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UMass dunks St. Joe’s

AMHERST — College basketball rules prevented Julius Erving from unleashing his highlight-reel dunks during games in his UMass days of the late ’60s and early ’70s, so perhaps the modern-day Sons of Dr. J had a little unfinished business on their minds Saturday night.

The Minutemen pounded down a season-high 10 dunks in all and used a late 11-0 run to ease away from Saint Joseph’s, 80-62, in a snowstorm-delayed Atlantic 10 Conference game before an enthusiastic 4,479 at the Mullins Center.

Terrell Vinson scored 18 points and Sampson Carter had 16 to lead the Minutemen (16-6, 6-3 A-10), while Chaz Williams contributed 11 points and nine assists. Freddie Riley added 10 points and Cady Lalanne just missed a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. UMass turned the ball over a season-low five times Saturday against 22 assists, and worked over the rim to the tune of 42 points in the paint to only 20 for the Hawks.

“I was wondering how both teams were going to come out, but both teams played with energy,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg, speaking of the weather delay and associated travel ban that pushed the start of the game back five hours to 7 p.m. “You’re not going to play perfect for 40 minutes, but I thought we did some good things. Our guys took care of the basketball, and Chaz did a very good job of running the team.”

A see-saw affair broke open over the last six minutes of the first half. Maxie Esho fired the crowd with a reverse jam off Williams’ lob to put UMass up 23-20. From a 24-24 tie, Lalanne scored inside and Riley (from another alley-oop lob by Williams), Raphiael Putney and Vinson slammed down consecutive dunks. C.J. Aiken answered with two foul shots for Saint Joseph’s, but UMass ended the half with a basket by Carter and treys by Williams and Putney, completing a 16-2 run that gave the Minutemen a 40-26 advantage at the break.

Langston Galloway then scored the first eight points of the second half for the Hawks (13-9, 4-5 A-10), with a pair of 3-pointers around two free throws, prompting a UMass timeout. Lalanne completed a 3-point play and Riley scored on the break after a steal, making it 45-34, but Saint Joseph’s ran off the next seven, capped by Carl Jones’ 3-pointer, to move within 45-41 with 14:17 left.

The Minutemen pushed the lead back to as many as 12 points, 59-47, before two baskets by Halil Kanacevic and a trey by Jones made it 59-54 with just under seven minutes remaining. Kellogg called timeout at the 6:53 mark and UMass came out of the huddle with the game-deciding run. From that point to the end, Saint Joseph’s scored only one more field goal.

Vinson got the Minutemen started with two at the line and an inside bucket, then Williams hit a reverse layup in traffic, Carter finished an old-fashioned 3-point play and hit a jumper from the left baseline for an 11-0 run, a 70-54 UMass lead and a timeout from Hawks coach Phil Martelli with 3:38 to go.

“We play a game of runs — we make runs, the other team makes runs, so you can’t get rattled,” said Vinson.

“To have that many students here tonight, and to have some dunks and hear them get excited, hopefully they’ll come back,” said Kellogg. “The way the game went, with a lot of fun plays, it was a style that I think they’ll be excited about. It’s kind of what everybody’s asked for.”

Galloway led Saint Joseph’s with 14 points. Jones hit four 3-pointers and ended with 13, Kanacevic scored all 12 of his points after halftime and Ronald Roberts added 10 for the Hawks.

“UMass took the fight to us,” said Martelli. “We’re not winning any 80-point games. That’s not who we are, and we didn’t grind enough. They came at us off our turnovers, and we got hurt by their speed.”

UMass shot 52 percent from the floor and held Saint Joseph’s to 39 percent, despite losing the rebounding 35-28.

The Minutemen travel to Richmond, Va., to face conference tri-leader Virginia Commonwealth Thursday at 9 p.m., followed by a quick turnaround and a home game with Temple Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

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