UMass bounces back after slow start against Siena
Jesse Morgan, left, of the University of Massachusetts, drives to the basket against Siena, Wednesday in Albany, N.Y.
ALBANY, N.Y. — The joy that the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team displayed after its buzzer-beating wins over Harvard and Providence wasn’t quite as abundant after escaping Siena 64-63 Wednesday.
UMass coach Derek Kellogg, who was “disgusted” at halftime, was “relieved” to survive a scare against the Saints.
“I guess we’ll take it. Hopefully these guys play better Saturday and into next week,” Kellogg said. “We just have to find our identity. We’re still searching for straws on how we have to play.”
With 10 days off after dropping the last two games of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Kellogg hoped his team would race out of the gates Wednesday, but instead it came out flat and fell behind 33-16.
“We didn’t do a good job of making shots and really hustling on defense to get our press established. The guys were unconfident. We didn’t play as hard as we could or should,” Kellogg said. “We were flat to start the game. We didn’t have a lot of energy. We didn’t have a lot of pop in our step. Making shots gives you a little bounce in your step and pressing and creating some turnovers gives you a little bounce. We have to play that way for 40 minutes. ... I’m happy that we won. You want to learn from wins, but I wasn’t ecstatic about how hard we played to start the game.”
Senior forward Terrell Vinson echoed Kellogg’s sentiments.
“It’s not sad winning. But I wish we could do it in a better way,” Vinson said. “We need to find a way to close out games.”
CLUB GRAND — Chaz Williams became the 43rd UMass player to score 1,000 points in his career, a total that includes the 325 he scored as a freshman at Hofstra.
He’s the fifth Minuteman to reach the milestone after transferring, joining Will Herndon, Shannon Crooks, Gary Forbes and Anthony Gurley.
Williams needed nine points to reach the total. He shook off early shooting struggles and hit the magic number on a pullup 3-pointer with 47 seconds left in the half.
Williams, who has 689 points at UMass, had his best half of the season after intermission scoring 14 of his 23 points.
“He looked like he played at the end of last year. He had pretty good command of the game. He was making shots,” Kellogg said. “Just his energy, he was all over the floor on the defensive end. He hasn’t totally played like that this season. It’s nice to see those competitive juices come back.”
SWEET 17 — This was the third time in 2012 that UMass came back to win after trailing by 17 points. The Minutemen trailed Saint Joseph’s by 17 during the regular season and fell behind Drexel by 17 in the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals.
It’s the second time this season Siena blew a sizable lead. The Saints led Vermont by 16 before falling 54-53.
NEXT UP — UMass will face Miami, Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Mullins Center. The Hurricanes (4-1) upset No. 13 Michigan State 67-59 Wednesday in Coral Gables, Fla.
MISCELLANEOUS — Jesse Morgan didn’t lead the Minutemen in scoring or reach double figures for the first time this season. He finished with nine points on 4-for-15 shooting. ... The attendance was 5,749.
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.