UMass falls to NC State in Tip-Off semifinals
Richard Howell of North Carolina State, left, battles for a rebound against UMass Cady Lalanne, center, and Raphael Putney during an NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
C.J. Leslie of North Carolina State, left, drives the ball against UMass' Cady Lalanne during an NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
UMass head basketball coach Derek Kellogg yells out to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
C.J. Leslie of North Carolina State, left, is pressured by UMass Cady Lalanne, center, and Raphael Putney during an NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
BAYAMÓN, Puerto Rico — The final buzzer, which had been memorable for the University of Massachusetts in the first two games of the season, was merciful in the third.
North Carolina State showed why it is ranked No. 6 in the nation and the Minutemen struggled to keep up as the Wolfpack rolled to a 94-76 win at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez, Friday in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The Minutemen lost the game, but dodged a bigger bullet when all-Atlantic 10 point guard Chaz Williams returned from what initially looked like a painful ankle injury.
He screamed in pain as he landed awkwardly and grabbed his left ankle with 1 minute, 9 seconds left in the first half. After limping to the bench, Williams walked gingerly to the locker room with UMass trailing 48-32 at intermission.
The pocket of fans behind the Minuteman bench cheered when Williams emerged for second-half warm ups. Williams (13 points, five assists and six turnovers) played 14 minutes after the injury and could have played more, but UMass coach Derek Kellogg chose to rest him as the score got out of reach.
“He seems fine, there shouldn’t be any issues with him,” Kellogg said.
Williams downplayed the injury.
“It’s all right. I’ll be back on it tomorrow,” Williams said. “Pain is pain. When you’re tough, and I’m from Brooklyn, so I really don’t feel much pain. If it ain’t broke I can play.”
NC State jumped out to a 12-2 run to open the game, but the Minutemen answered with a 12-4 surge capped by a reverse alley-oop from Jesse Morgan (15 points) to Maxie Esho (12 points, four rebounds).
But the Minutemen could never get enough defensive stops in success to really threaten.
Terrell Vinson (13 points, seven rebounds) opened the second half with a 3-pointer, but NC State answered with five straight points and kept gradually pulling away.
UMass relies on its pressure defense rattling opponents, but the deep and athletic Wolfpack thrived in the up-tempo game, getting their big men easy shots in the paint. Freshman T.J. Warren led NC State with 21 points, while senior Richard Howell had 19 points and nine rebounds.
“If you want to press us we can make you pay,” NC State coach Mark Gottfried said. “I thought we were going to get 100. We came up a little short.”
The Wolfpack’s lead reached 27 at 92-65 with 2:47 left before UMass closed the game on an 11-2 spurt.
“They got the ball in as fast as any team we’ve played and really beat our pressure up the floor,” Kellogg said. “Not having a ton of time to prepare, we didn’t have much to switch up with. We went with how we play and how we do, and tonight that wasn’t good enough. They have four McDonald’s All-Americans, a couple guys that are probably draft picks, and on occasion those guys make plays. You run something and they make a play that a normal guy can’t make.”
UMass (2-1) will play Tennessee (2-1) in the tournament’s third-place game, Sunday at 4 p.m. The Volunteers fell to Oklahoma State 62-45 in the other semifinal. NC State (3-0) will play the Cowboys for the championship at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s great to have a day off. We exerted a ton of energy to win that Providence game” Thursday, Kellogg said. “I think a day off will be good to really just to get us mentally and physically back refocused and ready to go.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.