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College Basketball January Roundup: UMass Holds in Top 25

Chaz Williams (Photo courtesy of umassathletics.com)

#21 Massachusetts

Record: 17-3, 4-2 (4th in Atlantic 10 Conference)

UMass climbed as high as number 13 in the AP rankings in January, before dropping two of its last three games of the month and plunging down to number 21, still two spots higher than it was at the end of December. The Minutemen reeled off five straight wins to start 2014, none by more than 10 points, including their first three conference games. Losses at Richmond and at St. Bonaventure, who they’d beaten earlier in the month, left them two games behind #19 Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 standings.

UMass still owns the highest-scoring offense in the conference at 81.6 points per game, which ranks 41st nationally. Guard Chaz Williams leads the Minutemen in scoring (15.7 points), assists (7.3) and steals (1.5). Power forward Cady Lalanne has 13.5 points per game and a team-leading 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Also averaging double-figure scoring are forwards Sampson Carter (10.8) and Raphiael Putney (10.7).

Minutemen February schedule: 02/01 @ Saint Joseph’s (14-6), 02/05 vs. La Salle (11-9), 02/09 @ Rhode Island (11-10), 02/12 vs. George Mason (7-13), 02/15 @ George Washington (17-3), 02/21 vs. VCU (17-4), 02/26 vs. Rhode Island (11-10)

Harvard

Record: 16-3, 3-0 (1st in Ivy League)

Harvard kicked off the year with comfortable wins over Boston College and Rice before losing at Connecticut. The Crimson took a very bad 68-53 loss at Florida Atlantic, which was bookended by two wins over Dartmouth. The last day of the month was one of mixed emotions. First came the news that center Kenyatta Smith would miss the rest of the year after reinjuring the foot that had kept him out of the first 17 games of the season, but in the evening the Crimson prevailed 82-76 over Princeton, which had been its closest rival prior to the start of conference play.

At 3-0, Harvard is already the only team with a perfect Ivy League record, with Columbia, Brown and Yale one game behind. Its 58.8 points allowed per game are best in the League and ninth in the nation. On offense, the Crimson is led by shooting guard Wesley Saunders (15.5 ppg), guard Siyani Chambers (11.3 ppg, 4.3 apg) and foward Kyle Casey (10.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg).

Crimson February schedule: 02/01 vs Penn (4-12), 02/07 vs. Brown (10-7), 02/08 vs. Yale (8-9), 02/14 @ Columbia (13-7), 02/15 @ Cornell (1-16), 02/21 @ Penn (4-12), 02/22 @ Princeton (12-4), 02/28 vs. Cornell (1-16)

Boston University

Record: 15-7, 8-1 (2nd in Patriot League)

The Terriers had a phenomenal month of January, going 8-1 in Patriot League play after compiling a 7-6 record in their non-conference games. Their only loss was a 30-point blowout at conference-leading American University, who they now trail by one game in the standings. Among BU’s January wins are a 55-32 drubbing of Navy and two 80-point games, at Lafayette and against Army.

Boston University’s top scorer is guard Maurice Watson, Jr., with 14.3 points per game and a field goal percentage of 51.2 to go with 6.6 assists, which are three times as many as any of his teammates. Guard D. J. Irving is averaging 12.1 points while foward Dom Morris is adding 11.4 on 51.4% shooting and 6.6 boards.

Terriers February schedule: 02/01 vs. Lehigh (11-11), 02/05 @ Navy (7-13), 02/08 vs. Lafayette (4-16), 02/12 @ Colgate (8-12), 02/15 @ Loyola Maryland (9-11), 02/19 vs. American University (13-7), 02/23 vs. Bucknell (9-11), 02/26 @ Army (10-10)

Holy Cross

Record: 12-9, 6-3 (3rd in Patriot League)

The Crusaders started just 1-3 in conference play, with losses to Boston University, American University and Bucknell and a win over Colgate, but have since won five straight, including a 19-point beatdown of Lehigh. Their 6-3 record is good for third place in the Patriot League, three games behind American University.

Power forward Dave Dudzinski continues to lead Holy Cross with 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Guard Cullen Hamilton, who missed two games in January and has played just 13 in the season, has 10.8 points and forward Malcolm Miller averages an even 10 per game.

Crusaders February schedule: 02/01 @ American University (13-7), 02/04 @ Colgate (8-12), 02/09 vs. Bucknell (9-11), 02/12 vs. Army (10-10), 02/15 @ Lehigh (11-11), 02/19 vs. Lafayette (4-16), 02/23 vs. Navy (7-13), 02/26 @ Loyola Maryland (9-11)

Northeastern

Record: 7-15, 4-4 (4th in Colonial Athletic Association)

Northeastern started January with its last non-conference game of the season, taking a 30-point beatdown at Vanderbilt. Since then, the Huskies have gone 4-4 in CAA play, with just two of their games being decided by more than 10 points, both wins over UNCW and Hofstra. Close games have been the story of the year for Northeastern, with only five games all season in which a team won by double digits. The Huskies are 3-2 in those contests.

The Huskies are 3.5 games behind first-place Delaware, in a very evenly matched conference in which there are only 1.5 games between second and second-to-last place. Forward Scott Eatherton is averaging a double-double on the season, and leads Northeastern in points (16.4), rebounds (10.2) and blocks (2), all while shooting 55.9% from the floor. Guard David Walker is recording 11.8 points per game as well as a team-leading 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals.

Huskies February schedule: 02/03 @ Delaware (15-7), 02/05 vs. Hofstra (7-15), 02/08 vs. William & Mary (12-8), 02/12 @ UNCW (6-15), 02/15 @ Charleston (11-11), 02/20 vs. Towson (13-8), 02/22 @ William & Mary (12-8)

Boston College

Record: 6-14, 2-5 (11th in Atlantic Coast Conference)

Boston College’s 4-9 record in the season’s first two months led head coach Steve Donahue to admit that the Eagles were perhaps too ambitious in planning their non-conference schedule. The Eagles lost 73-58 at Harvard on New Year’s Day before launching into their ACC schedule, where their only two wins have come over last-place Virginia Tech. BC will be hard pressed to get anything going in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, where they are currently five games behind #2 Syracuse.

Canadian guard Olivier Hanlan is the Eagles’ top scorer with 18.6 points per game, while foward Ryan Anderson has averages of 14.7 points and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds.

Eagles February schedule: 02/01 @ Notre Dame (11-10), 02/05 @ Virginia (16-5), 02/08 vs. #17 Duke (17-4), 02/12 @ Georgia Tech (11-10), 02/16 vs. Notre Dame (11-10), 02/19 @ #2 Syracuse (20-0), 02/22 @ Miami (FL) (10-10), 02/26 vs. #18 Pittsburgh (18-3)

Massachusetts Lowell

Record: 5-14, 4-4 (5th in America East Conference)

UMass Lowell entered 2014 having won just one game since joining Division I, and none against another D-I team, but the River Hawks kicked off the year by upsetting UMBC, Binghamton and Albany in succession. The went 1-3 in their last four games of the month, but their 4-4 conference record still has them firmly in the middle of the America East standings, three games behind Stony Brook and Vermont.

Guard Antonio Bivins, who missed the first two months of the season with a torn Achilles, has become the Hawks’ leader in points (15.4), rebounds (5.4) and steals (1.4) in the seven game since his return, one of the main reasons for the team’s January success. Guard Akeem Williams is averaging 14.1 points and guard Chad Holley has 10.8 points and a team-high 3.2 dimes per game.

River Hawks February schedule: 02/01 vs. Binghamton (4-17), 02/03 vs. NJIT (9-14), 02/05 @ Albany (11-10), 02/08 @ UMBC (7-14), 02/12 @Vermont (13-9), 02/15 vs. Stony Brook (15-7), 02/19 vs. Hartford (10-13), 02/22 @ New Hampshire (5-16), 02/27 vs. Maine (4-16)

About Nick García - @N_A_Garcia

Nick is the Celtics and college sports editor at Sports of Boston. He writes about basketball, football and anything else that comes his way. Follow him on Twitter @N_A_Garcia

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