Fans heckle Massachusetts guard Clyde Santee after he tumbled to the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against St. Bonaventure in St. Bonaventure, N.Y. Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick LoVerde)
OLEAN, N.Y. — With just under eight minutes left, the University of Massachusetts appeared poised to pull off another come-from-behind win. The Minutemen had almost erased St. Bonaventure’s nine-point second-half lead and trailed by one after a Trey Davis 3-pointer.
Sensing momentum, UMass dug in on defense forcing the Bonnies deep into the shot clock. SBU coach Mark Schmidt raised his hands in frustration when Andell Cumberbatch, who didn’t make another shot before or after, forced up a 3-pointer from well behind the line. The shot was too strong, but it banked in with 7:21 remaining.
The play was a back-breaker for the 21st-ranked Minutemen, who never got within a possession the rest of the game and fell, 78-65, Wednesday at the Reilly Center.
“I thought the turning point was that 3 that went off the glass with one second on the shot clock,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “It gave them a boost. We had a lot of momentum going and from that point on we never really came back and got over the hump.”
UMass senior forward Sampson Carter winced at the memory after the game.
“That cut me deep,” Carter said, shaking his head. “That really hurt. It took one of my ribs out.”
UMass (17-3, 4-2 Atlantic 10) will try to avoid losing two games in a row when it travels to Saint Joseph’s for a 6 p.m. game Saturday.
The Bonnies didn’t shoot as well from the free-throw line as they did in last season’s 99-94 win at home, where they made 32 of 33. But they were pretty close making 30 of 34, including 9 of 10 down the stretch to keep the Minutemen at bay before the students rushed the court in celebration.
SBU (13-8, 3-4 A-10) used a similar game plan — controlling tempo and the paint — to the one it used during the teams’ first meeting this season on Jan. 11. It almost worked then and did work Wednesday as the Bonnies cut off Minuteman drives and outrebounded them 45-35.
“They crowded up the middle and made it hard for Chaz (Williams) off the pick and roll,” UMass big man Cady Lalanne said.
Things started to go awry at the end of the first half. Kellogg called timeout to get Williams, who had two fouls, into the game for what looked like the final possession. But the decision proved costly as Williams picked up his third foul driving to the basket with six seconds left. St. Bonaventure hurried the ball up the floor and Carter fouled Jordan Gathers with one second left. Gathers made both free throws to give SBU a 26-25 halftime edge and momentum.
“That’s one that we’ve worked on numerous times in practice. You just don’t do that. I thought that was a big momentum deal – him picking up his third, them getting two free throws and kind of having the momentum going into halftime,” Kellogg said. “I mean, it wasn’t a huge, huge play. But, mentally, I think it got to us just a little bit with the way it played out.”
The Bonnies attacked right away out of intermission. After Lalanne opened the half with a dunk, St. Bonaventure kept attacking the paint in an 11-2 run that put it up 37-29.
UMass spent the rest of the half trying to dig out of the hole. With 9:29 left and the Bonnies up 53-46, the Minutemen started their comeback.
After Carter hit a 3-pointer, Raphiael Putney stole the ball and raced in for a windmill dunk that brought the UMass bench to life and made it 53-51 with 8:46 left. SBU’s Dion Wright (12 points, six rebounds) made two free throws, but Davis (18 points, five rebounds), who carried UMass for much of the second half, answered with a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 55-54 before Cumberbatch’s bank.
Even Schmidt acknowledged it was more good fortune than a good play.
“That was a lucky shot,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes in this game you need luck. It was a big shot. We were struggling at the time. It gave us momentum.”
Matthew Wright (11 points) echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“It was a desperation shot. We messed the play up. I saw coach put his hands in the air when he shot it,” Wright said. “It felt like the basketball gods were finally on our side.”
Charlon Kloof led five Bonnies in double figures with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Williams, who eventually fouled out, finished with 11 points, six assists and four turnovers. Lalanne added 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots, while Carter (seven rebounds) and Putney scored 10 points apiece.
“I wish we could have finished more plays down the stretch and gotten some more big rebounds,” Carter said. “That was definitely frustrating.”