As Chaz Williams goes, so, too, do the rest of the UMass Minutemen.
The diminutive, dynamic point guard had a team-high 22 points as UMass outran the Duquesne Dukes in a 79-66 win on Thursday night.
While second-leading scorer Jesse Morgan may be gone for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, Williams made sure to get the rest of the team going, dishing out six assists and creating open looks for others by drawing double-teams. Williams commanded extra attention on Thursday with his sharp 4-of-6 performance from 3-point range.
Every 3-ball seemed to electrify the home crowd at the Mullins Center and the energy rubbed off on the entire team. It may have finally restored the confidence of Freddie Riley, who hit four three-pointers to give him 14 in his past four games. It marked the fifth time in the last seven games that Riley scored in double figures.
UMass’ nine made three-pointers seemed to rattle a Dukes offense that has the formidable back-court of Sean Johnson and Derrick Colter. The Minutemen couldn’t contain Johnson, who led all scorers with 29 points and Colter had 14 with six assists but the the Dukes duo had a combined nine turnovers. Duquesne had 15 TOs as a team and the Minutemen capitalized to score 14 points directly off of turnovers.
UMass led by as many as 14 in the first half but Johnson scored 18 of his 29 points after halftime and the Dukes got to within three with just over eight minutes to go in the game but Terrell Vinson scored six of his 17 points in a 14-2 UMass run that put the game out of reach.
The Minutemen also won the battle of the boards, outrebounding Duquesne 38-27, led by Cady Lalanne‘s 11 rebounds. Lalanne also finished with 12 points.
The Minutemen bench outscored the Dukes’ reserves 17-9 and UMass’ defense didn’t allow a single Duquesne basket in the final five minutes of the game.
The Minutemen’s next game is Saturday, when UMass hosts the George Washington Colonials at 4 p.m. on Saturday, a day when Minuteman legend Marcus Camby will have his jersey retired, while Duquesne hosts the No.22 VCU Rams at 7 p.m. that night.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter: @mgillmei