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No suspense as UMass men's hoop wins seventh straight

  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, center, passes away from Matt Balkema of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, center, passes away from Matt Balkema of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts, left, looks for a shot between Eastern Massachusetts defenders Da'Shonte Riley, right, and J.R. Sims Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts, left, looks for a shot between Eastern Massachusetts defenders Da'Shonte Riley, right, and J.R. Sims Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Terrell Vinson of the University of Massachusetts, left, shoots against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Terrell Vinson of the University of Massachusetts, left, shoots against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jesse Morgan of the University of Massachusetts, right, drives to the basket against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Jesse Morgan of the University of Massachusetts, right, drives to the basket against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Freddie Riley of the University of Massachusetts, right, shoots against J.R. Sims of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Freddie Riley of the University of Massachusetts, right, shoots against J.R. Sims of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts, top, begins a dunk against Jalen Ross of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts, top, begins a dunk against Jalen Ross of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sampson Carter of the University of Massachusetts, right, looks for a shot while defended by Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Sampson Carter of the University of Massachusetts, right, looks for a shot while defended by Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts dunks beside Glenn Bryant of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts dunks beside Glenn Bryant of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Freddie Riley, left, and Maxie Esho, center, of the University of Massachusetts close in on Jalen Ross of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Freddie Riley, left, and Maxie Esho, center, of the University of Massachusetts close in on Jalen Ross of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lou Roe, right, chats with Rich Hogans on the University of Massachusetts bench during the Minutemen's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Lou Roe, right, chats with Rich Hogans on the University of Massachusetts bench during the Minutemen's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Sampson Carter is shown, front.

    University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Sampson Carter is shown, front. Purchase photo reprints »

  • University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts moves the ball against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts moves the ball against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, center, drives to the basket against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, center, drives to the basket against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jesse Morgan of the University of Massachusetts, center, heads up the court after stealing the ball from J.R. Sims of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Jesse Morgan of the University of Massachusetts, center, heads up the court after stealing the ball from J.R. Sims of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts passes during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts passes during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ahead by 15 points with one minute left to play in their win against Eastern Michigan, University of Massachusetts players Terrell Vinson, from left, Cady Lalanne, Freddie Riley, Maxie Esho, Sampson Carter and Chaz Williams react on the bench Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Ahead by 15 points with one minute left to play in their win against Eastern Michigan, University of Massachusetts players Terrell Vinson, from left, Cady Lalanne, Freddie Riley, Maxie Esho, Sampson Carter and Chaz Williams react on the bench Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, left, collides with Matt Balkema of Eastern Michigan after passing the ball Saturday at the Mullins Center.

    Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, left, collides with Matt Balkema of Eastern Michigan after passing the ball Saturday at the Mullins Center. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, center, passes away from Matt Balkema of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts, left, looks for a shot between Eastern Massachusetts defenders Da'Shonte Riley, right, and J.R. Sims Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Terrell Vinson of the University of Massachusetts, left, shoots against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Jesse Morgan of the University of Massachusetts, right, drives to the basket against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Freddie Riley of the University of Massachusetts, right, shoots against J.R. Sims of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts, top, begins a dunk against Jalen Ross of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Sampson Carter of the University of Massachusetts, right, looks for a shot while defended by Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Maxie Esho of the University of Massachusetts dunks beside Glenn Bryant of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Freddie Riley, left, and Maxie Esho, center, of the University of Massachusetts close in on Jalen Ross of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Lou Roe, right, chats with Rich Hogans on the University of Massachusetts bench during the Minutemen's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center. Sampson Carter is shown, front.
  • University of Massachusetts Head Coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts moves the ball against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, center, drives to the basket against Da'Shonte Riley of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Jesse Morgan of the University of Massachusetts, center, heads up the court after stealing the ball from J.R. Sims of Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts passes during his team's win against Eastern Michigan Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Ahead by 15 points with one minute left to play in their win against Eastern Michigan, University of Massachusetts players Terrell Vinson, from left, Cady Lalanne, Freddie Riley, Maxie Esho, Sampson Carter and Chaz Williams react on the bench Saturday at the Mullins Center.
  • Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts, left, collides with Matt Balkema of Eastern Michigan after passing the ball Saturday at the Mullins Center.

Nobody’s hair got grayer and nobody’s blood pressure was affected. The Minutemen won a game with no suspense, a rare occurrence this season, as they pulled away from Eastern Michigan 75-61 Saturday at the Mullins Center. It was the seventh straight win by UMass and its first by double-digits this season.

“We got back to our UMass identity of pressing and playing for 40 minutes and trying to control tempo,” Minuteman coach Derek Kellogg said. “We haven’t worked on the press quite enough in practice and haven’t had really as much practice time as late as I would have liked. So we still made some errors and mistakes.

“But just to see the (5,060) fans get into the game,” he added. “Not only do we want to win, but I think the fans want us to win playing a certain style here, or at least with some energy and getting up and down the floor. Although it wasn’t perfect, it was a nice win for the team and we will take it.”

Scoring against zone defenses has been a challenge for UMass in recent years and Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy brought his defense with him from Syracuse, where he was an assistant under zone guru Jim Boeheim. But the Minutemen picked it apart.

Led by Freddie Riley (18 points), UMass shot over it in the first half. They made nine 3-pointers (five by Riley), their most in any half this season. Riley made five straight in a 17-3 run that turned an early 12-10 deficit into a 27-15 lead for the Minutemen with 7 minutes, 7 seconds left until intermission.

UMass stretched that edge to 38-25 at halftime.

The Minutemen’s pattern in their victories this season has been to take a double-digit lead early and then let opponents back in, creating anxious moments down the stretch. So when the Eagles (7-7) opened the second half on a 15-6 run to cut the UMass edge to 44-40 with 12:57 left, it looked like Saturday would follow that familiar script.

But out of the only time-out Kellogg called in the game, Maxie Esho (13 points, nine rebounds) and Chaz Williams sliced up Eastern Michigan’s now extended zone in a 10-0 Minutemen run that increased the lead to 54-40 with 12:57 left. Esho had six points in the surge on three dunks and Williams had the other four and assisted on two of Esho’s three baskets. The Eagles never got within single-digits again.

“I thought it was a good adjustment by the team and myself, I guess, to kind of say, ‘We need to start attacking it,’ ”  Kellogg said. “It’s the players. You put it on paper, you show them what we’re doing, and they’ve got to go execute, and I thought they did a nice job. Maxie did a real nice job of working that baseline in the second half and finding some holes in it.”

Williams had 14 points (eight in the second half), nine assists and four rebounds. Esho finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.

“Coming out of that time-out, we all looked at each other,” Williams said. “I just told the guys, ‘Let’s keep it going. Let’s not play very slow. Let’s not pace ourselves and let them come back in the game. Let’s keep the gas to the floor and just keep going.’ We answered well and we were able to play and continue our lead.”

Williams said the Minutemen should be more confident against similar defenses down the road.

“It just shows that we can play against a tough zone,” Williams said. “Coach had mentioned to us that today’s coach had worked as an assistant at Syracuse and it would be the same type of 2-3 defense so we were just trying to attack as much as possible. Coach pointed out in the first half that we shot a little too many 3s, so in the second half, we just tried to attack the basket and just find the open guy.”

Kellogg inserted rarely used freshmen big men Tyler Bergantino and Izzy Freeman for the final two minutes of the game.

UMass finished its nonconference schedule at 10-3 and swept its four games against Mid-American Conference teams. It travels to Saint Louis at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GazetteUMass.

Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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Freddie Riley ignites crowd, Minutemen with 3-point shooting

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

AMHERST — Anytime Freddie Riley makes a 3-pointer, especially early, there’s a buzz of anticipation in the Mullins Center. During four years of watching the University of Massachusetts senior guard, the fans know that one made 3 can start an avalanche for the streaky shooter. So after the first one dropped in Saturday and Riley elevated for the second, most … 0

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