All NIT long UMass had been able to come up with a timely run to get back into games and break opponent's backs. Tuesday night that run came too early and fell short, as (5) UMass (25-12) finally saw their NIT run and their season come to an end against (3) Stanford (25-11).
The Cardinal overcame a poor shooting night and foul trouble behind four players in double digits with a 74-64 victory at Madison Square Garden. It was the second time the two teams had met at MSG, with Stanford winning 73-71 in the 1991 NIT Semifinals.
Sophomore point guard Chaz Williams led the Minutemen with 19 points and three assists but he and his teammates struggled shooting the ball all night long. Williams connected on 7-of-18 shots, with a large portion of his made shots and points coming after the game had been decided. Junior guard Freddie Riley was the only other UMass player in double figures with 10 points, including two of the Minutemen's five 3-pointers.
Sean Carter, the lone UMass senior who was a member of the rotation, finished his career with six points and a team-high eight rebounds. Forwards Raphiael Putney (eight rebounds) and Terrell Vinson (six rebounds) both chipped in with eight points apiece but struggled with foul trouble throughout the night.
Sophomore guard Anthony Brown led the Minutemen with 18 points on the night, including 13 in the second half. Aaron Bright (13 points) and Chasson Randle (12 points) joined Brown in double-figures and senior forward Josh Owens posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
While neither squad shot the ball particularly well, UMass connected on 33.8 percent of their shots and Stanford hit 36.9 percent, Stanford held a big advantage on the glass. The Cardinal held a 12-rebound margin (46-34) and pulled down 15 offensive rebounds. Stanford also held a big edge from the free throw line, as they knocked down 70 percent (21-of-30) if their shots, while UMass managed just 59.1 percent (13-of-22).
Early on it looked like Stanford would cruise against UMass when they grabbed a 12-point lead (26-14) at the 11:39 mark of the first half behind a 10-0 run. The Minutemen responded though in their regular fashion, with a 13-4 run over the next minutes, to make the halftime deficit a reasonable 36-33 score.
The second half was an ugly affair for the first 12 minutes, as both team's saw their shooting percentage plummet behind a steady stream of missed shots. Then things got interesting. Riley knocked down a 3-pointer with 8:05 to give UMass a 50-49 lead, just their second lead of the game. But Brown would follow a 3-pointer of his own, to give Stanford the lead right back. The back-to-back threes were the first 3-pointers of the second half for both teams.
Williams would respond with an acrobatic layup in traffic to tie it at 52, but Stanford would go on a 11-3 run to open up the game and UMass failed to have an answer.
UMass' 25 wins this season means they will go down tied for fifth all-time in Minutemen history for single season victories.
Stanford will play the winner of (1) Washington and (6) Minnesota Thursday night in the NIT Championship Game.
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