Charlotte stops UMass men’s basketball in final seconds
Sampson Carter, left, of the University of Massachusetts is fouled by Mike Thorne of Charlotte on Saturday. Charlotte won 66-65. (AP Photo) Purchase photo reprints »
Pierria Henry, left, and Willie Clayton of Charlotte celebrate after Henry stole the ball from Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts in the final seconds of Saturday's game. Charlotte won 66-65. (AP Photo) Purchase photo reprints »
Pierria Henry of Charlotte dunks just after the final buzzer following a steal from Chaz Williams of the University of Massachusetts on Saturday. Charlotte won 66-65. (AP Photo) Purchase photo reprints »
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Everything was set up for another last-second win for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team when the Minutemen got the ball trailing by a point with 15 seconds left Saturday.
But this time when Chaz Williams drove into the paint with three seconds left, he was stripped of the ball before he could shoot. The steal by Pierria Henry sealed the 66-65 win by the 49ers at Dale Halton Arena.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg and Williams both pleaded for a foul as Charlotte celebrated.
Asked about it in the postgame, Henry smiled. “I fouled him. But it ain’t in the record books,” he said.
Williams refused to blame the referees. “I think I got fouled, but I don’t want to put the game in the refs’ hands,” Williams said.
49ers coach Alan Major said that watching tape of Williams’ drive to beat La Salle in the final seconds Wednesday helped prepare his team.
“We showed it to the guys Friday,” Major said. “At the end of the game, that one guy is going to have the ball in his hands. La Salle gave him a little bit of a hole and he doesn’t need much room. I thought we did a good job clogging it up.”
Free-throw shooting, poor ball-handling, foul trouble and rebounding all played a role in the loss.
The Minutemen (14-6, 4-3 Atlantic 10) shot 6-for-16 from the line, turned the ball over 19 times and allowed 19 offensive rebounds. The UMass frontcourt was in foul trouble throughout as whistles limited the minutes of Cady Lalanne (15 minutes) and Maxie Esho (14).
The Minutemen especially missed Lalanne against Charlotte, which is among the league’s bigger teams inside. He was effective when he did play with eight points and five rebounds.
“I think it affected us a lot,” Kellogg said. “We only have nine guys that are traveling. So if we get in foul trouble, there are situations where our bench gets shortened.
“They do a good job of getting the ball into the post and playing real physical,” he added. “When you don’t have your biggest guy (Lalanne) and most athletic guy (Esho), it can hurt you a little bit.”
Despite everything that went wrong, UMass still had a chance to escape with another last-second win.
The 49ers (17-4, 5-2 A-10) led 58-51 with 7 minutes, 9 seconds remaining, but back to back 3-pointers by Williams and Freddie Riley cut the deficit to 58-57 with 4:59 left. The game stayed within one possession the rest of the way.
A 3-pointer by Terrell Vinson tied the game 63-63 with 2:22 left, but E. Victor Nickerson answered with two free throws to put Charlotte up 65-63.
Vinson had a chance to tie it again, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one with 59.5 seconds left.
After Willie Clayton hit just one free throw to extend the 49ers’ lead to 66-63 with 33 seconds left, Vinson missed a long 3-point try, but Williams got the rebound and after looking for an open 3-point shooter, he made a layup with 17.2 seconds left to make it 66-65.
Williams slipped as Charlotte was inbounding the ball, allowing Nickerson to break free and cut two extra seconds off the clock before Williams could foul him.
Nickerson missed both free throws to set up the final sequence.
“Having a chance to win the game on the road at the end, I’ll go with our team every time,” Kellogg said. “We’ve done a pretty good job of executing in those situations all year long. We weren’t so fortunate today. … This league is going to be these types of games for everybody all year long.”
Vinson led UMass with a career-high 23 points, including 15 in the first half, while Williams added 16 points.
Nickerson led the 49ers with 12 points, and Ivan Benkovic added 10.
UMass will host Rhode Island at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.