Friday, March 28, 2014
AMHERST — When Chaz Williams’ desperation heave from about 30 feet was off the mark, the Mullins Center, which had been loud most of the afternoon, fell silent.
The Minutemen had led No. 17 Saint Louis for most of the game, but never by enough to feel comfortable, leaving the door open for Jordair Jett to deliver the knockout blow in the Billikens’ 64-62 win Sunday.
Jett got the ball just inside half court with about 20 seconds left and waited. With the game tied 62-62 and 1.4 seconds separating the game and shot clocks, he could afford to hold for the last shot. He attacked with about seven seconds left going by Derrick Gordon and Raphiael Putney for a layup with three seconds left.
“I wish our guys would have packed the paint a little bit more. We gave him too much of a driving lane,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg, who considered a timeout, but elected to let Williams try to make a play.
Williams raced up the floor and got a clear look from just inside half court. The shot kicked off the rim right as the Saint Louis bench erupted in celebration. Williams faulted himself for taking the inbound pass too deep in the backcourt to start the play.
“That was my fault. I was so frustrated with the layup I was so close to the baseline so I didn’t get a good enough running start knowing I only had three seconds,” Williams said. “I had to take the shot from further out.”
The loss cost UMass (23-7, 10-6 Atlantic 10) a bye in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament that comes with finishing in the top four of the league standings. It will be the No. 6 seed and will play No. 11 Rhode Island, Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Saint Louis (26-5, 13-3) clinched its second straight Atlantic 10 regular season title with the win.
“My energy has been taken a little bit. I felt like we were in control,” Kellogg said. “I was actually angry. It was a game they kind of took from us. We had control of it. We had the plays we normally make and we didn’t do that.”
UMass led by seven with five minutes left, but a layup by Rob Loe, a 3-pointer by Mike McCall (12 points, five rebounds) and basket inside by Dwayne Evans (14 points) tied the game with 3:16 left.
The Minutemen scored four straight points to regain the lead at 60-56. But after Evans scored inside with just under two minutes, left, UMass got the ball to Sampson Carter, who was open in the corner.
“I was thinking about Harvard last year,” Kellogg said. “It was a pretty similar shot.”
Against the Crimson, Carter’s 3-pointer went down for a game winner, but Sunday it was off the mark with 1:33 left. Jett cleared the rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to tie the game 60-60 with the clock showing 1:32.
Williams knifed into traffic and laid the ball in with 1:18 left, but Jett, who’d been held without a field goal in the second half to that point, answered with a driving layup of his own to tie the game at 62-62.
Trey Davis, who’d been battling illness all game, made a ball fake and got into the line, but his shot was off. The rebound pinballed around the paint until Gordon corralled it and fed Cady Lalanne, who tried to lay it in.
The UMass bench and most of the 9,493 fans in the sold-out crowd wanted a foul on Rob Loe, but the officials ruled it was a blocked shot leading to a tie-up.
The possession arrow gave SLU the ball setting up Jett’s game winner.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t win the game on senior day, but I thought we had an unbelievable crowd. I thought our guys competed and played well for 37-and-a-half minutes,” Kellogg said. “We didn’t make the right plays down the stretch. I thought they executed better than we did on both ends of the floor. We’ve done a good job of making those plays at the end and winning those games. I don’t know if the basketball gods weren’t with us or we didn’t make the baskets. They did what we’ve done, attacked the rims and made those plays.”
Williams finished with 20 points and nine assists in his final game at the Mullins Center. Gordon added 15 points for UMass. Jett had 17 points for the Billikens.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage