Miami takes control in second half to defeat UMass men’s basketball
AMHERST — After getting away with a rough shooting night Wednesday, the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team could not survive another on Saturday.
The Minutemen went cold down the stretch and Miami pulled away to a 75-62 victory at the Mullins Center.
Raphiael Putney broke out of his shooting stroke, making all three his 3-point tries, but three first-half fouls limited him to 21 minutes.
Trailing 48-44, UMass made several plays just to keep possession alive before Putney hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one with 10 minutes, eight seconds left in the game.
Trey McKinney Jones answered for the Hurricanes with a 3, but Putney hit another one to again bring the Minutemen within one at 51-50.
Jesse Morgan, who struggled all game from the field, followed with a driving layup with 8:29 left that gave UMass a 52-51 lead, their first advantage since the first half.
The crowd of 7,004 roared but not for very long. Rion Brown hit a tough-angle 3-pointer that started a 13-3 surge for Miami and a 64-55 lead with 5:01 left.
The Minutemen (3-3) could not get enough stops down the stretch as the Hurricanes (5-1) held on.
“I thought once again in the second half, we had an opportunity in front of us,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We went up one. And then at that point, we kind of got away from what had made us successful to get us there.
“I thought the guys played hard, but we’ve got to play a little bit better basketball, especially when you’re playing the high-level competition,” he added. “When you’re playing the Miamis and Tennessees and NC State and even Providences of the world, you’ve got to toughen up at certain junctures of the game and make the right plays.”
The Minutemen are at Northeastern at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
UMass shot 28.6 percent from the field (18-for-63) and 21.9 from 3-point range (7-for-32). The Minutemen had similar struggles Wednesday early against Siena, but increased the tempo and took risks defensively to battle back. On Saturday, Miami turned many of those defensive risks into easy baskets.
“I think we need to shoot the ball a tad bit better. Especially in the first half, I felt like we had so many wide-open shots that didn’t go down,” Kellogg said. “Even in the second half, we had some good looks from 3.
“So I’ve got to make the determination if we’re shooting too many 3s or if we’re not shooting enough in practice or if the guys aren’t working on their shooting on their own,” he added. “But when you have the green light and your coach has confidence in you shooting the ball, I think the guy’s got to put the ball in the basket.”
UMass scored the first five points of the game and led for most of the first half, but beginning with a 3-pointer by Shane Larkin, the Hurricanes scored the last nine points of the half to take a 30-25 lead at intermission.
Terrell Vinson led the Minutemen with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Chaz Williams added 11 points and 10 assists.
“To beat a top-level team, whether it’s home, on the road, neutral site, every play is important,” Kellogg said. “I thought we didn’t make the play that you need to make to be competitive with a team that’ll probably be in the Top 25 next week with the win today.”
UMass had trouble matching up with 6-foot-10, 292-pound senior center Reggie Johnson, who had 19 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots to lead Miami. He shot 6-for-13 from the floor and made seven of eight free throw attempts.
“He was a big factor,” Vinson said. “He was just a big presence out there. I was surprised he was able to play 33 minutes with us, but he held his own. He played big and got big baskets for them at the end.”
Miami coach Jim Larranaga said that the Minutemen’s half-court defense suited Johnson.
“Against some teams, it’s very hard to pack in in there because they just pack in in around him,” Larranaga said. “UMass’ style is to stretch it out and pressure you which gave him a little more room. Being big, you’re going to get fouled. Even in the NBA, a lot of big guys can’t make free throws. It’s nice to have one who can.”
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.