on the boards by the Rams. Fordham outrebounded UMass 55-42 and had 26 offensive rebounds.
“Winning on the road against a team that is much improved and had won its last three at home is a good start for our program,” Kellogg said.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.