Vinson clutch down the stretch again for UMass

By Stephen Sellner

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Terrell Vinson may not be the most outspoken player on the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, but in the crunch time, his big-shot making ability is doing all the talking for him.

Such was the case on Saturday when he scored eight of his 10 points in the final six minutes, 27 seconds of play to help march fifth-seeded UMass past top-seeded Seton Hall, 77-67.

After the Minutemen controlled the first half of play, the Pirates stormed back with a vengeance in the second frame. A 13-5 run brought Seton Hall back from down four to build its largest lead of the game, 60-56, at the 6:42 mark.

That’s when Vinson kicked into gear. And if he hadn’t, UMass’ season might have come to an abrupt end.

Chaz Williams dished to Vinson in the heart of the Pirates’ zone, and the junior went hard to the hoop, drew a foul and finished the bucket to bring a halt to Seton Hall’s momentum. He then hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned 3-point play to pull the Minutemen within one at 60-59. The play kicked off a 7-0 Minutemen run to take a 63-60 lead with 5:02 remaining in the game.

But fortunately for UMass, Vinson was just getting started. After Seton Hall hit a pair of free throws to make it a 63-62 affair, the junior pushed the Minutemen lead back to three after corralling his own miss and sinking a jumper to build a 65-62 advantage.

Just over two minutes later, UMass had a chance to seal it.

And Vinson did so.

Holding a four-point lead with 1:38 left to play in the game, Williams dished to Vinson on the left wing. The junior didn’t hesitate as he pulled the trigger from downtown sank the 3 to match the Minutemen’s largest lead of the second half at 71-64. UMass went on to seal it at the free throw line.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg has been impressed by Vinson’s clutch performances not only late in Saturday’s win, but all season long.

“He’s done that a lot at the end of games for us this year,” said Kellogg. “He’s acted like a junior and really done some nice things. [We] got him the ball in the middle of the zone, he made some good plays and I’m happy for him.”

Vinson has come up clutch throughout the season, nailing big shots in the biggest moments for UMass.

In fact, if not for his previous heroics against Duquesne in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Minutemen arguably would be sitting on their couch watching the NIT instead of participating.

The Dukes matched their largest lead of the game after Mike Talley hit a layup to give Duquesne a 78-73 lead with 6:03 left to play in the game and possibly left in UMass’ season as the Dukes appeared ready to run away with the contest. However, Vinson buried a 3-pointer on the following possession to cut the margin to two, igniting a 9-0 run as UMass took over, 82-78, and never relinquished the lead for the remainder of the contest.

Had it not been for that shot, the Minutemen might not have advanced on to play Temple in Atlantic City, N.J. And without its upset win over the Owls, UMass may have been left on the outside looking at an NIT berth.

But thanks to that shot and Vinson’s play down the stretch at Seton Hall, the season lives on as the Minutemen’s magical postseason run continues on Tuesday with a meeting against the winner of No. 3 Drexel and No. 7 Northern Iowa.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.