Williams leads Minutemen 29 points, 9 assists in victory

By Jackson Alexander

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Last night, point guard Chaz Williams reminded the Mullins Center crowd just how good he can be.

With support, Williams torched Xavier for 29 points and nine assists, leading the Massachusetts men’s basketball team to a vital 80-73 win.

Williams was about as efficient as a point guard can be as he shot 8-for-12 from the field, 6-for-8 from 3-point range and made all seven of his free throw attempts. He also made a number of clutch 3-pointers down the stretch, when his team needed them most.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg said he thought it was Williams’ best, most clutch game of the season.

“Oh yeah, I don’t think it [was] close,” said Kellogg. “That was a big time game and he made 3s and knocked down shots.”

With the Musketeers slowly chipping away at a one-time monstrous second half UMass lead, Williams delivered.

A Mark Lyons jump shot cut the deficit to eight with seven minutes, 31 seconds remaining. However, on the next possession, Terrell Vinson found Williams at the top of the key for an open 3-pointer to push the lead back to 11.

“I just kicked it out to Chaz [and] he hit the 3… We practice it every day,” said Vinson, who added 12 points.

Xavier continued to claw back though, as Lyons again knocked down a jump shot, and made the score 66-58 with 4:17 to go.

But Williams again knocked down a trey, this time on a feed from Raphiael Putney, and UMass reestablished the 11-point lead.

Williams did not make any more field goals from that point on, but did most of his work from the free throw line, going 5-for-5 in the final three minutes.

“He looked confident out there,” said Kellogg. “He really came to play, he made free throws and he made shots.”

Not only did the sophomore point guard dish out a game-high nine assists, he also collected five rebounds. Williams turned the ball over six times in the game, but he was not at fault on a number of those.

“He completely dominated the game,” said Xavier coach Chris Mack.

In addition to his superlative offensive game, Kellogg liked what he saw from Williams on the defensive end of the floor.

“I thought his defense was as good as it’s been all year,” said Kellogg.

Jesse Morgan and Freddie Riley were strapped with the task of defending Musketeer star Tu Holloway. The duo held him to 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Williams was far from off the hook as he matched up with Lyons, another potent scorer. He was up for the task, as Lyons tallied 15 points, but was generally inefficient, as he went just 6-for-18 from the field.

Defense is an aspect of the Williams’ game that Kellogg stresses.

“That’s something I’ve been on him about, because I think he can become a better defender, and a real pest on the defensive end of the floor,” said Kellogg.

While both coaches were quick to gush over Williams’ performance, the point guard put his game in a simpler perspective.

“I was just trying to find open shots and take open shots and make them,” said Williams. “Making open shots for my teammates, and doing whatever they need me to do was what I was trying to do tonight.”

The Minutemen entered last night’s game having lost their two previous ones, and Williams hadn’t performed to the level he is capable of in those games.

He shot just 9-for-27 from the field and averaged 11 points over the two games. The usually automatic free throw shooter also went 3-for-8 from the line.

“He had gotten in a little couple game stretch where he wasn’t [knocking] them down,” said Kellogg.

That’s why his game was such a welcoming site to UMass fans as Williams, improved in all nearly every facet.

It is unlikely that after Tuesday’s performance that anyone will be taking Williams for granted. Xavier coach Mack certainly won’t.

“I don’t know if there’s any point guard we’ve faced this year that had a better game against us this year,” said Mack.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.