Massachusetts' coach Derek Kellogg shouts from the bench in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game with St. Josephs, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, in Philadelphia. St. Josephs won 73-68. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
PHILADELPHIA — With 39 seconds left, after Chaz Williams made the first of two free throws to tie the game, the University of Massachusetts senior stepped to the line with a chance to put the Minutemen ahead of Saint Joseph’s for the first time since the first half.
The free throw bounced off the rim, but Raphiael Putney grabbed the rebound. His putback attempt missed, but Trey Davis got the rebound and his try was off the mark. Sampson Carter tapped the ball back toward the rim, but it rolled off too before Chris Wilson snared the rebound for the Hawks and was fouled.
The Minutemen never scored again as the Hawks scored the last five points to escape with a 73-68 win Saturday.
UMass (17-4, 4-3 Atlantic 10) lost consecutive games for the first time this season and dropped it’s third in the last four.
The loss blunted the impact of the Minutemen’s second half comeback as they erased a 16-point halftime deficit.
“I thought we played great basketball for 20 minutes of a 40-minute game and probably the worst half of basketball we can play in the first half,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “From missed layups to not a lot of energy. We fought back and were probably a missed layup away from winning that game.”
While UMass trimmed its deficit early in the second half, St. Joseph’s still appeared to be in control leading 66-53 with just under six minutes left.
Derrick Gordon, who had his best game as a Minuteman with 21 points, sparked the comeback with a floater, followed by a steal and a dunk. Williams, who started slowly but came on late, followed with a driving layup to make it 66-59 with 4:19 left.
After St. Joe’s Langston Galloway made just one free throw, Williams made two.
Following at St. Joe’s offensive foul that gave UMass possession, Williams hit a 3-pointer to make 67-64 with 2:29 remaining.
Williams (16 points, 10 assists, five rebounds) made one free throw and then turned a steal into a Gordon layup to tie the game 67-67 with 1:23 left.
Galloway made one free throw with 56 seconds left, then Williams went 1 for 2 from the line with 39 seconds remaining as the Minutemen missed a chance to pull ahead, 68-68.
The Hawks entered the game as the Atlantic 10’s worst free-throw shooting team, but they made five of six in the last 30 seconds to pull out the win. After Wilson made two from the line to make it 70-68, Gordon tried to drive the baseline and jumped to make a pass, but threw the ball away.
“I shouldn’t have jumped, I should have (taken) my dribble out,” Gordon said. “I’m not going to say that cost us the game, but that was a big play right there.”
He was forced to foul Papa Ndao, who made both free throw with 12 seconds left to stretch the home team’s lead to 72-68. Galloway, who scored just seven points, well below his 17.2 per game average, made one more free throw to close out the scoring.
Halil Kanacevic led St. Joe’s (15-6, 5-2 A-10) with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Ronald Roberts added 17 points and six rebounds.
Cady Lalanne had 12 points and five rebounds for UMass before fouling out.
The game was close for the first 10 minutes, but Lalanne and Putney each picked up two fouls. Carter was called for three and Maxie Esho caught an elbow in the face that knocked him out of the game. Kellogg was forced to use his freshman for long stretches and St. Joe’s took advantage, finishing the half on a 13-5 run that made it 41-25 at intermission.
“I was just trying to hang on there at the end of the first half,” Kellogg said. “They had all the momentum and they were really outplaying us in a lot of the game there in the first half.”
Kellogg hinted that changes in his lineup or rotation could be coming.
“Some guys weren’t playing with the wherewithal or energy I would like or making the plays we need them to make. They’re either going to have to do it or sit on the bench a little bit more,” Kellogg said. “We’re not deep enough not to have our top eight guys bring it every time out.”
Gordon assumed the 21st-ranked Minutemen, who’ve been ranked for the past 10 weeks, would fall out of the poll next week. He hoped that would be motivation.
“I know for a fact that’s going to knock us out of the top 25. I’m guessing that’s going to make us more hungry,” he said. “I hate to say it, but I’m glad we’re going to be out of it because that’s going to put a chip on our shoulder.”
The Minutemen will try to right their ship at home Wednesday when they host La Salle at 7 p.m.