Massachusetts players Trey Davis (12) and Derrick Gordon (2) laugh during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Elon in Elon, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. UMass won 84-74. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)
ELON, N.C. (AP) — University of Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams figured his scoring would take care of itself against Elon.
So when he found a groove Saturday night, he made sure the No. 16 Minutemen didn’t skip a beat in their last nonconference game.
Williams scored all 20 of his points in the second half as UMass held off several rallies by Elon to win 84-74.
“My main concern was to do what we came to do, and that’s to be a great team,” Williams said.
Cady Lalanne scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half as the Minutemen (16-1) won their sixth game in a row. This outcome spoiled the occasion on Elon’s campus, which welcomed a nationally ranked visitor for the first time.
Williams, the team’s leading scorer, had 14 of his points in the last seven minutes.
“I always knew he would catch fire,” Lalanne said. “It was about time he got rolling.”
Maxie Esho finished with 17 points for the Minutemen, who won a nonconference matchup between the teams for the third season in a row.
Lucas Troutman scored 19 points and Sebastian Koch had 18 points for Elon (10-9), which had its three-game winning streak end. Tanner Samson added 14 points.
“I think that’s a very good win for us on the road,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “This was a good, tough 40 minutes for us. That’s about as a full of a 40 minutes we had in a while. I was nervous coming in. I knew this team could beat us if we didn’t play well.”
While the Minutemen controlled the lane — outscoring Elon 38-18 there — it wasn’t until Williams, a 5-foot-9 senior, started clicking that they applied more pressure on the Phoenix defense.
“At halftime, we told (our guys) he’s going to be more aggressive in the second half and he was,” Elon coach Matt Matheny said.
Williams made 11 of 15 free throws. He took his scoring in stride, more concerned with his lack of assists on the stat sheet.
“I only had four assists and I’m kind of down about that,” Williams said.
Williams missed his only two first-half shots, both in the final 1:30 before halftime. His first points came on a drive with 17:54 remaining, pushing the lead to 47-36.
Samson drained a 3-point basket to pull Elon within 64-56 with 7:06 to play.
Williams answered with a 3 for the Minutemen on a kick-out from Derrick Gordon’s offensive rebound. Williams scored on a drive the next time UMass had the ball.
Elon climbed back on Troutman’s three-point play at the 5:21 mark to make it 69-62. It might have been closer, but Lalanne rejected Troutman in the lane on Elon’s next possession. Then, Trey Davis’ 3-pointer from the corner gave the Minutemen a 72-62 lead. Samson responded with a 3 for Elon before time started to run out.
“We definitely had a chance,” Troutman said. “We fought tonight. There were lapses in some places. We didn’t play as good defense as we would like.”
The Minutemen, bolstered by ruling the lane against the smaller Phoenix, built a 29-15 lead before settling for a 41-30 halftime advantage. The Minutemen shot 51.6 percent from the field in the opening half.
“What helped us is we shot the ball pretty well early and they had to come out and that spread them out,” Kellogg said.
Lalanne scored the Minutemen’s last five points of the half.
Elon shot 30 percent (9 of 30) in the first half, then began the second half 3 of 15.