Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass wins sixth straight, edges Duquesne 82-74

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(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

With the most pivotal week of its season on the horizon, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team couldn’t afford a lapse against Duquesne.

And while it wasn’t their cleanest performance of the season, the Minutemen indeed escaped, righting themselves at the foul line and holding off a Dukes surge to win their sixth straight game Saturday, 82-74.

“It was nice to get that win, put it behind us and now take a little time off as we get ready for a really tough Rhode Island team on Wednesday,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said following the win.

UMass (16-9, 9-3 Atlantic 10 Conference) entered Saturday in a four-way tie for first place in the conference and needed a victory to keep pace with Virginia Commonwealth, URI and Dayton, which all won Saturday.

In the second half, the prospects of a Minutemen victory abruptly came into question.

UMass led 57-47 with 11 minutes, 55 seconds remaining, but promptly made what Kellogg deemed were “not very good basketball plays. The Minutemen committed two straight turnovers, reserve guard Demetrius Dyson picked up two fouls and Duquesne guard Micah Mason scored five straight points.

Suddenly, it was 59-58 with 8:25 remaining. And Duquesne kept coming.

“When you go up 10 and you’re at home, you have to do a little bit better job of making better basketball decisions at that point,” Kellogg said.

The Dukes (8-15, 3-9 A-10) withstood a Jabarie Hinds 3-pointer and rallied to even the score at 66-66 with 3:31 remaining as the 4,437 in attendance murmured their restless disapproval.

But Minutemen guard Trey Davis nailed a floater to make it 68-66 and Derrick Gordon forced a steal on the ensuing defensive possession. With two minutes left, UMass guard Donte Clark bailed the Minutemen out, hitting a 3-pointer from the wing over an outstretched defender as the shot clock expired to give the Minutemen a 71-66 lead. It was Clark’s only basket of the game.

“He didn’t play great tonight, but that was a big shot,” Kellogg said. “I actually thought that, if there was a shot that won us the game, that was it.”

UMass went on an 11-2 run after the Dukes drew even and took advantage of timely free throw shooting – something it couldn’t say earlier in the game.

The Minutemen were 25-of-39 from the free throw line, closing the game going 15-of-17. It was a significant change in tune from their start, which saw UMass open the game just 10-of-22 from the free throw line. As Duquesne closed the deficit, the Minutemen missed four straight.

But when UMass needed to hit, it did. And it can thank Davis first and foremost.

Davis, who finished with a game-high 26 points, was a perfect 10-of-10 from the line and hit six of those in the final 72 seconds of the game. He’s now hit 32 straight free throws and is one free throw shy of tying former UMass guard Chaz Williams’ record of 33 straight against conference opponents.

“I just wanted to win the game, that was all that was on my mind,” Davis said. “Whatever we have to do to win, that’s what I’m excited about and that’s what I was thinking.”

“To see them step up, make plays and make free throws at the end of the game, that’s what teams that are getting better and teams that are pretty good do,” Kellogg said.

UMass forward Maxie Esho added 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Gordon chipped in nine points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Jabarie Hinds and Cady Lalanne each had 11 points.

The Minutemen held Duquesne – which was the fourth-best 3-point shooting team in the conference – to 5-of-21 from beyond the arc. Dukes guard Micah Mason scored 20 points, while leading scorer Derrick Colter had 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

Now, UMass must go on the road to face URI Wednesday, with a Saturday road date against VCU lurking behind it.

(Rhode Island) has always been a good, fought game for us, whether it is at home or on the road. They’re playing as good as they have for a while here and I think we are starting to play better. This is going to be a good, hard New England battle,” Kellogg said.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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