Duquesne's Ovie Soko (0) and Massachusetts' Maxie Esho (1) battle for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Massachusetts won 78-74. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH — On the night Chaz Williams moved into a tie for first on the University of Massachusetts’ career assist list, it was his likely successor who played the hero.
Trey Davis scored the Minutemen’s last 10 points, making big 3-pointers and clutch free throws down the stretch as UMass came from behind to beat Duquesne, 78-74, Wednesday at the Palumbo Center.
The Minutemen trailed 70-68 with the shot clock winding down when Davis pulled up from well behind the line and buried the 3-pointer with 3:13 left to put UMass up 71-70.
“That was a play that never happened for us before,” Williams said. “That always happened against us.”
Ovie Soko (18 points, 13 rebounds) answered with a jumper at the other end to give the Dukes a 72-71 edge. After a Sampson Carter turnover for UMass, Cady Lalanne blocked Soko’s shot, but Duquesne got the rebound and Micah Mason, the nation’s 3-point percentage leader, got free for an open look from the left side.
Kellogg was afraid to watch.
“I didn’t look. I turned around,” Kellogg said. “If that goes in, it could be a different game.”
The shot was off the mark and Maxie Esho (10 points, 10 rebounds) grabbed the rebound.
UMass hustled the ball up the floor. Recognizing Davis’ hot hand, Williams fed him the ball and Davis swished another from a foot behind the line putting UMass up 74-72. The assist was the 678th of Williams’ career, tying Chris Lowe.
“I told Chaz to keep finding me. When I was shooting at the (3-point) line, I felt like they were hitting my hand,” Davis said. “I backed up off the line to make it harder to contest.”
After Esho stripped Soko to start a fast break, Williams tried for a knockout blow pulling up for a 3, but it hit the back of the rim.
At the other end, Mason got in the lane and put up a would-be game-tying floater, but Lalanne, who watched most of the game from the bench in foul trouble, swatted it back toward midcourt. Williams and Desmond Ridenour chased it toward the sideline as it bounced out of bounds.
Unsure of possession, the officials checked the sideline monitor, which wasn’t working, then a control room monitor, but couldn’t determine who’d touched it last. They were forced to go to the possession arrow, which gave the Minutemen back the ball with 21 seconds left and a two-point lead.
Soko fouled Lalanne before the ball was even inbounded and the UMass center missed the front end of a one-and-one. Duquesne’s Jerry Jones tried to drive the baseline, but missed. Davis snared the rebound and was fouled with seven seconds left. Davis made both to stretch UMass’ edge to 76-72.
Mason (20 points, five assists) hit a layup with 1.1 seconds remaining, but Davis answered with two free throws to seal the victory.
Davis said he’s not nervous in big spots.
“I’m just in my own little world,” he said. “I don’t worry about the crowd. I just try to knock those free throws down. I just do my routine.”
Kellogg was impressed with Davis’ poise.
“Trey did some big stuff at the end,” Kellogg said. “He had our last 10 points which was huge for us. ... I’m in the huddle screaming and he’s just rubbing his little goatee. I guess he’s pretty calm so let’s get him the ball in those situations.”
Davis finished with a team-high 20 points to go with eight assists (one turnover). Williams added 17 points and six assists, while Raphiael Putney had 12 points, including the 1,000th of his career, six rebounds and four blocks.
“I was just focused on playing defense today,” Putney said. “I’m happy I had four blocks and six rebounds.”
After struggling to move the ball in Saturday’s loss to Dayton, UMass had 19 assists on 27 baskets.
“That was a telltale sign that the ball was moving,” Kellogg said. “We were making shots.”
The Minutemen (23-6), 10-5 Atlantic 10) finish their regular season Sunday at 2 p.m. against No. 17 Saint Louis at the Mullins Center. The game is sold out.