Stanford stops UMass, 74-64, in NIT semis
NEW YORK -- On the road to New York, the University of Massachusetts has been able to do a couple of things to its National Invitiation Tournament opponents. The Minutemen have been able to make clutch plays and impose their will.
Tuesday night in the first semifinal of the 75th annual NIT, it was Stanford that imposed its will when it mattered most. That's why the Minutemen's stay in the Big Apple was short and the Cardinal advanced to Thursday's title game with a 74-64 win at Madison Square Garden.
"These guys took us on a ride as a coaching staff, as a program and as a community that was special," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "These guys played their hearts out all season long and competed in every game this season."
The Minutemen led only twice in the game and when they tied the game at 52 with 7 minutes, 18 seconds left in the game, it looked like they had a chance. After all, Stanford's Josh Owens missed a dunk on the Cardinal's next trip downcourt. Instead of getting the defensive rebound, the ball went out of bounds to Stanford.
Aaron Bright took the inbounds pass and hit a jumper to put the Cardinal up for keeps.
"We didn't make as many good basketball plays as we had in the past," said Kellogg.
Chaz Williams had a game-high 19 points for the Minutemen, who finish their season 25-12. Williams scored 19 points on 18 shots as Stanford made the sophomore point guard from Brook lyn work for everything he got.
"You can't defend him with one player, that's for sure," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We tried to crowd him as much as we could and keep people around him in the paint. If he sees seams, he's going to run it like a fullback running to the basket."
Williams was plagued by first-half foul trouble in his return to New York. The former Hofstra guard sat for more than three minutes late in the first half and finished the first 20 minutes with only seven points. He committed three of his four turnovers in the opening half, and had only one assist in the game.
Williams had entered the game averaging 6.3 helpers per contest. He hadn't had that few assists in a game since getting three in a 76-43 loss at Dayton back on Feb. 25. It was a tough way to end Williams' homecoming.
"Honestly at this moment, it don't mean nothing," said Williams of his return to the Garden. "This wasn't part of our plan and it wasn't part of my homecoming trip."
It was the first time UMass and Stanford had played since the Minutemen beat the Cardinal in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. The last time the two teams met here was on March 25, 1991, when Stanford beat UMass 73-71 in the NIT semifinal.
For a while, Tuesday's game looked like it was going to be another tight one.
The Minutemen took a 6-5 lead when Raphiael Putney turned Owens over and went coast-to-coast. The game remained tight until Stanford went on a 10-0 run, turning a 16-14 game into a 26-14 contest, and threatening to blow the roof off the Garden.
UMass settled down, came back and went into the locker room trailing 36-33 behind Putney's eight points.
Stanford came out in the second half and maintained a lead that got up to five. UMass tied the game at 47 on a Maxie Esho steal and dunk with 8:35 left. After Josh Huestis scored, the Min utemen's Freddie Riley drained a three from the right corner.
Stanford's Anthony Brown answered with a trey but when Williams took it to the iron for two, it was tied at 52. That set the stage for Owens' missed dunk, the team rebound for the Cardinal and Bright's jumper.
The closest UMass got was three, and a lot of that could be blamed on the cold outside shooting. The Minutemen were 5 for 22 from 3-point range in the game. Stanford had a 54-45 rebounding advantage, 16-13 on the offensive boards and that accounted for 19 second-chance points for the Cardinal.
"[Stanford] offensive rebounded and had too many second-chance opportunities and we didn't make some of the shots we were accustomed to making," said Kellogg.
Brown led Stanford with 18 points while Owens had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Riley came off the bench to score 10, and was the only other Minuteman in double digits.
"We go home at 25-12 and I think that's not bad for a team picked 12th in the [Atlantic 10 preseason poll]," said Kellogg. "I think these guys played with something to prove all season long."
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