UMass men’s basketball hangs on to beat LSU in wild affair
It was a fitting way to end the game.
Sampson Carter, a Baton Rouge, La., native, stood at the line with a chance to preserve a lead his team desperately clung to against a pesky Louisiana State team.
Calmly, Carter sunk two pairs of foul shots within the final 14 seconds to deliver a 92-90 victory for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team in front of 5,182 raucous midday fans.
The game was littered with fouls, with 54 called in total against both teams and 65 free throws attempted. Carter aggressively set the tone early and often, scoring 11 of his 17 points at the charity stripe and sending LSU into a bevy of foul trouble.
“I think I’m a guy that does well under pressure,” Carter said. “Anytime in that situation, I feel like I can knock (the free throws) down.”
It was Carter’s free throws which calmed an intense final 60 seconds which saw LSU (0-1) frustrate UMass coach Derek Kellogg’s unit. Despite the frenetic pace of the game, the Tigers only led once.
“They showed that we’re a little more mature than we’ve been in years past,” Kellogg said. “When teams make a run at us we kinda kept at it and kept fighting.”
Carter reveled in being the deciding factor against the Tigers.
“Oh man, I just came out with a lot of ambition and fire,” Carter said. “I can’t even explain the feeling of playing against them, I never thought I’d be able to even get the chance to play against them in my career here.”
UMass pushed the lead in the second half up to double-digits twice, but LSU continued to battle back, cutting the deficit to 77-76 with 8:30 to go. . Most of the second half resembled the feel of an NCAA Tournament-type game played in mid-November.
“It was very physical, very intense,” point guard Chaz Williams said.
“First play of the game there was trash-talking between both teams so you know it was a real gritty game. We had to pull up our shorts and lace our sneakers and go out there and play and I think we did a great job of that tonight.”
Williams scored a team-high 24 points, 10 of which came at the line, while adding nine assists. The up-tempo, high-intensity nature of the game suited Williams well.
The team also received a boost of energy from center Cady Lalanne, who assumed the role of a cheerleader in the first half after picking up two quick fouls. He made his presence felt down the stretch in the second 20 minutes, igniting the crowd with two ferocious dunks to push the lead to 69-59. Lalanne scored 16 points in the second half in a back-and-forth battle with Tigers center Johnny O’Bryant.
“That’s just Cady being Cady,” Williams said. “The world has yet to see that so us teammates make sure we tell him, ‘Go out there and dominate every game and make the world realize you are potentially one of the best big-men in the country.'”
Foul trouble plagued both teams. There were 34 fouls called in the first half and Lalanne eventually fouled out with 2:15 remaining. Both Williams and O’Bryant missed time down the stretch with four fouls apiece, meaning both teams needed complimentary pieces to step up and fill the void down the stretch.
For UMass, that was Raphiael Putney.
Putney played just 17 minutes in the season opener and struggled with foul trouble in both the opener and the exhibition against American International College. Kellogg noted on multiple occasions during the preseason that in order for UMass to reach the next level, Putney would need to be effective.
“I just came out with a vengeance today,” Putney said. “I just tried to rebound the basketball a lot more, which I did, and go out there and just play my game.”
He scored 14 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots in 30 minutes of play including a vicious put-back dunk with 7:47 to go in the first half off a missed free throw which Williams noted sparked the team.
LSU was the beneficiary of strong front-court play which kept the game competitive. O’Bryant scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting and added 11 rebounds. Jordan Mickey added 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
The Minutemen return to action Sunday against Youngstown State.
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli