It was probably the ugliest win of the season for the UMass Minutemen, but Derek Kellogg's crew will take what it can get after escaping the Convocation Center with a 69-57 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Raphiael Putney scored 15 points to lead a group of four Minutemen in double figures, Karrington Ward and Daylen Harrison each had 11 for the Eagles.
For much of the game, it looked like EMU was going to give the No. 21 Minutemen their first loss of the season. The Eagles looked sharper on offense, were keeping UMass from getting the shots it wanted, and Da'Shonte Riley was posing the single biggest threat to the Minutemen as he patrolled the center of the EMU zone and made like difficult on Cady Lalanne. The two-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Week was held to a pedestrian (for him, anyway) 12 points and 13 rebounds while Riley put up 10 points, nine rebounds with four blocks.
EMU actually took a lead into the half, leading by seven in the final seconds before a buzzer-beating three by Putney closed the lead to 35-31. UMass did not seem ready for the Eagles guards speed on defense and struggled to find any rhythm behind the arc, going 1-for-10 before Putney's three. The second half was a much different story as Kellogg came out of the locker room with a better gameplan -- one that included a lot of penetration, just six three-point attempts, and only five turnovers.
The result of the updated gameplan? A 38-22 advantage by UMass in the second frame that pushed the Minutemen to their seventh win of the season.
For the Eagles, this was their second quality loss in as many games. After putting up a solid effort against Kentucky last week, Rob Murphy's team took another top-25 squad the distance before coming up just short. A lot of coaches hate to talk about moral victories, but these last two games are as close to moral victories as it gets this time of year and will do nothing but give EMU a lift come conference season.
Stat of the Game - 11 blocks for EMU
That's right: EMU had 11 blocks against UMass on Tuesday night. Riley is an animal in the paint and did a fabulous job defending Lalanne inside. EMU's zone defense is a total-team effort and allows Riley to make some blocks as a help defender as well. He had five on Tuesday, Glenn Bryant added three, Harrison had two and Ward had one.
Player of the Game - Raphiael Putney
It seemed like every time UMass needed a play, Putney made it. Whether it was a big shot (2-of-4 3PT), a big rebound (nine rebounds), a play to be made (four assists) or a defensive stop (three blocks, steal), Putney was there. He made a buzzer-beater, a bank shot, and dunked on someone. A fun night for No. 34.
UMass MAC Redemption Tour Stops
- WIN - UMass 69, Eastern Michigan 57.
- Dev. 14 vs. Northern Illinois, 3:00 p.m.
- Dec. 18 at Ohio, 7:00 p.m.
- Jan. 4 vs. Miami, 7:00 p.m.
- Spread Offense: Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois MAC Championship Game Odds
- Northern Illinois' Head Coach Rod Carey Indicates That Tommylee Lewis Is "Ready To Go"
- MAC Championship Game History, Part I: The Marshall Years
- Hustle Belt's Men's Basketball Players of the Week: Week 4
- MAC Women's Basketball Power Rankings: Week 4