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(Wednesday, January 8th)
Final Score: (19) Massachusetts 66, Saint Joseph's 62
Amherst, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Chaz Williams did not allow No. 19 Massachusetts to fall on Wednesday night as the Minutemen got by the St. Joseph's Hawks, 66-62, at the Mullins Center.
Williams led all scorers with 22 points on 6-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-5 from outside the arc. Maxie Esho added 12 points and Raphiael Putney racked up 11 points in the third straight Minutemen (13-1, 1-0 A-10) win.
The Hawks (9-5, 0-1) squandered a late four-point lead, but Halil Kanacevic poured in 19 points and tallied 13 boards and six assists in the loss.
Following a Langston Galloway made free throw, which brought the Hawks' lead up to three at 62-59 with 2:09 left, the Minutemen flipped a switch and showed the Hawks why they deserve a top-25 ranking. Williams diced through defenders to make his way to the basket and finished at the rim to cut the Minutemen deficit to 62-61.
Then after a missed jumper by Derrick Gordon, St. Joe's freshman DeAndre Bembry came down the court and dribbled one-on-one against Esho. Bembry went left, cut right, crossed over to the left and as he tried to bring the cross back, Esho stole it and finished with an athletic double-pump dunk to give the Minutemen the lead, 63-62, with 1:01 left in the game. The Hawks were not able to come back from the slam and did score in the final minute of the contest.
The matchup began as a defensive battle, the first field goal was not scored until 2:12 into the game when UMass' Cady Lalanne showed up big in the paint.
The Hawks quickly caught fire and went on a 10-2 run thanks to a beautiful transition game by Kanacevic, who dished first to Bembry for a slam, then Galloway for a three, to give the Hawks a 16-7 lead.
The back-and-forth game continued as Galloway and Kanacevic led an 8-0 St. Joe's run to go up, 31-26, with 1:51 left in the first. Williams was able to finish at the rim with an acrobatic layup and bring the Minutemen deficit back down to three as the game entered halftime, 31-28, in favor of St. Joe's.
UMass came out of halftime on a tear as Putney started a 7-0 run with a layup as he cut through the defense, and two offensive possessions later, Putney hit a picturesque 3-pointer assisted by Williams to give the Minutemen a 35-31 lead with 18:16 left in the second.
St. Joe's retook the lead with 12:09 left in the game at 42-41 via a Kanacevic 3-ball, and after back-and-forth action, thanks to a Kanacevic offensive surge, the Hawks went on a 9-0 run to lead 57-48 with 6:23 left on the clock. This was tied for the largest lead of the night.
UMass finished the first half 1-of-9 from outside the arc and finished the game 5-of-15 ... UMass scored 38 points in the paint, St. Joe's only scored 22 ... Hawks forward Ronald Roberts was hurt in the contest and did not finish the game.
01/08 22:23:34 ET
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