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UMass leaves Dukes in dust, 79-66

AMHERST — The last few minutes of each half provided the essential cushion for UMass Thursday night, when another sizable lead got away from the Minutemen before they could finally stabilize themselves down the stretch.

Duquesne trimmed a 17-point deficit down to three on three separate occasions late in the second half, but UMass answered with a decisive 14-2 run to pull away for a 79-66 Atlantic 10 Conference victory before 3,421 at the Mullins Center.

Chaz Williams scored 22 points and handed off nine assists to lead four Minutemen in double figures, followed by Terrell Vinson with 17 points and Freddie Riley and Cady Lalanne with 12 apiece. Lalanne completed a double-double with 11 rebounds, his third straight game of 10 boards or more. Williams and Riley each drained four 3-pointers.

The Minutemen won their first game since junior guard and second-leading scorer Jesse Morgan was ruled out for the season with a torn ligament in his right knee.

UMass (12-4, 2-1 A-10) needed a real shutdown effort at the end to put the clamps on Dukes’ senior guard Sean Johnson, who threw in a game-high and career-high 29 points, including 16 of Duquesne’s first 18 points of the second half. Johnson, however, failed to score in the game’s last 10 minutes. He made 11-of-18 shots from the field and 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

“We’ve just got to play a little better after the half,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg, who’s seen this exact scenario unfold in every Minuteman victory so far this season. “We’ve got to figure out a way when we get up 14, or even 17, to come out with a little more fire and really put teams away. The kid Johnson got hot, and sometimes when guys get hot like that, you try to stay on them and, in a few instances, pray that they miss.”

At the outset, the game featured four ties before UMass started to create some space from a 21-19 lead. Riley hit a pair of threes in a 7-2 Minuteman run, then Lalanne scored four points and Maxie Esho dunked to give the hosts their first double-digit advantage, 34-23, with 3:29 left in the half. Williams hit back-to-back treys of his own and added two foul shots with 5.3 seconds to play for the largest lead of the night at 44-27.

With UMass still having a foul to give, Duquesne freshman Derrick Colter (14 points, six assists) sped upcourt and avoided the fouling attempt of UMass’ Trey Davis, pulling up to hit a deep 3-pointer at the horn to make it 44-30 at the break.

The Dukes (7-10, 0-3 A-10) picked right up at the top of the second half behind Johnson’s torrid shooting, coming off his 11-point first half. Ten quick points by Johnson in the first 3:04 pulled Duquesne to within 49-42 and forced Kellogg to call a timeout.

From there, the lead swung between four and nine points until Jerry Jones hit a 3-pointer for the Dukes at the 9:21 mark to make it 61-58. The teams traded buckets before Colter’s layup with 7:12 to go brought Duquesne to within 65-62.

Vinson hit a jumper in the lane, then rebounded Colter’s miss at the other end and fed Riley on the fast break for a right-wing 3-pointer, making it 70-62, firing up the crowd and prompting a Dukes’ timeout with 6:14 on the clock.

“I felt like it gave us some momentum to win the game, because they were getting really close,” said Riley.

The Minutemen held Duquesne to one field goal over the last seven-plus minutes, while adding two layups by Vinson and dunks by Raphiael Putney (six points, eight rebounds) and Lalanne to put the game out of reach at 79-64 with a minute remaining.

“We did a nice job in that stretch. It looked like the way UMass basketball looks,” said Kellogg. “Freddie’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, which is nice to see. When he made it, it gave us the separation we needed.”

The Minutemen had lost four out of five overall to Duquesne before knocking out the Dukes in the first round of last year’s Atlantic 10 tournament. Previously, UMass had not beaten the Dukes at home since 2007.

UMass turns right around to face George Washington (7-9, 1-2 A-10) Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Mullins Center, where mid-1990s Minuteman great Marcus Camby will have his No. 21 jersey retired during a halftime ceremony.

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