AMHERST -- It was how they drew it up.
Sampson Carter's 3-point basket at the buzzer that gave the University of Massachusetts a 67-64 win over Harvard in Tuesday morning's season opener, went off the way UMass coach Derek Kellogg expected.
"We know what play we're running. We have three plays that we run with 10 or 12 seconds left to try to win a game," Kellogg said. "When Chaz [Williams] drove, I thought he was going to shoot it. They converged. They did what they were supposed to do against a point guard that can score like him.
"When Sampson was open, I instantly thought that he was going to make that shot. He's made that shot the last three days in practice."
Williams got a steal and then took the ball from the right baseline to the hoop. When the Harvard defenders converged on him, the mercurial point guard dished to Carter who was wide open in the left corner. The ball went through the net for Carter's only points of the game, the horn sounded, and the Minutemen escaped with an opening-day victory.
Carter, who was on the floor in part because Terrell Vinson had fouled out with three minutes left in the game, played in only seven games a year ago before suffering a season-ending hip injury. He caught the pass from Williams, rose up and fired in one motion to send the 3,874 fans in the Mullins Center either home or back to class happy.
"Once I see Chaz go baseline and my man covering him, I
"The next thing I heard was my bench behind me saying ‘knock it down,' so I knew I could and I was totally confident."
The Minutemen, playing before a national audience during ESPN's 24-hour college basketball marathon, led by as many as 10 points in the first half but took a 38-37 lead into the locker room at halftime.
UMass extended its lead to 52-46 on a hoop by Williams with 121 2 minutes left. Coach Tommy Amaker's Crimson started chipping away and, after holding the Minutemen to one 3-point hoop in almost five minutes, led 64-59 with 1:21 left. Wesley Saunders, who led Harvard with 18 points, drew Vinson's fifth foul and made both free throws for the five-point lead.
From that point, the UMass defense held Harvard scoreless. Twice, the Crimson had the ball and twice the Minutemen forced turnovers. Jesse Morgan, who came off the bench to lead UMass with 19 points, drained a trey to tie the score at 64. Then Williams turned Christian Webster over, and that led to the game-winning shot.
"We had the two tough turnovers there late," said Amaker. "If you look at the stats, I think they had 29 points off our turnovers. I thought that was the key stat."
Williams, who had five double-doubles last year, begins this year with a 12-point, 10-assist day. The redshirt-junior guard did have three turnovers, but also had three steals. Raphiael Putney also had a double-figure scoring day with 13 points. Cady Lalanne, who came off the bench 14 times last year before suffering a season-ending injury, earned his first collegiate start and finished with nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.