Things looked grim after 20 minutes at the Daskalakis Center in Philadelphia. UMass not only found themselves trailing by 10 but the (5) Minutemen couldn't find an answer to the (3) Drexel frontcourt and were playing a Dragons team that was 15-0 at home this season.
But with their season on the line against one of the hottest teams in the country, UMass pulled off their third road victory in a week to keep their magical season alive. UMass (25-11) rallied from a 17-point deficit with 16:47 to play to end the Dragons (29-7) season and to advance to Madison Square Garden and the NIT Semifinals for the first time since 2008.
Sophomore point guard Chaz Williams (20 points) and junior forward Terrell Vinson (18 points) keyed the Minutemen's rally, as UMass had all the answers in the second half. Williams poured in 12 points in the second half to go along with his four rebounds, four assists and two steals for the game. Vinson was even better, with 14 of his 18 points in the second half, with 12 coming during the run when UMass finally took the lead away from Drexel.
Sophomore guard Jesse Morgan added 12 points and knocked down two of the team's four second half 3-pointers that helped UMass overcome the Dragons. The Minutemen shot just under 75 percent in the second half, and 58.8 percent (30-of-51) for the game, to help Derek Kellogg knock off his mentor, and former UMass head coach, Bruiser Flint.
Point guard Franz Massenat did his best to keep up with Williams on the stat sheet with 16 points and nine assists, but the 80 percent free throw shooter hit just 6-of-12 attempts from the line. Forwards Dartaye Ruffin (17 points) and Samme Givens (12 points) combined for 29 points but 27 came in the first half to help Drexel build a 41-31 halftime advantage. Givens the team's lone senior, finished with 10 rebounds, eight on the offensive end, despite constant foul trouble.
Drexel managed to control the game through the first 25 minutes behind their complete dominance inside. The Dragons scored 34 of their 41 first-half points in the paint and owned a 36-15 advantage on the glass for the game. Yet UMass was able to change the flow of the game behind their outside shooting and defensive pressure.
In the second half, UMass shot 4-of-8 from behind the arc and forced nine Drexel turnovers, after going 0-of-2 and only turning the Dragons over five times in the first half.
UMass will travel to Madison Square Garden next Tuesday for a matchup against the winner of tomorrow's quarterfinal game between to (3) Stanford and (5) Nevada. Overall, UMass is 1-1 in NIT Semifinal games with a win against the defending national champions Florida in 2008.