ALBANY, N.Y. -- If Siena basketball coach Mitch Buonaguro doesn't see Chaz Williams again, he will be a happy guy.
The University of Massachusetts point guard beat Siena last December by making four free throws in the final seconds to clinch the victory. On Wednesday night, Williams' jumper with 3.3 seconds left to play put the Minutemen up by a point. Sampson Carter deflected an inbounds pass by Trenity Burdine and the Minutemen escaped with a 64-63 win.
"He's been making plays like that since he's been at UMass," Buonaguro said. "Last year, it was the same kind of game and Williams took the game over."
Williams, who scored a game-high 23 points, had been held pointless since draining a 3-point shot with 11 minutes left in the game. He got the ball with about 24 seconds left, dribbled almost 20 seconds off the clock and then drove to the hoop for the game-winning basket to end a two-game losing streak.
"It's a play that we usually run at the end of the game. Coach [Derek Kellogg] had the faith in me. He didn't call any time outs and he left the game in our hands," Williams said. "I just had to go make a play."
UMass trailed by as many as 17 points in the first, by 34-24 at halftime and by 13 early in the second half. The Minutemen, who shot 11 of 34 from the floor in the first half, started heating up in the second. Making shots led to successfully pressing and that kept cutting into Siena's lead.
UMass led 6-5 in the first half and didn't lead again until Carter's jumper with 11:54 left put the Minutemen up 44-43. UMass did lead by as many as six before the Saints came back. Siena went up 62-58 on O.D. Anosike's layup with 3:46 left. It was the last basket the Saints made.
"It's probably the strangest 3-2 [record] I've ever seen in my life," Kellogg said. "Three last-second game winners are probably unheard of and unfathomable. I guess we'll take it, and hopefully these guys will play a little better on Saturday and into next week."
The Minutemen will be home at the Mullins Center on Saturday against a Miami team that upset 13th-ranked Michigan State on Wednesday.
"We just still have to find our identity," said Kellogg. "We're still searching for straws on how we're supposed to play, how we're sharing the ball and how hard we have to play. Saturday's another day."
Williams threw a long lead pass to Jesse Morgan for a layup with 51 seconds to play, cutting the Siena lead to 63-62. Out of a time out, Siena's Rob Poole missed a jumper and the rebound went out of bounds off a Saints player. That gave the Minutemen the ball with 24 seconds remaining and gave Williams the chance to put his team back in the win column.
The Minutemen looked awful in the first half, scoring 24 points and missing their first 12 shots from 3-point range.
"I thought the guys weren't confident and didn't play as hard as we should and could," Kellogg said. "That's what I let them know at halftime. You can go away and put your tail between your legs, or we can come out and scrap and battle a little bit."
Terrell Vinson had 17 points for UMass while Maxie Esho and Carter each had 10 rebounds off the bench.
Evan Hymes led Siena with 15 points while Anosike had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman