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Trey Davis lifts UMass basketball to 78-74 win at Duquesne

Taylor Snow/Daily Collegian

Taylor Snow/Daily Collegian

Trey Davis handled the basketball at the top of the key with little space to maneuver and even less time on the shot clock.

Quickly moving to his right with a defender posted to his hip, Davis took a dribble and pulled up for a contested 3-pointer. He raised high – an elongated release, noticeably different than his usual form, which begins close to his hip – and fired up a low-percentage, last-second shot.

It was right on target, providing the Massachusetts men’s basketball team with a 71-70 lead with three minutes, 13 seconds to go.

“Thank God it went in,” Davis said in a postgame radio interview following the UMass’ 78-74 victory over Duquesne on Wednesday night.

In reality, Davis’ teammates might want to thank him as well.

The sophomore point guard scored the Minutemen’s final 10 points of the game, and he hit all four of his 3-pointers in the second half to tie a career-high with 20 points. In addition to his 3-pointer to give UMass a 71-70 lead, he nailed another 3 with 1:43 remaining to regain the lead 74-72.

“The kid has confidence,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said. “He’s actually a better player than maybe his talent would lead. He’s not a super great athlete, but he knows how to play and he’s a very confident player, which I love.”

Davis, who led UMass in scoring, knocked down the final four free throws of the game and was the Minutemen’s strongest offensive option in a game where they needed every point to edge out a victory over the Dukes.

“My teammates believe in me,” Davis said. “I told Chaz in the first half, ‘I’m not going to keep missing, just keep coming to me.’ And that’s what he did. And once I hit the first two (3-pointers), I knew the rest of them were gonna go down.”

“The reality of it is, I’ve been waiting for somebody to knock down some of those 3’s for a while now,” Kellogg added. “Whether it’s (Raphiael) Putney, Sampson (Carter), Trey, whoever that might be. And (Davis) stepped up to the plate.”

For a moment, UMass appeared to clear itself of any late-game struggles. The Minutemen took a 66-58 lead with 8:53 remaining in the second half on a Maxie Esho layup. But Duquesne rattled off the next 10 points, holding a 68-66 lead until UMass tied it with 4:20 left on a Putney dunk.

Putney finished with 12 points, crossing over the 1,000 point threshold for his career. He’s the 46th player in Minutemen history to score 1,000 points.

The Dukes hung tough in the second half thanks to strong play from guard Micah Mason and forward Ovie Soko. Mason finished with 20 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3, while Soko finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Soko gave Duquesne the lead twice in the second half before Davis answered for UMass.

The Minutemen struggled early, falling behind by as many as 11 points in the first half.

“We didn’t totally get to play our game today. We had to tone it down size-wise and play more of a speed lineup,” Kellogg said.

The speed worked, as UMass whittled away at the deficit and carried a 41-40 lead into halftime. The Minutemen worked to drive the ball into the paint, which eventually opened up the 3-point shooting for Davis in the late stages of the game.

The Minutemen will close out the regular season on Sunday against Saint Louis at Mullins Center.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at mchiarel@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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