Amherst, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Off to the team's best start since the 1995-96 season, the 22nd-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen put their unblemished record on the line, as they play host to the Northern Illinois Huskies in a non-conference matchup at the Mullins Center on Saturday.
Derek Kellogg's Minutemen are 8-0 on the young season. It marks the team's longest win streak in more than 15 years. UMass has used potent scoring to navigate through its schedule thus far, including last weekend's 105-96 shootout win over BYU.
Mark Montgomery's Huskies have struggled to find consistency early on, as evidenced by the team's 3-4 record thus far. NIU has won two of its last three games however, including a 64-57 triumph over Dartmouth last week.
Massachusetts has won both previous matchups with Northern Illinois, including a 64-59 decision in DeKalb last season.
The Huskies and Big Green went toe-to-toe for 36 minutes of action, tied with just four minutes left in the game, but NIU went on a 10-3 run to close out and earn the win. Northern Illinois had a big advantage from the free- throw line, outscoring Dartmouth 21-6 from the charity stripe. Darrell Bowie led the team with 12 points in the win. Jordan Threloff added 11 points, while Pete Rakocevic chipped in with 10.
Huge offensive outbursts have not been commonplace in DeKalb this season. The Huskies are shooting a rather bland .413 from the floor and it has led to a modest 69.0 ppg. The team's strength however, has come on the boards, with NIU outrebounding foes by 7.7 caroms per game. Bowie is shooting a mere .387 from the floor, but paces NIU in both scoring (10.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg). Threloff (9.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) has started just once in eight games, but ranks second in both categories.
One of the strongest offensive squads over the first two months of the season, Massachusetts has delivered on 47.8 percent from the floor, leading to a hefty 84.5 ppg. Scoring depth is vast, as all five starters are averaging double figures. The crown jewel of the UMass attack is point guard Chaz Williams. The 5-foot-9 senior is pouring in 17.5 ppg, while also serving as the team's top distributor (7.6 apg). Junior center Cady Lalanne is a perfect complement with his dominance down low, averaging a double-double with 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Sampson Carter (13.8 ppg), Raphiael Putney (12.6 ppg) and Derrick Gordon (10.9 ppg) provide more than enough options at the offensive end.
There was very little defense in UMass' victory over BYU, as the teams combined for 201 points. Williams was masterful in the win, posting 32 points and 15 assists, with just one turnover in 34 minutes of work. Carter poured in 20 points, followed by Putney (15 pts), Maxie Esho (12 pts). Trey Davis (11 pts) and Gordon (10 pts). The Minutemen shot a sterling .556 from the floor and were an efficient 26-of-31 from the free-throw line.