Sophomore Wes Saunders, shown here in earlier action, scored a career-high 18 points against UMass Tuesday morning.
AMHERST, Mass.—Sampson Carter knocked down a game-winning three-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining to give the University of Massachusetts a 67-64 victory over the Harvard men’s basketball team on Tuesday morning.
The Crimson led by five with 81 seconds remaining but two turnovers down the stretch proved costly, as UMass closed the contest on an 8-0 run to take the win at the Mullins Center.
“I thought the difference certainly was the turnovers,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, whose squad coughed it up 19 times—leading to 29 Minuteman points—against relentless UMass pressure.
But the Crimson’s final two turnovers were the most devastating. After scoring with 1:12 remaining to pull within two, the Minutemen forced a five-second violation on Harvard sophomore Wesley Saunders with 45 ticks left on the clock.
UMass guard Jesse Morgan proceeded to knock down a deep three with 39 seconds remaining to even the score, 64-64.
After successfully inbounding against the Minuteman press, the Crimson put the ball in the hands of co-captain Christian Webster, who attempted to dribble up the sideline. But UMass point guard Chaz Williams met Webster near midcourt and came up with a steal, knocking the ball off Webster and out of bounds.
“The last timeout, we told ourselves…we needed to get something going defensively,” Williams said. “I hit it off [Webster’s] foot. It went the right way.”
With the shot clock off, UMass put the ball in the hands of Williams, the team’s leading scorer and top playmaker. The 5’9” Williams drove to the hoop, drawing in the Crimson’s defenders. Williams kicked it out to Sampson in the corner, and the forward drained the triple—his first basket of the contest.
“That’s basketball,” Amaker said. “I was kind of excited to be honest with you that [Williams] threw it out because he’s a great finisher at the rim, and he’s also crafty enough to get fouled. I just thought it played into our hands, but as it turned out obviously the kid made a big shot.”
Harvard freshman Siyani Chambers’ last-second heave from half court fell short, and UMass emerged victorious in its season opener.
“Sometimes the ball bounces your way,” Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg said.
While the ball ended up bouncing the wrong way for the Crimson, Amaker was pleased with his team's performance on the road against a squad that returns four starters from last year’s team that reached the NIT final four.
“I thought our kids were magnificent in so many ways,” Amaker said. “We see what we’re capable of. We see that we’re capable of going into an opponents’ arena [against] a very good basketball team…and being very competitive with an opportunity to win.”
After trailing by as many as 10 late in the first half, the Crimson battled back, closing the frame on a 9-1 run to pull within one, 38-37, at the break. Webster played a critical role during the stretch, scoring seven points in the final 94 seconds of the period, including a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Harvard took its first lead of the game 41 seconds into the second half off a Smith bucket, and the teams went back-and-forth the rest of the way, with neither squad puling ahead by more than six.