Amherst, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 13th-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen return home to the Mullins Center on Sunday afternoon, as they tangle with the Fordham Rams in Atlantic 10 Conference action.
Fordham had been losers of six straight games coming into its most recent contest, but it snapped out of its funk with a 76-70 home victory over George Mason on Wednesday afternoon to improve to 1-4 in the A-10. The Rams are now 8-10 overall but just 2-6 on the road.
UMass was cruising with six straight wins overall and a 3-0 start in league play before wrapping up a three-game road trip on Wednesday at Richmond, where it dropped a 58-55 heartbreaker. The Minutemen have still established themselves as one of the nation's top teams with 16 wins in 18 tries, and they have yet to lose in seven games at the Mullins Center.
The Minutemen took down last season's meeting with Fordham on the road, 77-73, to improve to 26-12 in the all-time series.
The Rams trailed George Mason midway through the second half of their latest outing before using an 8-0 to take control of the contest and eventually holding on for the six-point victory. They shot an impressive 49 percent from the field, drained 20-of-28 from the foul line and took care of the basketball with just eight turnovers. Branden Frazier led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-14 from the floor, while Jon Severe was hot on his heels with 21 points.
Despite shooting a lackluster 40.2 percent from the field this season, Fordham posts a strong 74.9 ppg thanks to its 7.5 3-pointers per contest and 73.3 percent showing from the free-throw line, but it has struggled to win games due to its porous defense (77.0 ppg). Severe is the A-10's leading scorer with 20.9 ppg, but he oftentimes hurts more than he helps with a .358 field goal percentage. Frazier brings 18.1 ppg and 4.3 apg to the table, Mandell Thomas puts up 12.2 ppg and Ryan Rhoomes is a sturdy presence in the paint with 7.7 ppg and 8.0 rpg.
With their latest game tied at 40 with under 10 minutes to play, the Minutemen fell victim to a 10-2 Richmond run as they lost control of the low-scoring contest down the stretch. It was their worst offensive performance of the season, shooting just 39.6 percent from the field (including 2-of-14 from 3- point range). Sampson Carter poured in 15 points, Cady Lalanne tallied a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, and while Chaz Williams was dreadful from the field (2-of-11), he still helped out with seven assists.
UMass is typically an outstanding offensive squad, shooting 47 percent from the field for a league-best 77.9 ppg, which helps mask its less-than-stellar defensive effort (70.1 ppg). Williams leads the way at point guard, netting 15.8 ppg while leading the A-10 in assists with 7.3 per contest. Lalanne is a nightly double-double threat with 14.0 ppg and 9.3 rpg, while adding 2.4 bpg as well. Carter (11.2 ppg), Raphiael Putney (10.6 ppg), Maxie Esho (8.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Derrick Gordon (8.6 rpg) also bring regular contributions to the balanced squad.