UMass refuses to lose with comeback win over St. Bonaventure

Last modified: Thursday, January 16, 2014
AMHERST — With many of the program’s best players from the 1990s in the building for an alumni game, the 19th-ranked University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team refused to lose.

Trailing St. Bonaventure by 13 with just under 10 minutes left, the Minutemen finished the game on a 26-8 run as they pulled off their second come-from-behind win of the week, 73-68, Saturday at the Mullins Center.

“Now that we’ve had the success with winning, we don’t want to experience losing as much. We found the inner strength to want to win,” UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams said. “Coach kept on us telling us to continue to play hard. We just stayed together as a group.”

Two Cady Lalanne free throws started the surge for UMass, which hadn’t trailed by more than 10 points all season. The crowd then came back to life when Williams hit Raphiael Putney for an alley-oop that made it 60-51 with 7:45 left.

At the other end, Sampson Carter took a charge from Charlon Kloof that accomplished two things: 1. It got UMass the ball back. 2. It gave Kloof, easily the Bonnies’ best ball-handler, his fourth foul with 7:36 left.

Without him in the game, UMass’ pressure further rattled St. Bonaventure as the Minutemen continued to cut into the lead. They got within 68-66 on a Trey Davis floater with 1:52 left.

At the other end, Williams stripped Matthew Wright and fed Putney for an open 3-pointer in the right corner, but it skipped off the rim and caromed to Carter, who hauled it down and quickly found Davis.

The sophomore guard, who was 2 for 10 before that, hit an open 3-pointer that put UMass ahead 69-68.

“I know the type of player he is. If he misses one, the next one is going in,” Carter said. “He was open and he knocked it down.”

With the lead and momentum, the Minutemen dug in on defense and Carter picked Kloof’s pocket and got the ball to Williams, who was fouled with 10 seconds left.

He made both free throws and then picked off Wright’s inbound pass. Williams fed the ball to Putney, who was fouled with eight seconds left. The senior made both free throws to seal the win.

“We’re trying to stand our ground as much as possible and be ready for whatever is thrown at us. We know it’s not going to be easy,” Williams said. “Today, we got down on ourselves early and had to play comeback. That’s not how we want to play, but fortunately, an ugly win is a great win.”

UMass coach Derek Kellogg expected these type of games to become commonplace.

“We’re fortunate again to come away with the win, but there’s going to be a lot of these. We’re going to be in a lot of dogfights,” he said. “Teams are playing us physical, they’re playing us tough.”

Both teams’ leading scorers were held in check. Williams struggled with eight points on 1-for-7 shooting, but he finished with nine assists (three turnovers). He also helped UMass hold Matthew Wright, who entered the game averaging 16.5 points, to eight points.

Putney led UMass with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Lalanne added 16 points.

Kloof had 15 points and seven assists (six turnovers) for the Bonnies (11-5, 1-1 Atlantic 10).

The teams stayed close through most of the first half. But the Bonnies used a late 15-5 run to lead 32-22 with 35 seconds left before Carter (11 points, four rebounds) buried a 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer.

The Minutemen (14-1, 2-0 Atlantic 10) embark on a three-game road trip beginning with Wednesday’s 7 p.m. against George Mason.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage