The UMass Minutemen got a much needed lift from their bench as they fought off the Duquesne Dukes 78-74. UMass improved to 23-6, 10-5 in the A-10. The Dukes fell to an overall record of 12-16 and a conference record of 4-11.
Trey Davis led UMass in both scoring and assists with 20 and eight, respectively. He had all four of his 3-point field goals in the second half, fueling UMass to the win. His benchmate Maxie Esho had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
The Dukes were led by a two headed attack of Micah Mason and Ovie Soko. Soko had a game-high 13 rebounds and added 18 points by hitting 8 of his 11 free throw attempts. Mason had a game high 20 points and hit four long balls.
The Dukes were the causality of a controversial call with 24 seconds left in the second half with UMass leading 74-72. On the floor the refs ruled that Chaz Williams had hit the loose ball out of bounds and gave possession to Duquesne. When they went to the monitor the refs found it to be inoperable. They were forced to go back into the depths of the stadium causing a significant delay in the game. When they returned they awarded UMass the ball -- much to the dismay of the Dukes and their fans.
Trey Davis then knocked down 4-of-4 from the stripe to lock up the win.
Chaz Williams got back to his usual self, scoring 17 points and dishing out six assists while stealing the ball four times.
The first half saw a lot of scoring from both teams as each team flew up and down the hardwood, trading the lead multiple times.
Duquesne built its first half lead to as much as eleven before UMass came storming back to eventually retake that lead and go into halftime with a 41-40 advantage.
Raphiael Putney had 10 of his 12 points in the first half. The senior also went over 1,000 career points for his career on a nasty dunk assisted by Williams. He hauled down six rebounds and had four blocks as he made up for Cady Lalanne who was non-existent for much of the game.
Lalanne would finish the game with only two points and a rebound but did have two blocks, including one with 27 seconds left in game that prompted the questionable out-of-bounds call.
At the start of the second half UMass quickly lost their lead in the first minute of play thanks to a Mason layup. The Minutemen stormed back with an 11-3 run sparked by back to back threes from a sharp-shooting Sampson Carter (11 points).
The Duquesne fans were all over the refs throughout the game and at one points you could hear one boisterous fan yell out, "Why don't you go back to reffing the CYO league."
The Minutemen would extend their lead to as much as 7 as they led the game until the 7:14 mark as Soko converted an and-one on a jump shot. The two teams were trading the lead back and forth until Davis hit back-to-back threes to give UMass a 74-72 lead they would not relinquish.
Derrick Gordon had a quiet night scoring only six points and was shaken up at the 15:37 mark of the second half as he caught a Jeremiah Jones elbow to the face. He would be fine and not miss any time.
With this win UMass keeps its hope for a fourth seed in the A-10 tourney alive, going up a half game on George Washington. The top four seeds will get a first-round-bye in the tournament. Putney had a much needed bounce back game as he will need to have that kind of presence on offense for UMass to thrive against better teams. Lalanne needs to snap out of his mini slump on offense and give them the consistent inside presence that he provided in the beginning of the year. Their next game is the final one of the season, at home against conference leader Saint Louis Billikens. The game is already sold-out and the Mullins Center is sure to be intimidating as the game is the day after UMass' world renowned St. Patty's day celebration, Blarney's Blowout.
The Dukes slipped to 11th and are in danger of having to participate in the A-10 play-in game. Their final game is against 12th place George Mason and could have an impact on seeding.