Things looked grim for UMass after a 20-3 start but the Minutemen earned their second comeback victory of the week at the Mullins Center Saturday behind a big showing from Chaz Williams. After hitting less than 10 percent of their shots in the opening minutes, UMass (14-4, 3-1 Atlantic 10) rallied to grab a 33-32 halftime lead and defeated St. Joes (12-6, 2-2 Atlantic 10) 71-62.
After being held scoreless for almost 10 minutes in the first half, Williams finished with a game-high 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Williams knocked down all 10 of his free throws and hit 5-of-14 shots for the Minutemen who earned their 10th consecutive win at home to begin this season. Raphiael Putney added 17 points and seven rebounds and Terrell Vinson recorded 11 points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes of play.
Sophomore forward Ronald Roberts led the Hawks with 16 points off the bench on a perfect 7-of-7 from the field. Carl Jones, the leading scorer in the Atlantic 10, managed just four points in 37 minutes, 16 points below his season average. Even sophomore guard Langston Galloway who scored 30 points in the team's last game against Fordham struggled, as the Minutemen held him to half his season average (eight points). Aiken managed to record a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) but fell well short of his season average in blocks, as he only managed two swats.
Despite shooting just 37.7 percent (23-61) for the game, UMass gained an edge over the Hawks in the trenches. The Minutemen held a three-rebound advantage (38-35) and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. UMass also forced 16 turnovers for the Hawks, compared to just 10 of their own miscuses. Long-distance shooting was also a key, as the Minutemen knocked down 11-of-27 (40.7 percent) attempts, compared to just six made 3-pointers for the Hawks.
The start of the game could not have gone any worse for UMass, as the Hawks jumped out to a 20-3 lead less than seven minutes into the game. Instead of a repeat of the LaSalle game, the Minutemen responded with a 13-0 run that keyed the UMass comeback to come. Behind 14 first-half points from Putney, UMass grabbed a surprising 33-32 lead at the break.
Williams took over in the second half scoring 14 points, including the several key free throws to open the game in the final minutes. UMass led 57-55 with 4:22 to play but managed to open the lead to double-digits by hitting their free throws for the second consecutive contest.
The Minutemen will get a bit of a break before they head to Pittsburg Wednesday to take on Duquesne at 7 p.m. EDT.