Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
The second half of men’s basketball games have been the rockiest part of their play this season, allowing opposing teams back into games after building early leads.
The Rams, who host La Salle on Saturday, are trying to avoid another inconsistent half and play more like they did against Dayton last Friday.
At St. Bonaventure on Jan. 20, the black and gold led by 15 at the break, but lost by 16. The second half issues were adjusted against Dayton on Jan. 23, when the Rams blew the Flyers out by 23 points.
“That second half was so much different than the second half against Dayton because we responded to things that didn’t go our way,” coach Mike Rhoades said Tuesday. “We had to go through that second half … you got to get knocked over, you got to get whooped to realize how you are going to respond to adversity.”
Junior forward Vince Williams credited the improved half to shot selection.
“Just because we can be up by a lot, they can get easy ones and see something go in, that can really change the game because we all play at a high level,” Williams said after the Dayton game.
Williams said he looked at the scoreboard at the half of the Dayton game and saw VCU’s lead by 20 and thought, “hopefully this don’t happen again.”
“We decided that we’ve got to keep going. Rhoades didn’t have to say anything about it,” Williams said. “It was just a team player conversation, and we did what we had to do.”
Sophomore guard Bones Hyland, who scored a team-high 28 points against Dayton, said that even though they won, the focus at practice has to be the same.
“Even though we won, we’ve got to keep the energy up,” Hyland said. “We’ve got to keep that level of focus and locking back in honestly.”
The black and gold were scheduled to host UMass on Wednesday, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 contact tracing within the opposing team’s program. The game will be rescheduled by the Atlantic 10 for later in the season.
Rhoades said although the Minutemen are young, they play with confidence.
“They play with swag and they play with the level of confidence that I think you need in this league, and they have that,” Rhoades said.
UMass is led by sophomore forward Tre Mitchell, who’s averaging 20 points this season.
“If he can’t touch it, he can’t score,” Rhoades said of Mitchell. “The second you relax on him or get away from the ball, he’s going to score. He does a really good job at stepping away from the basket and putting it on the floor to get by guys as a guy at his size.”
The Minutemen are second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring, averaging 80.2 points, while their defense allows the second-most points with 74.3 points.
The Rams will host La Salle on Saturday at 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.