Sunday December 16, 2012

SPRINGFIELD -- This close game stuff is starting to become a habit for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team.

"I don't really know how we keep ending up in close games," said Terrell Vinson after the Minutemen's overtime win against Elon on Saturday.

Vinson had a career-high 22 points and was one of three Minutemen to score in double figures as UMass needed extra time to beat the Phoenix 78-73 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase.

The five-point victory was the second largest margin of the season for the Minutemen (5-3), who have won games by three, two and one before beating Northeastern 72-66 on Dec. 4.

"If you're a fan or a coach or a patron, you're probably wondering how many either overtime or one-second games, at least the good part is win," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said with a smile.

Chaz Williams scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half and in overtime, chipping in with nine assists while Sampson Carter had his first career double-double with 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

"We're going to take the win. We're 5-3 and move on from this," Kellogg said.

Williams broke a 63-all tie when he drove to the basket for a hoop with 39.3 seconds left, taking a pass from Raphiael Putney just on the UMass side of center court and going hard to the hole.

The Phoenix answered back after Putney blocked a layup attempt by Sebastian Koch. Tanner Samson picked up the rebound and then fired up a 3-point shot from the left wing that tied the game at 66 with 8.3 seconds left.

Williams was fouled by Jack Isenbarger with 2.2 ticks left in regulation, but he missed both foul shots, sending the game into overtime.

"I thought the game was over, honestly," the UMass coach said. "He's about as clutch a player as I've been around. I was a little shocked he didn't make both of them actually."

In overtime, UMass scored the first four points but Elon answered with four, tying the game at 70 with 1:47 left.

Then Jesse Morgan caught a pass from Williams and scored on a layup. Morgan had come into the game averaging 15.3 points per game, and those were his first two of the game. No matter. The hoop started a 7-1 run and the Minutemen hung on for the win.

"I knew my teammates were going to be there for me, no matter what," said Williams, who had a game-high nine assists to go with his 20 points. "My teammates just told me to worry about the next play."

Isenbarger had 22 points -- six in the second half and overtime -- to pace Elon. Lucas Troutman fouled out in the second half after getting 14 points and 10 rebounds.

"I think we're a long ways from home," said Kellogg. "I think this team is still trying to search for an identity of how we're going to play and what we're good at.

"The positive thing is that we're 5-3, and the three losses are to N.C. State, Miami and Tennessee. If we can figure out how we need to play a little bit better, we have a chance to be good."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
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On Twitter: @howardherman