Massachusetts' Trey Davis (12) dances with his teammates after defeating Clemson 62-56 in the second half of the championship game at the Charleston Classic NCAA college basketball tournament in Charleston, S.C., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Most fans wouldn’t believe that the University of Massachusetts could win a championship game with its leading scorer, Chaz Williams, having one of his worst offensive nights as a Minuteman.
That’s exactly what happened Sunday night.
Cady Lalanne delivered a monster performance with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Minutemen danced near center court to celebrate a 62-56 victory over Clemson in the Charleston Classic final.
Lalanne was an unstoppable force in the paint, pushing around Clemson big men Landry Nnoko and Ibrahim Djambo from the outset on his way to his fourth double-double in six games, and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“I felt like we put in a lot of work over the summer to get to this level, so it felt pretty good to win the tournament and I’m honored to be MVP,” Lalanne said.
He was especially useful in the periods when Clemson was able to slow the game down to its pace, and when UMass was struggling in the half-court offense. The found its way to Lalanne, who had no problem muscling it in.
“If you play slowdown ball ... you need a big guy that can put the ball in the basket in the half court or one that can clean up messes,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “Cady’s done a great job of putting himself in positions to offensive rebound.”
One of those periods came in the middle portion of the first half. After UMass built an eight-point lead, the Tigers slowed the game down and held the Minutemen to one field goal over a six-minute stretch. With the lead whittled to two, Lalanne scored seven straight, sparking an 11-4 run to close the half and give the Minutemen a 34-24 lead.
All of Lalanne’s success came in the post, an area he said he wasn’t surprised to see himself excel.
“Me and Lou (Roe) work on that every day,” Lalanne said. “He tells me, ‘When you’re playing against bigger guys to be careful with the type of moves you do,’ and they worked.”
Williams, who was shut out in the first half, hit his lone field goal of the game, a 3-pointer, to push the UMass lead to 11 with 15:11 on the clock. Williams was 1 for 12 from the field and scored four points, but the senior did record six assists and three steals. Kellogg praised his leadership even on a night when he didn’t produce.
“Chaz has become so much more of a complete basketball player where winning is the most important thing to him,” Kellogg said. “He’s really taken over the team ... and he doesn’t have to score as much all the time.”
Williams wasn’t the only quiet star Sunday. Clemson’s leading scorer, forward K.J. McDaniels, came in averaging 18.8 points, but scored just 11 on 3-for-13 shooting.
“It’s going to be hard for us to beat really good teams without K.J. McDaniels having a big night,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said.
The Minutemen used a combination of Raphiael Putney, Maxie Esho and Sampson Carter to hold down the rangy McDaniels.
“He didn’t get a lot of easy, open looks to get himself going,” Kellogg said. “We matched his athleticism.”
Without McDaniels, the Tigers lacked spark on offense until Devin Coleman came off the bench and scored 10 straight Clemson points to bring the Tigers within 58-54 with 2:40 to go.
After a Lalanne free throw, point guard Rod Hall, who had a team-high 16 points for the Tigers, drove to the hoop to bring Clemson to 59-56 with less than a minute to play. Those were the last Clemson points, as the Minutemen held on to secure the victory and put themselves in consideration for their first top 25 ranking since 1998.
“That’s a long time,” Kellogg repeated multiple times after the game. “I hope for the guys, if we are (ranked), it’s a long time coming.”
Rankings aside, the win allows UMass to bring a trophy back to the Mullins Center.
“It’s tiresome looking at the wall and not seeing any new (trophies) — just the ones from when I played,” Kellogg said. “I’m tired of those things, I want to throw them in the garbage and start up my trophies as a coach.”