Minutemen edge URI in opener
Rhode Island went ice cold from the field in the second half and UMass was able to overcome an eight-point halftime deficit to advance to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 65-61 victory in first-round play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The sixth-seeded Minutemen missed an opportunity to earn a free trip to the A-10 quarterfinals in their regular-season finale after blowing a late lead and falling to Saint Louis, 64-62, at the Mullins Center. The loss moved UMass outside the top four in the A-10, dropping it to No. 6, and forced UMass to play a first-round game against No. 11 Rhode Island, a team that gave UMass fits all season. In both regular-season games, UMass came back from late deficits against the Rams to win both.
The third game between the two teams proved to be no different, as Rhode Island took a 22-20 lead with 7 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first half, following a Xavier Munford 3-pointer. And although UMass did manage to tie the score shortly thereafter, the Minutemen did not lead again until a Trey Davis layup with 3:10 left put UMass ahead 56-55.
Rhode Island actually led by double digits in the second half, but the Rams went on a prolonged scoring drought to allow the Minutemen to get back into the game. A jumper by Munford with 9:51 left in the game put the Rams up 55-46, and that was the final Rhode Island hoop until Munford made a layup with 3 seconds left in the game. UMass used the dry spell to go on a 19-4 run and take the lead. A 3-pointer by Chaz Williams with 1:53 remaining in the game pushed the UMass lead to five points, and the Minutemen never surrendered the lead.
The game remained close until late in the first half, when UMass trailed 29-27 with 3 minutes, 46 seconds remaining. The Minutemen missed three shots and had three turnovers on six consecutive possessions as the Rams went on an 8-0 run in that time to grow their lead to 10 with under a minute remaining. UMass would go into the locker room trailing by eight, 37-29.