UMass hoop falls to late knockout by Tennessee
Tennessees Kenny Hall, right, is pressured by UMass players Chaz Williams, left, and Terrell Vinson during a NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
UMass Trey Davis, right, pressures Tennessees Trae Golden during a NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
UMass Raphiael Putney, left, pressures Tennessees Jordan McRae during a NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
UMass Chaz Williams, center, goes up for a shot against Tennessees players Kenny Hall, left, and Armani Moore during a NCAA college basketball game in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo) Purchase photo reprints »
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — When Jesse Morgan’s 3-pointer went down with less than 10 minutes to play Sunday, everyone on the University of Massachusetts bench jumped to their feet simultaneously, arms pumping.
In the Minutemen’s two wins this season, they have trailed in the second half before rallying and Morgan’s basket gave them their first lead against Tennessee since the opening minutes.
But the celebration did not last long. After each team made a pair of free throws, the Volunteers scored 14 straight points to seize back momentum. UMass never recovered and fell 83-69 to finish fourth in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez.
“We didn’t play great offensively and to be up two at that point, I was pretty excited,” Minuteman coach Derek Kellogg said. “But they took the game over right there.”
During Tennessee’s game-clinching surge, UMass could not contain power forward Jarnell Stokes. The sophomore scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, including five during the run. He added 12 rebounds to pace the Vols’ 51-37 advantage on the glass.
“We wanted to get the ball inside,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It was a concerted effort for Jarnell to get assertive and aggressive. He’s a nimble big man. He knows how to make plays, how to make moves.”
The Minutemen tried several players against Stokes, but nobody could answer his combination of size and athleticism. Stokes missed free throws early but made seven of 10 in the second half, adding to his dominance.
“Stokes gave them an inside presence we struggled to handle on both ends,” Kellogg said. “He’s one of the better big men in the country, because of his size, his athleticism and strength. At times we did a good job on him. At other times he knocked us out of the way.”
UMass cut its deficit back to seven points after another 3-pointer by Morgan (18 points) capped an 8-1 spurt that made the score 69-62 with 3 minutes, 17 seconds left, but the Minutemen made just two field goals the rest of the way as the Volunteers (3-1) pulled away.
UMass (2-2) will get 10 days off before it travels to Albany, N.Y., to play Siena at 7 p.m. Nov. 28.
“They do need a little bit of rest to make sure we’re ready to go,” Kellogg said. “We’re not in that kind of shape where we’re flying up and down the floor playing with reckless abandon. Sometimes when you play three games in four days, with another on Tuesday morning, we weren’t as sharp as we could be. They deserve a little break, but at the same token they need to know that was really unacceptable.”
The Minutemen hung in despite missing all-conference point guard Chaz Williams (16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four turnovers) for an almost eight-minute stretch.
With the Minutemen trailing 45-42, the 5-foot-9 point guard tried to dunk but was blocked by Jordan McRae. Attempting to atone for it, Williams sprinted back and picked up his fourth foul trying to steal the ball from Armani Moore.
“I tripped over his foot which caused me to run into him,” Williams said. “I was trying to get the ball back because I just got blocked.”
UMass not only survived his absence, but initially rallied. Freshman point guard Trey Davis did not score, but ran the offense effectively and helped the Minutemen pull ahead before Tennessee’s knockout blow.
UMass shot just 27 percent from the floor in the second half (10-for-37) and missed 16 layups.
“I’m not real happy with the outcome today,” Kellogg said. “I thought we did it to ourselves. Tennessee played well, but we did some things offensively that wasn’t very good to watch.”
Senior forward Terrell Vinson said he is convinced the Minutemen will improve.
“The next 10 days we’re going to get better. We’re going to watch a lot of film and straighten a lot of things out,” Vinson said. “We’re going to do the things we need to do to win. We’re a team that gets better as the year goes. With our style of play, guys have to get used to running. . . . We’ll be all right.”
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.