Elon forward Lucas Troutman (31) loses the ball as he is fouled by Massachusetts center Tyler Bergantino (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Elon, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)
AMHERST — In the recent past, Richmond coach Chris Mooney, like most Atlantic 10 coaches, knew that the key to slowing down the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team was to actually slow the tempo down.
UMass had relied so much on its transition offense that forcing it to play in the half court put it at a considerable disadvantage. But the No. 13-ranked Minutemen (16-1, 3-0 Atlantic 10) have become a much better half-court team as they get set to play Mooney and the Spiders (12-6, 2-1) Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Robins Center in Richmond, Va.
UMass is “so good. When you start to look at an opponent, the thing that jumps out at you is how they score, where they’re comfortable scoring, where do they get their scoring from,” Mooney said. “These guys are very versatile. Chaz Williams is obviously the MVP in our league. He does so many things to get guys open and (Cady) Lalanne is probably the most productive big guy in our league. Chaz really helps them play at any speed. He’s obviously deadly in transition, but he’s also a terrific player in the half court. His decision making is really good at any speed.”
Much of UMass’ improvement in the half court comes from the emergence of Lalanne.
“When Cady is on his game and playing at a high level, we’re a much better team. We controlled the paint against Elon and at times against George Mason,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “The paint is where the game is won and lost quite frequently. Offensive rebound putbacks are back-breakers to a certain extent because they feel like they stopped you then your big guy gets it and puts it back in. Most of the time those are easy ones too. I’m on Cady quite a bit to continue to improve and make sure he’s making those plays.”
Lalanne, who averages 14.2 points, ranks second in the Atlantic 10 with 9.1 rebounds per game.
UMass will need Lalanne to be successful inside. Richmond is second in the conference in field goal percentage defense as opponents have shot just 40.5 percent. The figure is helped by the shot-blocking of Alonzo Nelson-Adoba, who is tied for the A-10 lead with 2.5 blocks per game.
The Spiders are vulnerable on the glass as they’ve been outrebounded by 5.4 boards per game, which is worst in the conference. Most of Richmond’s offense comes from its guards. Cedrick Lindsay is second in the conference at 19.1 points per game, while Kendall Anthony averages 13.3 points out of a modified Princeton offense.
Kellogg said the Spiders aren’t a traditional Princeton-type team slowing the clock down.
“They’re opportunistic. They’re sneaky,” Kellogg said. “They run a little more than people give them credit for.”
The Spiders opened the season 7-2 before dropping four of their next seven, including their Atlantic 10 opener at St. Bonaventure. After escaping Fordham in overtime, 77-74, they beat Dayton, 73-64, on Saturday.
TREY DAVIS VS. TREY DAVIS — The game pits the Atlantic 10’s two players who are named Trey Davis. Both are sophomores. Richmond’s Trey Davis (4.8 ppg) is a 6-foot-5 forward who leads the team in rebounding (6.1 rpg).
FUTURE SELLOUT — UMass tweeted earlier Tuesday that there are less than 300 tickets available for the Minutemen’s Feb. 21 game against Virginia Commonwealth.