With under two minutes left and the game tied at 85, Massachusetts men’s basketball forward Terrell Vinson corralled a defensive rebound and pushed it up court, where Sampson Carter eventually made a layup to complete a 7-0 UMass run and give his team a two-point lead.
In a back-and-forth battle on the road at St. Bonaventure, the play – seemingly – gave UMass control and momentum of a game it sorely needed to keep its dreams of playing in the NCAA Tournament alive.
But upon a video review, it was determined that Vinson, after grabbing the rebound, swung his elbow, which appeared to hit Bonnies guard Chris Mosley in the head. The senior was then called for a flagrant foul, which ejected him from the game and to the bench.
The momentum was lost, and the Bonnies seized their opportunity to take it back. Mosley tied it back up on a pair of free throws, and after a Chaz Williams and-one gave the Minutemen back a brief 90-89 advantage, SBU scored the next six points and made its free throws down the stretch to take a 99-94 victory at the Reilly Center on Wednesday night.
UMass (16-9, 6-6 Atlantic 10) has now lost three in a row, including the last two by five points or less, putting a severe hit into its lofty postseason aspirations with just four games to go in the regular season.
“Let’s just call it what it is,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said in a postgame radio interview. “The play that cost us the game was Terrell Vinson gets the rebound and they call a flagrant foul when I thought they missed the call. … That changed the tide of the game and then they went to the free throw line three straight times after that, and really, that was what cost us the game.”
Foul trouble hurt the Minutemen as four players – Raphiael Putney, Carter, Maxie Esho and Vinson – all fouled out of the contest, which left them with five available bodies by the end of the regulation, including Cady Lalanne, who had four fouls himself.
SBU (12-13, 5-7 A-10) took advantage of that foul trouble, as it went 32-of-33 from the foul line, including going 8-for-8 in the final 33 seconds of regulation to prevent any chance of a final UMass comeback.
Asked if he’d ever seen a performance at the free throw line like that before, Kellogg said he hadn’t.
“That’s way too many,” Kellogg said. “I didn’t think we were playing overly aggressive like that to put them at the free throw line 33 times.”
After not leading once and falling behind by seven at halftime, the Minutemen played strong in the second half, outscoring the Bonnies 63-61 in the final 20 minutes.
Freddie Riley, who finished with 17 points, gave UMass its first lead of the game on a 3-pointer with 12:43 left, which completed a 7-0 run at the time.
From there, it was back-and-forth all the way down to the final buzzer. SBU got its lead back up to seven at 80-73 with 5:26 left, and the Minutemen responded by going on a 14-5 run over the next 3:30 to take an 87-85 lead before Vinson’s flagrant.
After going down 91-90 on a Youssou Ndoye layup with 1:29 left, Carter missed a jumper. And on the Bonnies’ ensuing possession, Demetrius Conger missed a 3-pointer, but got his own rebound as he saved it and called timeout before the ball went out-of-bounds in the corner. Conger then went on to make the first two of SBU’s eight free throws in the final seconds.
In the end, UMass couldn’t overcome its own foul trouble as well as Mosley, who scored a game-high 39 points on five 3-pointers and 10-of-10 shooting from the free throw line.
“I’m actually a little frustrated right now,” Kellogg said. “I thought we put ourselves in a position to win the basketball game, I thought we came up here and put in a good effort, especially in the second half, and we weren’t rewarded with the victory, which I think is once again a tough one to swallow.”
Williams led the Minutemen with 26 points and 12 assists, while Vinson chipped in 20 points and Lalanne added 12.
UMass will next lace it up at the Mullins Center on Saturday afternoon against Dayton.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.