Massachusetts forward Maxie Esho (1), Sampson Carter (22) and others celebrate 88-87 win over George Mason in an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Fairfax, Va. Massachusetts won 88-87. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
FAIRFAX, Va. — Other than a few ginger-looking steps in the first half, University of Massachusetts senior guard Chaz Williams didn’t show any signs of a foot/ankle injury against George Mason Wednesday.
Williams suffered the injury during Saturday’s win over St. Bonaventure and it caused him to miss practice Monday and Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Williams played more minutes and scored as many points as anyone on the floor with 26 points and eight assists in 36 minutes. Fifteen of his points came in the second half as he put the Minutemen on his back as he’s done so many times before and led them to an 88-87 win.
“Before the game you feel it. During the game you don’t feel it. After the game you really feel it,” said Williams, opening his eyes wide for emphasis on the word “really.” “It was one of those games where adrenaline takes over and you make the best of it. I didn’t want to sit out. I didn’t want to make it an excuse.”
George Mason guard Bryon Allen tipped his hat.
“He’s a good player. A fifth-year senior with a lot of experience, he’s the leader on that team,” Allen said. “How far they go will depend on him. He did a wonderful job finishing at the end for his team.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said he planned to hold Williams out of practice on Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Elon.
“He didn’t practice two days then he came and played and will probably not practice for a couple more days then play on Saturday,” Kellogg said. “So it might be a good chance for him to re-energize a tad. I thought the days off in practice were good for him physically, because he takes a beating out there.”
Lost in the excitement at the end were some scoring milestones for Williams. His 26 points gave him 1,394 in his time as UMass, which puts him in 12th place on the school’s career scoring list. He past four players along the way, including legends Julius Erving (1,370 points) and Marcus Camby (1,387).
His eight assists gave him 594, three fewer than Edgar Padilla, who is third all-time.
CLUB 100 — The win gave Kellogg 100 wins (against 77 losses) in his career as a head coach. That the milestone came at the school where he got his first coaching job seemed appropriate to the 40-year-old coach.
“This was a great place for me, a special time in my life learning in my first college coaching job for coach (Jim) Larranaga and living in a great place,” said Kellogg, who was an assistant at GMU during the 1997-98 and 98-99 seasons. “To come back here and get my 100th win, in a weird way it was fitting. My team resembles the teams we had with Coach Larranaga. I combined a lot of his coaching with Coach Cal (John Calipari) to a certain extent.”
ZONE IN THE SECOND HALF — UMass doesn’t feature a zone very often, but after Mason guard Sherrod Wright torched the Minutemen for 12 straight points early in the second half, Kellogg switched to a 2-3 zone.
“We had a couple steals and it gave us confidence defensively,” said Kellogg, who went back to it when the team got in foul trouble. “We haven’t used it that much, but it years past we have used it. It really helped us get them off-kilter a little bit and we came back at them.”
ATLANTIC 10 — The win left UMass (15-1, 3-0 A-10) as one of just three undefeated teams in the conference along with Saint Louis and La Salle, who are also 3-0. George Mason and Rhode Island are the only winless teams at 0-3.
MISCELLANEOUS — Tyler Bergantino tipped in a Williams miss in the first half, giving him his first points since the team’s Dec. 21 loss to Florida State. ... Before the game, a Fairfax city councilman officially proclaimed this week “George Mason A-10 Week” in honor of the Patriots’ first season in the Atlantic 10.