A10 tournament: Noah Fernandes’ career-high29 points sends UMass men’s basketball past George Washington into quarterfinals

  • UMass guard T.J. Weeks Jr. scored 15 points in the first half of the Minutemen’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal win over George Washington on Thursday in Washington D.C. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass guard Noah Fernandes tied a career high with 29 points against George Washington in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament against George Washington on Thursday in Washington D.C. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass guard C.J. Kelly had 15 points off the bench for the Minutemen, as they beat George Washington in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament Thursday in Washington D.C. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass guard Rich Kelly had 13 points and five assists in the Minutemen’s Atlantic 10 tournament win against George Washington on Thursday in Washington D.C. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Matt McCall will coach the UMass men’s basketball team for at least another day after the Minutemen defeated George Washington in the Atlantic 10 tournament second round Thursday in Washingotn D.C. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2022 10:02:21 PM
Modified: 3/10/2022 10:02:40 PM

Noah Fernandes extended the Matt McCall era – and the UMass men’s basketball season – for at least another day.

UMass’ junior guard scored a career-high 29 points to go along with seven assists and seven steals, as the Minutemen beat George Washington 99-88 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament second round Thursday in Washington, D.C. The 10th-seeded Minutemen next face No. 2 Dayton at 6 p.m. Friday back at the Capital One Arena. The Flyers had a double-bye to the quarterfinals.

“We’ve got to fight the fatigue. They’re coming off rest, and we’re coming off a game,” UMass guard T.J. Weeks Jr. said. “I believe we could do it, too. We’ve got depth all around.”

McCall was informed last week that the school would seek a change in leadership after the season. The Minutemen have won three in a row since. It was Fernandes’ second consecutive game with at least 28 points after he tied his career high Saturday in an overtime win over George Washington.

Fernandes, who was not named to any of the Atlantic 10’s all-league teams, said he told McCall “I got you,” after the news came out. He’s had the whole program since.

“He’s one of the best guards in this league. He shows it and he showed it tonight. What an unbelievably gutsy performance,” McCall said. “If that’s not one of the best guards in the Atlantic 10, I don’t know what that looks like.”

Fernandes did most of his scoring work in the second half against the Colonials helping protect a large lead. Of his 29 points, 17 came after halftime. He shot 8-of-11 in the second half.

“We’re looking for the hot hand. My teammates found me, and we got it going,” Fernandes said.

UMass (15-16) needed that scoring lift after it played most of the second half without Weeks due to foul trouble. The redshirt sophomore scored all 15 of his points in the game’s first 20 minutes as UMass built a 20-point lead.

He and the rest of the Minutemen couldn’t miss in the first half. They shot 56.3 percent from both the field and beyond the 3-point line. UMass hit nine 3s: four from Weeks and three by Trent Buttrick (11 points, eight rebounds).

UMass scored the game’s first six points and built a 13-point lead in 8:17 after Fernandes sank a free throw to make it 21-9.

“We’re not here to waste no time,” Fernandes said. “We’ve got to believe and keep it pushing.”

The Minutemen scored 21 points off 12 George Washington turnovers in the first half, finishing with 31 points from 18 turnover by the Colonials.

The lead extended to 20 at halftime with a Fernandes jumper in the final minute.

Weeks picked up two fouls in the first 12 seconds of the second half – only one second of game time ticked off between them – and he had to sit down with four fouls. George Washington (12-18) scored the first five points of the second half to pull within 15 after James Bishop made a layup to cut UMass’ lead to 56-41.

Bishop scored 15, but his backcourt running mate Joe Bamisile led the charge in the second half to pull the Colonials within striking distance. He poured in 17 of his 25 points after halftime and helped George Washington cut its deficit to 11 after Bamisile splashed a 3 with 4:44 left.

Bamisile had a chance to bring the Colonials within single digits 41 seconds later but was called for an offensive foul.

Rich Kelly (13 points, five assists) missed a layup that could have extended the led, but Weeks, who re-entered the game at 6:30, snared the offensive rebound. He added another offensive board after Rich Kelly missed a second 3, and he kicked the ball to Fernandes for a pull up jumper.

Five of the seven Minutemen finished in double figures. C.J. Kelly added 15 points off the bench. UMass shot 52.1 percent from the field.

The Minutemen also outscored George Washington 46-38 in the paint.

UMass set a season-high for points and nearly cracked triple digits for the second straight Atlantic 10 Tournament opener. Only four teams have ever scored 100 in the A-10 tournament, including last year’s victory over Saint Joseph’s.

Now the Minutemen will quickly shift their focus to the Flyers, who won the teams’ only meeting this season handily: 82-61 on Feb. 23. UMass hasn’t played in the conference semifinals since 2013.

“Their pressure really rattled us. We’ve got to take care of the basketball. We can’t have live ball turnovers and give them layups and points. They’re too big, too physical, too athletic,” McCall said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of the basketball and generating good shots. What an opportunity for us.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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