Friday, January 03, 2014
SUNRISE, Fla — In a game where offense was hard to come by for both sides, the University of Massachusetts couldn’t convert late as a chance to stay undefeated and add another impressive win to their resume slipped through its fingers.
Florida State outscored UMass 10-2 in the last 4 minutes as the Minutemen fell 60-55 in the Orange Bowl Classic at BB&T Arena, Saturday.
“We had our chances,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We didn’t execute as well as we have in the past down the stretch. We made a couple of plays that were uncharacteristic. Give the credit to Florida State, they played a physical, tough, hard-nosed game against us.”
UMass (10-1) led 53-50 after two Derrick Gordon free throws with 4:32 remaining and had a chance to add to its lead, but Cady Lalanne and Maxie Esho each missed jumpers. From there, FSU big man Boris Bojanovsky took over the game.
Bojanovsky had played only 12 minutes to that point, but the 7-foot-3 Slovak laid the ball in to bring the Seminoles (8-3) to within 53-52, then blocked a Gordon shot at the rim.
FSU leading scorer Ian Miller hit a jumper, his first points of the game, to put FSU up 54-53, but Chaz Williams answered with a layup that gave UMass its last lead at 55-54.
Following a Montay Brandon missed 3-pointer for FSU, the Minutemen got the ball inside to Lalanne, who had a chance to give UMass a three-point edge.
But Bojanovsky blocked Lalanne with 1:15 left and Miller hit two free throws at the other end to put FSU up 56-55 with 1:06 left.
FSU, which had played man-to-man for most of the game, switched to a zone and it seemed to confuse the Minutemen. Williams overthrew a lob attempt to Lalanne giving the Seminoles the ball with 42 seconds left. Kellogg second-guessed himself for not calling a timeout.
“When they went to zone the one time I would have potentially called a timeout to put another shooter in,” he said.
Kellogg elected to let his team play defense rather than foul, but Okaro White scored inside with 12 seconds left to make it 58-55.
Without a good look at a 3-pointer, UMass went inside to Lalanne. Bojanovsky got his hand on the ball, but Lalanne appeared to dunk it anyway. The whistle blew and Lalanne and Kellogg appeared to think Lalanne was headed to the line for a chance to tie the game.
But the call was basket interference on Lalanne, who briefly hung on the rim, sparking angry reactions from the player and the coach.
“I thought it was a foul,” Lalanne said. “I didn’t think I hung on the rim for that long.”
Kellogg absolved the refs.
“Those guys are great refs,” Kellogg said. “I’m not going to critique them on one play.”
Aaron Thomas, who was the MVP of the event, capped his 18-point effort with two free throws to seal FSU’s win.
The loss negated a strong homecoming for Lalanne. With family and friends in the stands, the Orlando native had 10 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. Williams struggled with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting with a season-low three assists and four turnovers.
“I felt like we lost the game on our own mistakes,” Williams said. “It was nothing they did. It was all us.”
Unlike UMass’ game against BYU where two teams that like to run were both impressive offensively, neither the Minutemen nor Seminoles could get on track.
The teams combined to shoot 44 of 125 (35.2 percent) and each turned the ball over 17 times.
“This was a difficult game for us,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They did a lot of things to throw us out of rhythm. They were one of the more athletic teams were played. They threw us out of rhythm. We threw them a little bit out of rhythm. It was one of those winding games that you just hope you can pull out at the end.”
The Minutemen scattered for Christmas after the game. They’ll be back in action Saturday against Providence at 6 p.m. at the Mullins Center.
“We’ll come back and try to restart another run,” Kellogg said. “Hopefully our guys are ready to recommit to what we’re doing.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage