Men’s Basketball: No. 22 Minutemen race past Bobcats, improve unbeaten record

In one of their biggest home games of the season, the Ohio men’s basketball team made a couple of runs to ask questions of unbeaten Massachusetts, but the Minutemen answered every one of the questions posed by Jim Christian’s bunch.

No. 22 UMass (10-0) maintained its unblemished record with a comfortable 83-71 victory against the Ohio Bobcats (7-3) at the Convocation Center on Wednesday evening.

“I’m very disappointed,” Ohio head coach Jim Christian said on the Ohio IMG Sports Network post-game radio show. “On the defensive end, this isn’t who we’ve been all year. If you want to beat a ranked team, you cannot miss open shots and free throws. It was a missed opportunity.”

After trailing by as much as 13 points in the first half, the ‘Cats made a run early in the second half. A Nick Kellogg three-point play and Stevie Taylor layup cut the deficit to six, 53-47, with 15:51 left in the contest.

But as they had done all night leading up to that moment, UMass showed why they are nationally ranked. A three-point bomb from Chaz Williams, and layups from Derrick Gordon and Maxie Esho extended the Minutemen’s lead to 11, 64-53, with 11:14 left in the game.

The Bobcats, who normally use the three to win games, were only 5-of-22 from downtown, while UMass was 9-of-14 from three-point range.

“We had a couple of questionable threes, but if we wanted to win, we had to make the plays we normally make,” Christian said.

Williams finished the game with 11 points and 11 assists for the visitors. Esho scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Sampson Carter, Gordon and Raphiael Putney tallied 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively.

On the other side, Maurice Ndour scored 16 points, collected six boards and had four assists. Kellogg contributed 12 points, two rebounds and two assists, while Taylor chipped in with nine points and three rebounds.

For UMass to continue its exemplary start to the season, they needed to get off to a fast start, and they were able to do so. Putney’s eight straight points and an Esho layup gave the Minutemen a 19-10 lead with 10:37 remaining until halftime.

Following Ohio’s strong effort to decrease the deficit to six, the Minutemen received support from big man Cady Lalanne and sharpshooting from Trey Davis to make the score 45-34 at the break.

UMass shot 65.4 percent from the floor in the first half (17-of-26). Both teams forced three steals, and UMass recorded four blocks compared to Ohio’s one.

The Minutemen used an 11-2 spurt to effectively put the result beyond doubt. Three-point baskets from Carter and Williams handed UMass an 80-61 advantage with 2:55 remaining in the contest.

The Minutemen shot 61.5 percent from the field in the contest (32-of-52), while Ohio only shot 41.2 percent from the floor (28-of-68). Massachusetts outrebounded Ohio, 38-34, and had 20 assists compared to Ohio’s 17. The ‘Cats held a 9-5 advantage in steals.

The loss is Ohio’s first defeat at the Convo this season, and UMass improved its road record to 4-0.

The road will not get any easier for the Bobcats as they will travel to Richmond to take on the Spiders (8-3) on Sunday at 1 p.m. Christian knows the Spiders will provide Ohio with another tough examination.

“I have respect for their program,” Christian said. “They are another good A-10 team we will have to compete against.”

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