BYU-UMass Preview

The Associated Press

While it's pulled away late to win some games comfortably, Massachusetts has also experienced its share of tight contests.

Seeking their best start in 18 years, the 21st-ranked Minutemen could be tested again Saturday against BYU at the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase.

UMass used a second-half surge for a 69-57 win at Eastern Michigan on Tuesday in its first game as a ranked team in 15 years. Raphiael Putney led five UMass players in double figures with 15 points, including two dunks in the final minute.

"I think teams you're playing see that number next to your name, and (Eastern Michigan) made some plays in the first half that I haven't seen on tape," coach Derek Kellogg said. "You've got to stay grounded. There's a lot of people giving us a lot of attention nationally, and as a young college kids you get ahead of yourself a little bit."

UMass (7-0) has won three games by six points or fewer and used second-half runs for more decisive results in other contests. Judging by their recent matchups with Top 25 teams, BYU (7-2) could provide another tight contest for the Minutemen in Springfield, Mass.

The Cougars have suffered their only two losses this season to ranked opponents but led by double digits in the first half of both games. They've dropped their past three matchups with Top 25 teams by an average of 6.7 points.

"I'm really impressed with their team and program," Kellogg said. "It'll be an interesting game and one with two quality teams. We're fortunate to get a team of BYU's caliber to come and play us."

Despite being competitive, BYU is 1-11 in its last 12 matchups against ranked opponents and has dropped six straight.

The Cougars are coming off an impressive 97-67 win over North Texas on Tuesday, scoring 55 points in the second half.

"It's definitely something to build on," junior guard Tyler Haws said. "I thought a lot of guys played well. We've just got to continue to build on it and build our confidence. I think things are going in the right direction."

Haws, among the NCAA leaders with 23.6 points per game, had team-best 23 on 9-of-12 shooting Tuesday. BYU has one of the highest-scoring offenses at 89.2 points per game but UMass isn't too far behind at 81.6.

The Minutemen and Cougars, who are meeting for the first time, are averaging a combined 131.9 field goals attempts with BYU among the nation's leaders at 69.2 per game.

UMass center Cady Lalanne is averaging a team-best 16.4 points, one of five Minutemen averaging in double figures.

Along with seeking its best start since opening 26-0 in 1995-96, UMass is also seeking its longest win streak since a 10-game run Jan. 3-Feb. 1, 1998. The Minutemen have won five straight when playing in Springfield and are 19-4 at the MassMutual Center since 1990.

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