SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — BYU coach Dave Rose had what he figured to be a solid benchmark for achieving a victory against No. 21 Massachusetts in Saturday’s Hall of Fame Showcase at the MassMutual Center.
Rose determined if the Cougars could score in the mid-90s they could bring home their first victory against a ranked team in 2013.
What Rose did not count on was a career game from UMass point guard Chaz Williams, who tallied 32 points and 15 assists as the Minutemen hung on for a 105-96 victory against the Cougars.
“Everything we had for him, he had a pretty good answer for it,” Rose said. “The 15 assists were really the killers. We didn’t want him penetrating. We felt like if we could get him dribbling the ball, then we could get a second defender shading to him and make him shoot it a little quicker. He found guys. They were wide open, and they made shots.”
UMass (8-0) connected on 55.6 percent of its shots Saturday, led by a combined 16-for-24 effort by Williams and small forward Sampson Carter (20 points).
The Minutemen compiled those numbers despite being held without a field goal for the first 4:11 of the game.
It was Williams who broke that skid, driving to the basket for a three-point play — part of an 11-0 run that erased BYU’s largest lead of the game, a five-point advantage at the 16:20 mark of the first half.
The Cougars (7-3) built the early lead on strong inside play by freshman Eric Mika, who had six of BYU’s first eight points and helped draw two early fouls on UMass center Cady Lalanne, who entered the game averaging 16.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.
“That’s a point of emphasis every game — to be aggressive and go at it, especially with how they’re calling fouls nowadays,” said Mika, whose 18 points made him one of five Cougars to hit double figures. “We want to go at them from the very start.”
BYU’s early aggressiveness was tempered by an opportunistic group of Minutemen, who turned eight first-half Cougars miscues into 11 points, equaling the UMass’ lead at halftime.
After halftime, BYU put together its best run since early in the first half, scoring the first eight points of the second half, cutting the UMass lead to three and forcing a timeout.
What happened after was a microcosm of the remaining 17:29 of the game — UMass answering a BYU run with one of its own — a point coach Derek Kellogg made known to his unbeaten squad.
“I’ve watched them on tape enough to know they can run off 25 points before you blink,” he said of the Cougars.
Williams was the catalyst for many of those runs, either answering a BYU bucket himself or setting up a teammate to do the same.
While Rose bemoaned what turnovers did to his team in the first half, Williams did his damage while committing just one turnover, helping the Minutemen achieve a 29-to-14 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Chaz Williams just kind of lulls you to sleep, throws it around a few times, and then just attacks and gets wherever he wants,” said Tyler Haws, who led the Cougars with 25 points on an efficient 16 shots. “He had 15 assists and (32) points. He was kind of doing it all for them.”
Haws and fellow guard Matt Carlino (23 points, six assists) tried time and again to lead the Cougars back, but Williams and the Minutemen answered each time, as UMass was able to keep up with the run-and-gun Cougars, who topped 85 points for the sixth time in the season’s first 10 games.
“The combination of the pace and as well as they shot the ball from the floor as far as 3-point shots (hurt),” Rose said. “We thought we could keep them away from the basket, and you take the amount of 3s — they had nine 3s and 26 free throws — that’s quite a few points when you don’t let them get to the basket.”
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