Big second half run pushes UMass men’s basketball past BC
BOSTON — It’s hard to stop Chaz Williams once he gets going.
Boston College found that out the hard way Sunday afternoon, when the senior guard scored 20 points – 15 in the second half – and went 5-for-5 on 3-pointers to lead the Massachusetts men’s basketball team to a 86-73 season-opening win at TD Garden in the Coaches vs. Cancer Boston Tip-Off.
“I was just shooting with confidence,” Williams said. “You know, this has been a long offseason, just working out, on my jump shot. Guys did a great job of finding me. You know, I gotta thank my teammates for finding me when I was open.”
Playing in front of mostly UMass supporters, the Minutemen (1-0) overcame a nine-point second half deficit to knock off their intrastate rivals.
But all was not well for UMass early in the second half. The Minutemen trailed the Eagles (0-2) 45-36 and were in desperate need of a spark.
That spark came in the form of senior forward Sampson Carter, who got the Minutemen back in the game by going on his own mini 7-0 run to pull UMass back to within two points.
That’s when Williams took over, knocking down pull-up 3 after pull-up 3 to lead UMass on a 33-9 run over a nine minute, 17 second span. That run erased the nine-point deficit and opened up a 15-point lead for the Minutemen.
“We talked at halftime before we came out and we all knew and agreed that this game was either going to hurt us or help us down the line when it came tournament time,” Carter said.
Even when UMass was missing the initial shots, Cady Lalanne was there to put back the rebound.
The junior recorded his seventh career double-double, finishing the game with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, with eight boards coming on the offensive end. The performance was arguably the best one of his career, one that he credits to finally being healthy during the offseason.
“I think being in shape and just working on my game helped a lot,” Lalanne said. “Every day in practice, every day we do anything, they all, coaches, Chaz, (Carter), every player always tells me, ‘you gotta make sure you dominate every game,’ so that was my mindset coming into the game.”
The trio of Carter, Lalanne and Williams combined for 59 points and shot a collective 23-for-37 from the field.
What was only a 36-32 deficit at halftime for the Minutemen quickly turned into a nine-point lead for the Eagles when they went on an 8-4 run to open the half.
The turnaround for UMass defensively came when coach Derek Kellogg pulled Raphiael Putney and inserted Maxie Esho into the game, allowing the Minutemen to go into their full-court press.
“We discussed (switching to the press) at halftime and really waited until Maxie got into the game,” Kellogg said. “I think our pressing lineup is when Maxie comes in and he’s a one-man press. He’s (former UMass forward) Will Herndon, but in 2013.”
BC never adjusted to defense and allowed UMass to overcome a sloppy start to the game and eventually take control for good.
The game got off to a slow start as both sides showed some signs of early-season rust. The Minutemen committed nine turnovers in the first half and only shot 36 percent from the field.
Despite the sloppy play, UMass found itself only trailing by four going into the halftime break with a chance to still win the game.
The win was a strong statement for the Minutemen, who opened up with a BCS-conference opponent for the first time in the Kellogg era.
“Obviously being able to play a team like Boston College, an ACC team in Boston, that’s one you, and one with the Cancer Society, you can’t turn that game down. It’s one we have to play,” Kellogg said.
The tough early-season schedule resumes on Tuesday when the Minutemen return home to Mullins Center for their home opener against LSU. That game is part of ESPN’s 24-Hour College Basketball Tip-Off and is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Strohecker.