AMHERST (UmassAthletics )- Four Minutemen scored in double figures led by Chaz Williams’ game-high 26 points as the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team defeated East Carolina 88-81 on Saturday afternoon at the Mullins Center. The win marked the fourth straight for the Minutemen and the fifth in the last six games. UMass led by as many as 19 in the second half, but a resilient ECU squad fought back to get as close as three in the final moments of play.
Along with Williams, Freddie Riley scored a career-high 14 points, while Terrell Vinson and Jesse Morgan each scored 15 for UMass. Williams also had 11 assists and was 15-of-16 from the free throw line.
East Carolina (7-3) was led by Maurice Kemp’s 21 points and Robert Sampson’s 14 points. Akeem Richmond added 11 points to round out the Pirates top scorers.
The Minutemen (7-3) took a 42-36 lead into the locker room after Morgan hit a three-pointer from the left wing with one-second left in the half. UMass led by as many as 16 points in the opening stanza and started the game with a 14-to-0 run.
The Pirates were held scoreless for the first five minutes of play. Raphiael Putney and Morgan hit back-to-back three pointers and Vinson converted a pair of free throws to put the Minutemen up 14-0 just 4 minutes, 19 seconds into the game. At the 15 minute mark, Kemp hit a jumper from the free throw line for ECU’s first points of the game.
With just over six minutes left in the first half, Vinson had consecutive three-point plays. His second was an emphatic fast break dunk of an East Carolina turnover and after the good free throw put UMass up 31-15.
After starting the game cold from outside, East Carolina hit four straight three pointers and managed to cut the lead to 36-30 with 2:39 to go.
A dunk by Ty Armstrong and a pair of free throws from Richmond pulled the Pirates even closer, 39-36, with 8.6 seconds left in the half, but Morgan’s trey gave the Minutemen momentum at the break.
A sloppy start to the second half saw UMass turn the ball over four times in the first four minutes after just four total miscues in the first half. The Pirates pulled back within three, 47-44, but after the first media timeout the Minutemen responded to regain a double-digit lead.
Back-to-back buckets from Esho and Williams coming out of the break followed by a tip-in from Cady Lalanne and Morgan’s fourth three-pointer of the day put UMass up 56-44 at the 13:30 mark.
A pair of Williams’ free throws and a Riley three-pointer extended the run to 14-to-0 in just under three minutes forcing ECU to call timeout with 12:17 left in the half.
Out of the under 12 minute media timeout, Williams converted another lay-up to push the run to 16-to-0. The Pirates snapped the scoreless streak with a Miguel Paul lay-up at the 11:10 mark.
Paul added another quick five points and Kemp hit a lay-up in the next minute to cut the lead back to 12, 65-53.
Riley’s three-pointer with 7:42 to go put the Minutemen up 70-53. ECU put together another quick five-point spurt, but Riley hit his fourth three-pointer of the day with 5:41 left giving UMass a 75-58 lead.
The Pirates continued to chip away at the lead with Maurice Kemp scoring six points and Michael Zangari adding a lay-up as ECU’s 8-to-0 run cut the UMass lead back to single digits, 75-66, with 4:05 left in the game.
Corvonn Gaines hit a lay-up and Paris Campbell hit a three-pointer after UMass turned the ball over on the inbounds pass pulling the Pirates within four, 76-72, with 3:19 to go.
A Vinson jumper inside the free throw line put the Minutemen back up by six points, but Robert Sampson’s three-pointer from the left wing with 1:03 left cut the UMass lead to 80-77.
East Carolina tried to extend the game in the final seconds, but Williams hit eight straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win.