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March 22, 2017

Minutemen upset Memphis, 73-72, at TD Bank Garden

hoopBOSTON —  Sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

But as long as the desired results come, Ricky Harris and the Massachusetts men’s basketball team will take it just as they did on a broken play that resulted in UMass upsetting Memphis Saturday night at the TD Bank Garden.

“We were running an inbounds play that we had been working on in practice, and it was hard for Gary [Correia] to get the ball inbounds,” Harris said. “He just threw it up, and luckily it landed in Terrell [Vinson’s] hands, and he finished it off with a good layup.”

With 3.8 seconds on the clock, Correia tried to work an inbounds pass to junior guard Anthony Gurley (14 points, six rebounds and three assists). With Memphis (7-2) heavily guarding Gurley, Correia lobbed the inbounds pass up, hoping for it to find its way into Gurley’s hands, but instead found the hands of Vinson.

Standing under the basket, the freshman put in the game-winner – his first ever according to Vinson – with 0.7 seconds left on the clock, giving UMass a 73-72 win.

“I was very surprised, because the ball was meant to go to [Gurley], and it looked like Memphis had stolen it,” Vinson said of the game-winning play. “I don’t know what happened but it ended up in my hands, and I had to hurry up and shoot because there was three seconds left.”

The game-winner punctuated what is arguably the best game so far in Vinson’s young career at UMass. The Baltimore native led the Minutemen (6-5) in points (21) and had a game-high nine rebounds. The strong performance followed Vinson’s first double-double of his career when he recorded career highs in points (20) and rebounds (11) in an 81-58 win over Grambling State eight days before.

While UMass’ final offensive possession may not have gone according to the game plan, the rest of the game did as the Minutemen played a strong inside game to counter the Tigers use of four guards.

“They played four guards and a big guy,” UMass coach and former Memphis assistant coach Derek Kellogg said.  “We flip flopped our big guy in Terrell Vinson and let him hang around the basket a bit and I thought that was effective for us.”

The focus on the inside game proved to be effective for UMass as they outrebounded Memphis 44-24 and outscored the Tigers 40-16 inside the paint.

Heading into the contest, Kellogg was concerned about Memphis’ ability to force turnovers, and while it forced 20 compared to the nine forced by UMass, the Minutemen still made the most of their opportunities.

“Quite honestly I was a little worried coming into the game that their athleticism and their ball pressure would turn us over too much and make it very, very difficult,” Kellogg said. “But our guys responded and played tough.”

Despite the difference in turnovers, Memphis struggled to convert them into points. Memphis scored just 24 points off of UMass 20 turnovers, while the Minutemen scored 17 off of the Tigers nine.

The Minutemen found themselves down one at the half, 35-34, but came out strong out of the locker room to build a 58-51 lead with 11 minutes, 22 seconds remaining. The Tigers would piece together a 7-0 run in the next two minutes to tie the game at 58 with 9:06 to go.

From that point on neither team would lead by more than three, just as Memphis did with 3:07 to go. Two Harris free throws (13 points on 2-of-11 shooting and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line) would bring UMass within one and set Vinson up for his late-game heroics.

The victory put UMass over .500 for the first time this season – and the first time under Kellogg since a 1-0 start last season – but does more than that for the program. Since Kellogg’s arrival, he has spoke of getting the program national recognition on the biggest of stages.

There are few bigger spots the Minutemen could do that than the one on Saturday night as they did so out front of nearly 8,100 fans in the biggest basketball arena in the state and on national TV (ESPN2). The win also came against a team who was knocking on the door of a spot in the AP Top 25.

The game also gave Kellogg the opportunity to showcase the state program to the biggest market the state has to offer.

“I thought it was great that we won the game and let people know in this part of the state that a state school is right down the road.”

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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