AMHERST, Mass. -- Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery had a message for counterpart Derek Kellogg after No. 22 Massachusetts beat the Huskies 80-54 on Saturday.
"I told Derek at the end of the game that they're going to make a serious run in the (NCAA) tournament, barring injuries," Montgomery said.
"Just so many options. When your 3 and 4 men can shoot like theirs, with (Raphiael) Putney and (Sampson) Carter, it's matchup problems -- and that opens up for (Cady) Lalanne. Good team. They can score with the best of them. I like their pieces."
Montgomery didn't even mention star guard Chaz Williams, who was coming off career highs of 32 points and 15 assists in the Dec. 7 win over Brigham Young, and had 12 points and seven assists -- and didn't score a field goal until the final minute of the first half.
Lalanne led five players in double figures with 16 points as the Minutemen (9-0) continued the program's best start since the 1995-96 team opened 26-0.
UMass trailed only by 2-0, running off 11 straight points -- nine on 3-pointers by Putney -- to take control. They had their sloppy moments and weren't as sharp as Kellogg would have liked at times, but they got the job done and allowed a season-low 54 points.
"It's all positive. I think we could have played a little better in spurts," Kellogg said. "We got careless with the basketball more than anything, and our defense came and went . but all in all our guys won the game, took care of business and we're going to move on to the next game (at Ohio University on Wednesday)."
Putney added 13 points and Maxie Esho had 12 points and seven rebounds in the easy win. Freshman Clyde Santee, who had played just 3-plus minutes coming in, scored the first 13 points of his college career -- all in a span of 5:34.
"I was really happy for Clyde, that he made some shots and played well in a short amount of time and got us our fifth guy in double digits tonight," Kellogg said of Santee, who was 5 of 6 from the field, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and had two rebounds -- the second and third of his college career.
Said Montgomery: "I don't know who No. 5 is but he had quite the day."
Sampson added eight points and seven rebounds for the Minutemen.
The Minutemen led by 12 points at halftime and were never in jeopardy despite some lackluster play. The lead grew to 27 points as Kellogg cleared his bench early.
"That's something that Coach appreciates all the time, giving (the young guys) opportunities," Lalanne said. "Getting a big lead and getting them in in the second half, that's something we look forward to doing."
Dontel Highsmith led the Huskies (3-5) with 10 points.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," Montgomery said. "They sped us up."
Montgomery said his young team was dealing with some physical issues, including starting 3-man Aaric Armstead being out with a groin pull. He was happy with the way his players "weathered the storm" early and hung in.
The Minutemen gave up the first two points of the game but then scored 11 straight -- including the three 3s in four attempts by Putney.
The lead quickly grew to 14 as Northern Illinois had just five points in the first 8 minutes of the game. But the Huskies came to life and cut the lead to nine with 4:18 left in the half. The Minutemen built their lead back up to 14.
After a four-point play by Daveon Balls with 1:15 left in the half, Williams hit his only basket of the half, with 50.3 seconds left, and UMass led by 12 at halftime.
It took UMass 6:28 of the second half to get its first field goal, but the Minutemen were just 0 for 2 from the field before Trey Davis hit a 3-pointer and they had already been to the free throw line 10 times.
A fancy passing play that ended in an alley-oop pass for a dunk by Esho put UMass up by 17, but Esho was hit with a technical foul for slapping the backboard.
The game was the second of four the Minutemen have to play each season as part of the agreement that brought the UMass football team into the Mid-American Conference. UMass is in the Atlantic 10 in basketball.