UMass men’s basketball prevails over Bonnies with comeback effort
It wasn’t a conventional approach to a late-game possession, but then again, not much about the No. 19 Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s 73-68 victory over St. Bonaventure was.
When Trey Davis caught Sampson Carter’s pass off a crucial offensive rebound, he immediately holstered and fired, an act made even easier due to his unconventional method of shooting the ball from his hip on jump shots. Without hesitation or even a glance toward the top of the key despite the shot clock resetting, Davis launched his go-ahead 3-pointer, vaulting UMass ahead of the Bonnies 69-68 with just 67 ticks remaining on the clock.
While it was a high-risk, high-reward decision with the game hanging in the balance, his coach Derek Kellogg would tell him to do it all over again.
“Loved it,” Kellogg said on Davis’ decision. “I thought it was fantastic. … If he didn’t shoot it I was probably gonna run on the court because that’s what he does. I actually like him shooting, I’m telling him when he’s open every time, shoot it.”
Davis’ 3-pointer was the most crucial element to the Minutemen’s (14-1, 2-0 Atlantic 10) frenetic 26-8 scoring run to end the game. The comeback bid, built out of a mixture of desperation and an ability to finally run the floor offensively, began with 9 minutes, 50 seconds remaining and UMass trailing 60-47.
It ended with St. Bonaventure (11-5, 1-1 A-10) committing four straight turnovers to end the game against a mixture of mounting defensive pressure and crowd noise. The most notable came with UMass leading 71-68 and 10 seconds remaining. Chaz Williams stole the inbounds pass from Bonnies guard Matthew Wright and quickly fed it to Raphiael Putney, who was fouled. Putney would hit the final two free throws.
For stretches in the second half, the Minutemen looked like a car attempting to maneuver up an icy hill without much success. Every time they cut the lead to single-digits, St. Bonaventure would respond with an opportune layup or come up with a loose ball. But as the game prolonged, the pace quickened.
“I felt like the pace of the game in the second half was a little better and least that was gonna give us an opportunity to maybe have a chance at the end,” Kellogg said. “That’s what we’re hoping for the way the game went.”
UMass cleared the initial hurdle with 7:46 to go on an alley-oop from Chaz Williams to Putney, who led the team with 17 points. On the ensuing inbounds play, Sampson Carter drew an offensive foul and the Minutemen turned it into a Cady Lalanne layup to make it 60-53. The exchange of events ignited a relatively dormant crowd and UMass never looked back.
Putney played an important role down the stretch on both ends of the floor. He grabbed eight rebounds and was the aggressor at the top of Kellogg’s press, a defense the team stayed in the majority of the game.
“It started on my defense,” Putney said. “I was trying to focus this whole entire week and coach kept telling me I’m one of the best defensive players in the country, so I just kept that in my mindset and I brought it today.”
His effort was needed on a day where points were at a premium. Williams scored just eight points on 1-of-7 shooting and only Carter and Lalanne joined Putney in double-figure scoring.
The real struggles appeared in the first half. UMass struggled to move the ball in a sloppy start and trailed 32-25 at halftime. The Minutemen shot just 30 percent in the half on 7-of-23 shooting and were in danger of trailing by 10 before Carter hit a long 3-pointer before the buzzer.
“We needed a bucket bad before the first half ended,” Carter said. “I was just happy to see it go through the net.”
The two teams combined to commit 37 turnovers and were whistled for 45 fouls. UMass struggled at times to contain Bonnies guard Charlon Kloof, who had 15 points and seven assists. St. Bonaventure center Youssou Ndoye recorded five blocks defensively.
Despite another lackluster start, the Minutemen acknowledged they’re getting strong efforts from most of their opponents. It comes with the territory of being nationally ranked and is expected to continue as conference play moves on.
“You saw it, they’re playing us,” Kellogg said. “They’re playing physical and tough. Our will is gonna have to overcome some of these teams.”
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli