AMHERST -- Every win counts as one, but not every victory is the same.
Before the University of Massachusetts lost Wednesday night at Richmond, the Minutemen had won six games by an average margin of five points. Sunday afternoon, the 13th-ranked Minutemen changed the tune.
Chaz Williams had a game-high 18 points and eight assists as the Minutemen routed Fordham 90-52 before a capacity crowd of 9,493 in the Mullins Center.
"Especially coming off a loss in the last game, we wanted to come out and we felt like we wanted to get our swagger back," said the senior point guard. "We feel like we weren’t playing UMass basketball and doing what we were used to doing."
The Minutemen (17-2, 4-1 in the Atlantic 10), as has been their habit in recent games, started out slowly. The Rams (8-11, 1-5), who came into the game having beaten George Mason after losing six straight, opened the game with a 7-0 run. From that point, the Minutemen went on a 27-6 run that was stopped by a TV time out with 7:00 left.
"I thought that other than the start, it was a nice, complete game for us," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "The guys paid attention to detail, locked in defensively and it was nice to see the ball go in the basket."
That was a bit of an understatement.
The Minutemen shot 51.6 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent (13 of 27) from behind the 3-point arc for the game. UMass had 40 points in the paint, 17 points off turnovers, 14 second-chance points and 19 fast-break points.
Kellogg said his biggest concern has been at the offensive end of the floor. In the wake of the 58-55 loss at Richmond, the offense was what he had his team work the most on.
"We had a team meeting. We went out and did some offensive stuff [in practice], and had some fun," Kellogg said. "I didn’t clobber them over the head.
"I wanted to see the ball go in the basket so we shot 9,000 shots each the last two days. After the open ones we missed against Richmond, I didn’t want to see that again."
The Minutemen got on the board with 16:44 left when Maxie Esho scored on the rebound of a 3-point miss by Trey Davis. Davis then rebounded a miss by Fordham’s Jon Severe. Davis quickly moved the ball into the frontcourt and dished to Esho for a dunk.
UMass had five dunks in that run and three, 3-point hoops. When Raphaiel Putney caught a pass from Williams and drained a 3-ball from deep on the left win, the 7-0 Fordham lead became a 27-14 deficit.
UMass took a 40-24 lead at halftime, a margin that was anything but insurmountable. Well, not if you get run out of the gym in the second half.
Fordham, instead of making a run of its own, took a 17-0 Minuteman haymaker in the first five minutes of the second half. That was all she wrote.
"They’re obviously a very good basketball team, worthy of being ranked [13th] in the country, worthy of playing in front of sellout crowds here like the old days, when Derek was playing and Cal [former coach John Calipari] was coaching," said Fordham coach Tom Pecora. "We knew this could happen."
Four different Minutemen scored in double figures: Putney and Trey Davis had 13 points each and Esho had 10 to go with Williams’ 18.
Fordham’s Severe, who came in averaging 20.9 points per game, was held to seven on 2-of-14 shooting from the field. Chris Whitehead led the Rams with 13 points.
Every UMass player that got in the game scored. Freshmen Clyde Santee, Demetrius Dyson and Seth Berger all got double-digit minutes. Dyson became the last Minuteman to score a point this season when he hit a 3-point shot with 8:02 left.
"The freshmen have been practicing really hard and giving the starters and the top eight a good run in practice," said Kellogg. "To see them come in and duplicate that during the game lends for more confidence and more guys we can go to."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman