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UMass men’s basketball suffers serious NCAA tournament setback with loss to St. Bonaventure

OLEAN, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure couldn’t miss from the free-throw line, Eric Mosley couldn’t miss from anywhere and the combination made it pretty likely the University of Massachusetts will miss the NCAA tournament barring an Atlantic 10 tournament run next month.

For so much of the season, UMass was at its best at the end of the game. The Minutemen notched six wins on a stretch of big plays in the final minutes of regulation.

But for the second time in as many games and the third time this month, the Minutemen faltered down the stretch, this time falling 99-94 to St. Bonaventure, Wednesday at the Riley Center.

The loss to the under-.500 Bonnies, likely dealt a critical blow to UMass’ hopes for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The loss will be hard to overcome even with a strong finish.

“That was a loss that hurts,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We played good enough, at least in the second half, to win the game. We were in position to win the game and that really stings. Now we’re fighting for our position.”

Mosley had 39 points on 12-of-18 shooting. He made 5-of-8 3-pointers and all 10 free throws giving him the most points by a UMass opponent in almost nine years. St. Bonaventure, the A-10’s best free-throw shooting team at 74 percent, was 32 of 33 from the line. The Bonnies were 12 for 12 in the final 2 minutes, including 6 for 6 in the final 20 seconds.

UMass trailed 85-80 with 3:11 left, but Terrell Vinson, who’d been in foul trouble throughout, scored five straight points to tie the score at 85-85.

After Mosley had a rare miss with 2:02 left, Vinson came down with a rebound in traffic and UMass pushed the ball up the floor. Immediately following Sampson Carter’s putback layup that put the Minutemen up 87-85, the officials stopped the play and went to the television monitor on the sideline.

After watching the replay several times, the officials ruled that Vinson had elbowed Mosley on the previous defensive rebound. They called a flagrant-one foul on Vinson, giving him his fifth foul and St. Bonaventure two free throws and the ball.

Mosley made both free throws to tie the score at 87-87 with 1:53 left, and two more after a Carter foul on the inbound to make it 89-87.

Chaz Williams answered, sprinting through traffic for an easy layup while getting fouled. He made the free throw to make it 90-89 with 1:29 left.

St. Bonaventure beat UMass’ press at the other end and the foul-plagued Minuteman big men gave Youssou Ndoye too much space inside and the big man laid it in to make it 91-90.

Carter missed a 3-pointer on offense and then fouled out on defense. Demetrius Conger (16 points, 13 rebounds) made both free throws to make it 93-90 with 33 seconds left.

Williams came off a screen and was guarded by Ndoye. He head-faked and put up a 3-pointer that was well off the mark with 21 seconds left. UMass was forced to foul and the Bonnies (12-13, 5-7) didn’t miss as the Minutemen (16-9, 6-6) dropped their third straight game for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season.

“I thought when they called (Terrell Vinson) for the flagrant foul, that was a momentum changer,” Kellogg said. “They went to the free-throw line a couple times after that. ... I don’t question that he did it. I thought he might have gotten hit before that.”

Vinson said it wasn’t intentional.

“I didn’t really feel me hit anyone,” he said pantomiming his version of what happened. “I guess when they went to the monitor, it looked worse. I was looking for Chaz and I threw it back. I don’t know if when I threw it back, I threw an elbow or something.”

The Minutemen trailed 38-31 at halftime, a deficit largely a result of their own mistakes. UMass turned the ball over 12 times, including four traveling calls. Despite the turnovers, the Minutemen would have been closer if their shots from close range fell. Vinson, Raphiael Putney and Maxie Esho were 0 for 11 in the paint before intermission.

Williams helped lead UMass’ second-half comeback and finished with 26 points, 12 assists and two turnovers. Vinson added 20 points, while Freddie Riley added 17.

The Minutemen host Dayton, Saturday at 1 p.m.

“We lost a tough game on the road,” Kellogg said. “Hopefully we can rebound on the road Saturday against Dayton. We have to regroup and stay together as a team.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

To say "setback" doesn't even cut it. UMass barely had a shot at a bid before this happened, now there is really no way. The only real opportunity would be winning the A10 Tournament.

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