After squandering lead, UMass men's hoop wins in OT
UMass guard Chaz Williams drives to the basket against Elon Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »
University of Massachusetts forward Sampson Carter, left, drives to the basket against Elon on Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. UMass won 78-73 in overtime. Purchase photo reprints »
University of Massachusetts forward Maxie Esho puts up a contested shot against Elon on Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. UMass won 78-73 in overtime. Purchase photo reprints »
University of Massachusetts guard Trey Davis, right, moves the ball against the Elon defense on Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. UMass won 78-73 in overtime. Purchase photo reprints »
UMass guard Jesse Morgan pulls up for a jump shot against Elon Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »
UMass forward Raphiael Putney floats a shot over Elon defenders Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »
UMass forward Terrell Vinson looks to shoot underneath the basket against Elon Saturday at the Civic Center in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »
SPRINGFIELD — After squandering a handful of opportunities to close out a win late in regulation, the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball still managed to escape with a victory over Elon in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase Saturday afternoon at the MassMutual Center.
Like the rest of the Minutemen’s wins this season, UMass survived anxious moments en route to a 78-73 win in overtime before 3,085 fans.
The Minutemen led by as many as nine in the second half and were ahead 64-58 with 1 minute, 58 seconds left in regulation.
But Sebastian Koch made two free throws and Austin Hamilton made one to bring the Phoenix within 64-61 with 1:08 remaining. UMass coach Derek Kellogg has been frustrated all season by his team’s inability to box out on free throws and it cost the Minutemen again. UMass could not corral the missed free throw by Hamilton and it was tipped by Lucas Troutman.
The ball eventually caromed to Hamilton, who was fouled by Chaz Williams. Hamilton made both free throws this time to cut the Minutemen’s lead to 64-63 with 1:03 left.
After Williams made a layup at the other end to stretch the edge to 66-63 with 39 seconds left, Raphiael Putney blocked Koch’s shot in the paint, but the ball bounced to Tanner Sampson, who buried a game-tying 3-pointer with eight seconds left.
Williams then attacked the basket from the right side and was fouled by Jack Isenbarger with 2.2 seconds left.
UMass (5-3), which has won three games already this season with baskets in the last five seconds, appeared to be in good shape to add a fourth. Williams entered the game as a career .775 free throw shooter (.677 in 2012-13). But he missed both and Elon grabbed the rebound and called time out. But Isenbarger’s desperation heave was well off the mark.
“I thought the game was over honestly,” Kellogg said. Williams is “about as clutch a player as I’ve been around. I was a little shocked he didn’t make both of them. … I think he’ll make them the next time around.”
Williams said he did not dwell on the misses.
“I knew my teammates were going to be there for me no matter what,” Williams said. “I just worried about the next play. I didn’t worry about the free throws much once I missed them.”
The Minutemen scored the first four points of overtime, but Elon answered with the next four to tie the score at 70-70 with 1:39 left.
Jesse Morgan did not have a point in the game when he drove to the basket from the left side after missing his first eight shots. But he leaned in and laid the ball off the glass to put UMass ahead 72-70.
Isenbarger missed a 3-pointer at the other end and Williams stole the rebound from Troutman.
Williams made three of four free throws on the Minutemen’s next two possessions to extend their lead to 75-70 with 32 seconds left. UMass made just three of six free throws after that, but the Phoenix did not make another field until a meaningless dunk by Koch at the buzzer.
“We’re tired of winning like this,” Williams said. “But at the same time, a win is a win.”
Williams finished with 20 points and nine assists (four turnovers), and 14 of his points came after intermission as the Minutemen stayed with Elon despite the lack of production from their starting backcourt. Williams and Morgan were 2-for-7 from the field in the first half for just six points.
The frontcourt carried UMass throughout. Terrell Vinson had a career-high 22 points. On a day when his teammates struggled badly from the line (18-for-33), Vinson made 13-of-14 free throws.
“I’ve just been practicing my free throws,” Vinson said. “I’ve been in a nice little rhythm in the past couple of games.”
Sampson Carter continued to thrive with extended minutes with 13 points and 11 rebounds (four in overtime), while Maxie Esho had eight points, nine rebounds and three steals off the bench.
Isenbarger had 22 points, including 16 in the first half, for the Phoenix (6-4), but the Minutemen held him to 2-for-11 shooting after intermission.
Elon shot just 29.9 percent (23-for-77) in the game.
“We’re going to take the win and move on from this,” said Kellogg, whose team hosts Ohio in the second half of a doubleheader Wednesday night at the Mullins Center. “Now we have a nice run of games where we’re actually playing. It’s not like we’re going to win a game and then take 10 days off. We’ll see what these guys have and go from there.”
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.