UMass men’s basketball gets badly needed win at Xavier

Last modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CINCINNATI — Badly needing a win to keep its hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament alive, the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team got one Saturday at one of the most difficult venues in the Atlantic 10 for a road victory.

Xavier had been 52-2 against league teams at the Cintas Center since 2007, but the Minutemen shook off a first-half, nine-point deficit to beat the Musketeers 77-72.

“We needed it bad to keep our tournament hopes alive,” UMass senior Freddie Riley said. “It’s good that we got the win and we came out here and played and fought through adversity early.

“It was a good team win,” he added. “We’re maturing. We have a pretty old team. We’re trying to make sure we come out and handle business and take advantage of every opportunity that’s handed to us.”

When 3-pointers are falling for the Minutemen, some other problems do not seem to hurt quite as much.

Foul trouble, rebounding woes, poor free-throw shooting and one of the toughest games in Chaz Williams’ career did not matter as UMass made a season-high 13 3-pointers, including nine in the second half.

With Williams limited to 22 minutes by foul trouble, two seniors and a freshman picked up the Minutemen (18-9, 8-6 Atlantic 10). Riley and Terrell Vinson led the 3-point barrage. Riley scored all of his 18 points on six 3-pointers. He shot 6-for-10 overall and 5-for-6 in the second half.

Vinson was 4-for-5 on 3-point tries and made all three he attempted after intermission as part of his game-high 20 points.

“They were good shots. On the road you want those shots to go in and they went in,” Vinson said. “It really answered what they were doing. They scored at the other end. They were trading baskets with us. We were getting 3s and they were getting 2s. It increased the lead in our favor.”

Riley said he was surprised his shooting was as sharp as it was.

“I don’t know how I did it. I was real tired trying to chase (Xavier guard Brad) Redford around the whole game,” Riley said. “I got some open looks and I put them in.”

UMass was actually better from 3-point range — shooting 13-for-25 (52 percent) — than it was from 1-point range as the Minutemen shot 10-for-20 from the free throw line.

“We shoot a lot of 3s. It was fortunate that we went on a run” of making them, UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “The reality is, they were good shots. There weren’t many that were forced.”

Minuteman freshman Trey Davis played 18 minutes in Williams’ absence and responded with career-highs in points (12) and assists (six). Ten of his points came in the first half when he helped UMass cut the Musketeers’ lead from 22-14 with 8 minutes, 13 seconds left to 35-34 at halftime despite Williams (three first-half fouls), Sampson Carter (two) and Cady Lalanne (two) all on the bench.

“I thought the difference was their 3-point shooting and our lack of energy on the defensive end to keep the ball out of the lane,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “I thought the kid Trey Davis did a really good job coming in for Chaz Williams. He really stepped up and he gave us every bit as much trouble as we’ve had with Chaz in the past. UMass has a very talented team and they took it to us today.”

Lalanne’s return helped negate the Musketeers’ 26-15 first-half rebounding edge.

Lalanne (nine points, eight rebounds) converted a three-point play to open the second half, giving the Minutemen their first lead of the game. The teams then went back and forth early in the second. With the game tied 53-53, Riley hit 3-pointers to start and end an 8-1 run that gave UMass a 61-54 lead with 11:11 remaining.

Xavier (16-12, 8-6 A-10) got within one possession on four occasions after that, but each time the Minutemen immediately answered including twice on 3-pointers by Riley.

“We really didn’t come out and do what we needed to do,” said Xavier junior Isaiah Philmore (14 points). “They hit a lot of 3s, some of them we weren’t there to contest.”

Freshman guard Semaj Christon led the Musketeers with 17 points.

Vinson said UMass now has to focus on Thursday’s game against No. 20 Butler at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen end the regular season at Rhode Island on Saturday.

“We don’t want to relax and get comfortable,” he said. “We have two games left in the (regular) season and they’re just as important as this game.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at


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