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February 21, 2012 - Xavier vs. UMass

  • Season: 2011-12
  • Date: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
  • Opponent: Xavier
  • Start Time: 7:00 PM ET
  • Special Event: Atlantic 10 Regular Season
  • Television: CBS Sports Network Regional (outlets: Comcast Network, Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast, Comcast SportsNet New England, Fox Sports Ohio)

Previews

UMass Athletics

Daily Hampshire Gazette

UMass men's basketball enters tough stretch with Xavier, Dayton, Temple
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 2/21/2012

AMHERST - Out of the frying pan of its first back-to-back losses of the year, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team faces the fire of the toughest stretch of its season, beginning with tonight's game against Xavier at 7 in the Mullins Center.

With the league standings still very bunched and first-round byes or home games in the Atlantic 10 Tournament still up for grabs, the Minutemen need some wins.

After playing the Musketeers, UMass heads to Dayton - one of the toughest venues for a road team - at 6 p.m. Saturday. The three-game stretch is capped by a game at No. 22 Temple at 7 p.m. Feb. 29. The regular season ends at home at 4 p.m. March 3 against last-place Rhode Island.

The Minutemen are at 7-5 in the Atlantic 10 (18-8 overall), which puts them in a three-way tie for fifth place with La Salle and St. Bonaventure, a half game behind Saint Joseph's (8-5) and a game behind Xavier (8-4). Dayton and Duquesne (both 6-6) are just a game back, tied for eighth.

The top four teams in the conference earn a bye and the next four get home games in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament on March 6. The quarterfinals through finals of the tournament are March 9-11 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.,

“We have to win a few more games,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “You're one or two games away from being anywhere from third to 10th. Every game is pretty important right now.”

Senior big man Sean Carter echoed his coach.

“We definitely need this one. It's late in the conference now and these last four games could make or break us,” Carter said. “They could put us back in the top four. We're trying to get that first-round bye. It's going to be a real big game for us, back here at home. I expect we'll have a pretty good crowd.”

With minimal time between Saturday and tonight, Kellogg said there's only so much they can do physically to get ready.

“It's as much mental preparation as anything, To rebound and get the guys mentally back in the right frame of mind,” said Kellogg, who thought his team had put Saturday's 72-71 loss to La Salle behind it. “It took a little while on Sunday to get everything out of their system, but they came around and I'm expecting them to play hard” tonight.

The Musketeers have plenty to play for too. On top of improving their Atlantic 10 Tournament standing, they're trying to stay in the running for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Xavier opened the season with eight straight wins and rose all the way to No. 8 in the rankings and were considered a potential Final Four contender and the odds-on favorite to win the Atlantic 10.

But the Musketeers haven't been the same since their much-publicized brawl with Cincinnati on Dec. 10.

They lost their next three games with their roster thinned by suspensions. But even when their players returned, the Musketeers' swagger didn't as their slide stretched to five losses in six games including their A-10 opener at La Salle.

Xavier won its next four over Fordham, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph's, but has gone 4-4 since then.

The Musketeers arrived in Amherst after an 86-83 overtime win over Dayton at home Saturday night.

“This is obviously a tough game against a team that at one point I thought was a Final Four team and has that kind of talent,” Kellogg said.

Xavier is led by the backcourt duo of senior Tu Holloway and junior Mark Lyons. Holloway's 17.3 points per game is second in the Atlantic 10 and he's among the conference leaders in assists (5.6) and steals (1.6) per game.

“He's the best player in the league and he's got his swagger and his game back,” Kellogg said. “You've got to make the game hard on him. You can't give him easy play and free buckets.”

Lyons is seventh in scoring at 16 points per game.

“We have to get back to our roots defensively,” Carter said. “Over the past few games our defensive intensity hasn't been the same. That definitely has to pick up.”

ESHO HONORED - Maxie Esho's 18-point, six rebound performance against La Salle earned him the Atlantic 10's rookie of the week honors.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at http://www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

Springfield Republican

Cincinnati Enquirer

Game Thread

See the UMassHoops.com Message Board thread for pre-game and post-game discussion.

Recaps

UMass Athletics

Williams, UMass Cruise Past Xavier, 80-73
UMass snaps six-game losing streak to Xavier.
From UMass Athletics, 2/21/2012

AMHERST, Mass. - Chaz Williams scored a career-high 29 points and dished out nine assists to lead Massachusetts past Xavier, 80-73, at the Mullins Center Tuesday night.

Williams had a career night from outside, making 6-of-8 to help UMass (19-8, 8-5 Atlantic 10) snap a two-game losing skid overall and a six-game streak to Xavier. The sophomore standout narrowly missed his third-consecutive 10-assist game.

UMass shot 44 percent and was 16-of-18 from the free throw line, making its final 13 in the contest. The Minutemen also made 10 3-pointers, the seventh time this season they have reached double figures.

Xavier (17-10, 8-5) was led by Dezmine Wells' 19 points and three steals. Mark Lyons had 15 while Kenny Frease added 12 off the bench. The Musketeers committed 20 turnovers, which the Minutemen converted into 19 points.

With Xavier holding a 21-16 lead midway through the first half, UMass got hot from outside, making four 3-pointers in a three-minute stretch as the Minutemen outscored Xavier 14-2 and stake a 30-23 lead.

UMass closed the half with a Raphiael Putney dunk and a trey by Williams to head into the break ahead 41-29.

The Minutemen had opened the game shooting just 7-of-24 before closing the frame 9-of-11, including 4-of-5 from outside.

The second half saw UMass extend its lead to 20 points eight minutes in as a Freddie Riley layup capped a 12-5 run. He finished with 12 points.

But Xavier fought back, trimming the margin to eight on two occasions, the last being a Lyons triple with 4:19 to play.

The Minutemen extended their lead to double-digits with a 9-4 run. Xavier made a couple of threes late to get within five before Williams made three of his seven free throws to account for the final margin.

Putney finished with 13 points, six rebounds and tied his career high with four blocks.

The crowd of 6,632 fed off the energy of the game but also got energized with the appearance of former UMass football standout Victor Cruz. The New York Giants wideout returned to campus for the first time since helping the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI.

UMass will hit the road for a pair of crucial games beginning Saturday at Dayton and next Wednesday at Temple. Tip-off at the UD Arena is set for 6 p.m.

NOTES

  • UMass had four players in double figures: Chaz Williams (29), Raphiael Putney (13), Terrell Vinson (12), and Freddie Riley (12).
  • Putney hit 3 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, helping the Minutemen gain the lead going into halftime. He also tied his career high in blocks with 4.
  • Williams scored a career high 29 points (the most by a Minuteman this season) off a career high 6 three-point shots giving him his sixth game with 20 or more points this season.
  • Three Minutemen were perfect from the free-throw line: Williams (7-7), Vinson (4-4), and Morgan (2-2).
  • Xavier turned the ball over ten times in the first 4:34 minutes of the game, scoring just three points in that time span. There were a total of 14 turnovers and just 7 points scored in the game by this point.
  • The Minutemen went 16-18 from the line, giving them a 88.9 free-throw percentage. UMass is 6-0 when they shoot greater than 80.0% from the charity stripe.
  • UMass is undefeated this season when they lead going into halftime (13-0). This game they were ahead 12 at the start of the second half.
  • This win gives the Minutewomen their eighth conference win of the season, the most since Derek Kellogg has been the head coach.
  • Prior to this game, UMass lost six straight games to Xavier. Xavier leads the all time series 14-9.

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Chaz Williams scores 29 to lead UMass men's basketball over Xavier
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 2/22/2012

AMHERST - Chaz Williams' resume of big-game performances nearly mirrors the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's list of wins. The sophomore point guard transfer from Hofstra has been a huge ingredient in the Minutemen's success this season.

But in Tuesday's 80-73 win over Xavier at the Mullins Center, Williams raised his game to a level he had not previously reached. The Musketeers' backcourt of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons came in with the well-deserved reputation as the Atlantic 10's best, but Williams was the top player on the floor.

Williams, who had a career-high 29 points and nine assists, impressed Xavier coach Chris Mack who expected him to be good.

“He completely dominated the game,” Mack said. “He's a dynamo with the ball. He gets anywhere he wants. He's unselfish. He can shoot. Most diminutive point guards can't shoot a lick outside of 6 feet.

“He's a really good player,” Mack continued. “I don't know if there's any other point guard we faced that had a better game against us this year.”

Williams ditched his signature headband for the game and that seemed to improve his shooting ability. He made six-of-eight 3-point attempts, including two big ones down the stretch.

“I was just trying to find open spots and take open shots and make them,” Williams said. “When we make those shots, we're a different team, and when we're missing shots, we're a totally different team. So just making open shots for my teammates and doing whatever they need me to do is what I was trying to do tonight.”

With 7 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game, a basket by Lyons cut a once 20-point lead for UMass down to 61-53. But Williams answered with a 3-pointer that brought the crowd of 6,632 to its feet. Terrell Vinson followed with a baseline drive to push the lead back to 66-53.

But the Musketeers kept attacking. After a basket by Kenny Frease, Lyons cut the lead to eight again with a 3-pointer. And again it was Williams who hit another 3 to make the score 69-58 with 3:54 left, and that was the knockout blow.

UMass (19-8, 8-5 Atlantic 10) made enough free throws after that to hold on.

“That was a big-time game. He made 3s and knocked down shots,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “He looked confident out there. He really came to play.

“He made free throws, he made shots, and I really think his defense was about as good as its been all year,” Kellogg added. “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.”

The Minutemen have built their strong season on taking big leads and then surviving late charges. However, most of those escape acts came against lesser opponents.

On Tuesday, UMass got key contributions from several players to hold off Xavier (17-10, 8-5 A-10), which had been ranked as high as No. 8 this season. Raphiael Putney had 13 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Vinson (eight rebounds) and Freddie Riley each had 12 points.

But Riley's biggest contribution came on defense as he played a big part in holding Holloway, who came into the game averaging 17.3 points, to just 10.

“He's the best player on the team and one of the best point guards in the conference, so my biggest focus when I got in the game was to just control him as much as I could,” Riley said. “I did a better job than I thought I was going to do, but I was just trying to keep him from having a big game and it worked.

“Jesse Morgan also did a good job on him, too,” Riley added. “I feel pretty good about this performance, mainly because of the way I played defense. I usually don't worry about offense too much anymore. I just try to play the best defense that I can play, and tonight it paid off.”

Dezmine Wells led the Musketeers with 19 points.

Mack admitted that the loss dealt a blow to his team's chances for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“It was disappointing, because I thought we were in position to start to cement an at-large bid,” Mack said. “We have to get back to work and try to finish strong.”

Kellogg said he thought it was a signature win for his team.

“There's been many times in the UMass program (recently) that we've really had the opportunity to seize the day. It's kind of slipped through the cracks a few times,” Kellogg said. “I thought tonight was one more opportunity for the program to play well, have a signature team come in, and have a nice fan base.

“That's kind of what I've envisioned since I've come here - a night like this,” he added. ”… It's nice that it came together and we got a big-time win.”

UMass men's basketball still has potential for bye in A-10 tourney
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 2/22/2012

AMHERST - Tuesday's 80-73 win over Xavier pushed the University of Massachusetts right back into the chase for a bye in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

The top four teams get byes in the conference tournament, which begins next month in Atlantic City, N.J.

The win improved UMass to 8-5 in league play and put them in a tied for third with Xavier and Saint Joseph's.

It also gives the Minutemen the tiebreaker over Xavier if they finish with the same record.

NEXT UP - UMass will head to Dayton to play the Flyers on Saturday at 6 p.m. Dayton is 16-10 overall, 6-6 in the Atlantic 10 before playing Duquesne tonight in Pittsburgh. The Flyers are 11-4 this season at UD Arena.

MISCELLANEOUS - The win snapped UMass' six-game losing streak against the Musketeers and their two-game losing streak overall.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at http://www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

Bonus coverage: Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz brings his salsa moves back to UMass (2/22/2012)

Springfield Republican

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Boston Globe

UMass denies Xavier (2/22/2012)

Boston Herald

UMass in control (2/22/2012)

Cincinnati Enquirer

Other Content

Box Score

TOTAL 3-PTS REBOUNDS
XAVIER (OH) MinFGFGAPctFGFGAPctFTFTAPctOffDefTotPFFOATOBlkStlPts
Taylor, TravisF1201.00000221.0001453002102
Wells, DezmineF29510.50045.80057.71401140260319
Walker, AndreF1501.00000002241002000
Lyons, MarkG34618.33339.3330006630530215
Holloway, TuG40211.18225.400441.00004430610210
Davis, Dee10000000000000000
Redford, Brad1336.50024.500000221001008
Martin, Justin1112.50001.000001230021002
Robinson, Jeff1523.6670012.5001233011105
Frease, Kenny3057.71400221.00035820231012
TEAM REBOUNDS404
TOTALS2002459.4071124.4581417.82412284020018203773
First half824.33348.500911.818 29
Second half1635.457716.43856.833 44
Points in the paint16
Points off turnovers14
Second chance points13
Fast break points0
TOTAL 3-PTS REBOUNDS
MASSACHUSETTS MinFGFGAPctFGFGAPctFTFTAPctOffDefTotPFFOATOBlkStlPts
Vinson, TerrellF37411.36403.000441.00044830312012
Putney, RaphiaelF36510.50037.42901.00006620134213
Carter, SeanC3749.44400002133021018
Williams, ChazG38812.66768.750771.00005520960229
Morgan, JesseG2016.16703.000221.0000114032024
Farrell, Javorn30000000002000000
Esho, Maxie714.25000000221010002
Riley, Freddie2249.44416.16734.75001110100012
TEAM REBOUNDS134
TOTALS2002761.4431027.3701618.8897233018020136780
First half1635.457615.40035.600 41
Second half1126.423412.33313131.000 39
Points in the paint32
Points off turnovers19
Second chance points8
Fast break points4
Score by Periods1st2ndOT1OT2OT3Final
XAVIER2944 73
MASSACHUSETTS4139 80
Attendance6632
OfficialsJohn Gaffney, Bryan Kersey, Jeff Clark
Technical Foulsnone

Play by Play

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