Chaz Williams leads UMass men’s hoop over East Carolina



Last modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team scored the first 14 points of the game Saturday, setting the tone for an afternoon filled with runs by both teams.

But the Minutemen never trailed and withstood a couple of mildly anxious moments to defeat East Carolina 88-81 before 4,123 fans at the Mullins Center.

“It’s always nice when you can go home for the holiday break coming off a win,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “Putting up 88 points against a team that was 7-2 is a testament that our offense is getting a little bit better.

“We did some good things in transition,” he added. “I thought we made some shots. We settle a little bit for 3s. I thought we’ve obviously got to work on our press attack and zone offense, to a certain extent, but the guys seem to be playing together. We’ve got a pretty good flow going right now.”

The lead for UMass in the first half peaked at 31-15 on a three-point play by Terrell Vinson with 6 minutes, 8 seconds remaining. But the Pirates scored nine of the next 10 points and stretched that into a 21-8 surge to cut the Minuteman lead to 39-36 before Jesse Morgan buried a 3-pointer just before halftime to put UMass ahead 42-36.

The Minutemen took their turn at a run early in the second half. With reserves Maxie Esho, Cady Lalanne and Freddie Riley joining Jesse Morgan and Chaz Williams on the floor, UMass used the same lineup that produced long runs against Elon and Ohio in the previous two games. The group delivered another one, this time 16 straight points with all five scoring at least two points to build the Minutemen’s advantage to 63-44 with 11:42 left.

The lead hovered there for more than five minutes, but East Carolina used a full-court press to chase UMass down again with a 19-4 run that cut the lead to 76-72 with 3:19 left. The Pirates got within one possession once when Robert Sampson (14 points, nine rebounds) hit a 3-pointer to make it 80-77 with 1:03 left.

“It was very frustrating. I mean, you’re up 17, you have to just close the game out,” Kellogg said. “I’ll take some responsibility on a couple things. We haven’t really worked on our press attack. They haven’t really pressed too, too much. They’ve done it in situations where they needed to speed the game up. And we’ve kind of slowed down a little bit instead of attacking the press.”

But Williams, who led the Minutemen with 26 points and 11 assists, made all eight free throws in the final minute to seal the win.

“It’s a great step for us,” Williams said. “We’re taking steps in a positive direction and the right direction and we’re all coming together to play as one. I think everybody’s starting to see that.”

Morgan, who scored 35 in Wednesday’s win over Ohio, had 15 points and shut down East Carolina point guard Miguel Paul (seven points, two assists, five turnovers). Vinson scored 15 points, while Riley added a season-high 14.

Maurice Kemp had 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half for the Pirates (7-3).

UMass (7-3), which has now won four straight games, is off until Dec. 29 when it travels to Northern Illinois.

Wild swings are the norm when the Minutemen and East Carolina get together. A year ago in Greenville, N.C., UMass opened a 22-point lead in the first half before the Pirates cut it to one on the second half. But, like Saturday, the Minutemen held on.

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


 


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