UMass was four minutes away from its first two-game losing streak of the season, that's when the Minutemen made their move behind a very unlikely asset. The normally poor free throw shooting Minutemen, hit 13-of-14 free throws in the final 4:47 to spur a 17-6 game-ending run to knock off Charlotte.
Sophomores Raphiael Putney and Chaz Williams led the Minutemen with 19 points as UMass (13-3, 2-1) handed the 49ers (9-6, 2-1) their first Atlantic 10 loss by an 85-75 score.
Putney earned his second career double-double in the game, adding 10 rebounds, to his career-high total in points. Williams added six assists and five rebounds in the win and knocked down all eight of his free throws. Terrell Vinson (18 points) and Sean Carter (15 points) joined Putney and Williams in double-figures, making it the 10th time in 17 games, that UMass has had four players score in double-figures.
Vinson and Carter combined for 15 rebounds as the Minutemen dominated the glass, pulling down 38 rebounds, compared to just 27 for Charlotte. Jesse Morgan scored nine points as the fifth UMass starter, while the short-handed bench struggled, finishing with just five points in 39 minutes.
Charlotte was led by junior center Chris Braswell, who finished with 31 points and nine rebounds. Braswell pulled down five offensive rebounds in the game and became the first UMass opponent to score 30 or more points in over two years. Sophomore guard DeMarrio Henry (15 points) and freshmen point guard Pierria Henry (13 points) were the only other Charlotte players in double-figures.
The 49ers were able to stay in the game for the full 40 minutes because of their effectiveness in handling the ball. Charlotte recorded 21 assists compared to just 12 turnovers, while the normally consistent Minutemen, turned the ball over 20 times, while converting just 16 assists.
UMass made up for their turnover struggles with red-hot shooting; they hit 50 percent or more of their shots in both halves and connected on 55.3 (26-47) percent of their shots for the game. On the other side, Charlotte managed to hit 40 percent of their shots but did knock down 11 3-pointers.
The first half at the Mullins Center was pretty familiar, UMass jumped out on a 21-6 run and Charlotte struggled to control the ball (eight turnovers). Vinson and Carter sparked the big run, as the pair hit all six of their shots and combined for 14 points in the span. Even after an 18-8 run by the 49ers towards the end of the half, UMass took a 44-33 lead into the break and looked like they would easily move to 9-0 at home.
Things were much of the same in the second half, with UMass holding a near double-digit lead for the first 14 minutes, that's when the 49ers struck. With UMass leading 68-57 with 6:58 remaining, Charlotte went on a 12-0 run behind six consecutive made shots. Henry opened with a 3-pointer, before Mayfield connected on consecutive baskets and then Braswell hit two layups split up by a made free throw. The run eclipsed 2:11 on the clock and gave Charlotte their first and only lead of the game: 69-68
That's when a very strange thing happened, UMass began hitting their free throws. On the season UMass is connecting on just 65.6 percent of their attempts but in the final 4:47, the Minutemen hit 13-of-14, to help them to their second win in the Atlantic 10.
With UMass in the double bonus after 10 Charlotte fouls in the first 13 minutes of the half, UMass knocked down 13 straight free throws to grab an 83-75 lead. The Minutemen only scored two baskets during the span, but it was more than enough, as Charlotte missed six 3-point attempts, while fouling UMass on almost every possesion. Vinson finally broke the streak, as he missed his second free throw with 38 seconds left, UMass hit 83 percent (26-of-31) of their free throws on the night.
UMass will look to move to a perfect 10-0 at home, when they host St. Joseph's at 4 p.m. EDT on Saturday at the Mullins Center.
After producing their worst first half of the season Sunday, UMass knocked down 58 percent of their shots and churned out 44 points in the first half at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen could hardly be slowed by the Charlotte defenders, as six, first-half, 3-pointers gave UMass a 44-33 lead at the break.
Sophomore forward Raphiael Putney led the Minutemen with 12 points five rebounds and three assists in the first half. Putney knocked down two of the team's 3-pointers and even added a block, in one of his best halves of the year.
Fellow big man, Terrell Vinson added 10 points of his own and three other UMass players recorded seven points.
Chris Braswell led the way for the 49ers with a game-high 13 points and a team-high three rebounds in the half. Redshirt sophomore guard Derrio Brown was the only other Charlotte player to score more than four points, as he finished with six.
UMass dominated the boards, pulling down 18, compared to just 11 for Charlotte. The Minutemen also turned eight Charlotte turnovers into 13 points, making up for their own nine turnovers.
UMass will look to stay perfect at home (8-0) Thursday night, when they host the Charlotte 49ers in an Atlantic 10 Conference matchup. Two of the best point guards in the league, Chaz Williams (UMass) and Pierria Henry (Charlotte), will face off.