AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts wasn’t as sharp or intense as it was in its wins over Boston College or Louisiana State, but it didn’t need to be.
The Minutemen kept Youngstown State at arm’s length throughout and coasted to an 85-69 win Sunday at the Mullins Center.
“Could we have played better? Absolutely,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “Did we have as much energy as we did against LSU? Maybe a little less. We took care of business, but not exactly the way I would have preferred.”
UMass quickly stretched an eight-point halftime lead to 45-30 on a Derrick Gordon layup with 16 minutes, 33 seconds left. But the Minutemen seemed to ease up a bit with the big advantage as the Penguins used a 13-4 surge to get back within striking distance at 49-43, sparking a timeout from Kellogg with 13:34 left.
Out of the break, Sampson Carter had five points in an 8-2 spurt that put UMass ahead by double digits to stay.
“We’re more mature than we were last year and the year before,” Kellogg said. “I thought these guys said let’s not let it get below six or eight and made some plays.”
The players who have led UMass (3-0) in the first two games continued their strong starts. Chaz Williams (19 points) just missed his third straight 20 point game, but he had a season-high 11 assists (six turnovers). Cady Lalanne had 13 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. Carter had 19 points and Raphiael Putney added 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and capped the game with a mammoth one-handed dunk.
The Minutemen shot 55.2 percent (32 for 58), including 63.6 percent (28 for 44) from inside the arc. They had 21 layups or dunks and relied much less on 3-pointers than in recent years.
“I think it’s maturity,” Kellogg said. “We don’t have a guy at the two spot that can take bad 3s and get them off. At times (last year) we start a game and just fire them off. We’re playing a little bit differently.”
Kellogg was pleased with the result, but not with his team’s execution.
“I thought we did a good job in spurts of playing UMass basketball,” Kellogg said. “It was a good team effort, but I thought we turned the ball over way too much against a team that wasn’t pressing. Nineteen turnovers meant that we were sloppy. We’ll take the win. I really like that we’re 3-0.”
Youngstown leading scorer Kendrick Perry finished with 14 points. He shot 6 for 20 from the floor with most of his points coming when the game was out of reach.
“We told our guards that he gets no open looks,” Kellogg said. “We made it real hard for him to get open 3s.”
Marcus Keene led Youngstown (4-1) with 20 points.
The Minutemen head south where they’ll play Nebraska to open the Charleston (S.C.) Classic, Thursday at 12:30 p.m.