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"A man can be destroyed, but not defeated."
Game #9-512: Massachusetts Minutemen vs. Virginia Commonwealth RamsMarch 16, 2013 4:00 pm
- Ernest Hemingway
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Although as we've established, the crowd was not going to be on their side against the VCU traveling circus, you had to figure that UMass was the more motivated squad in Saturday's second semifinal. Their upset of Temple
had allowed them to climb onto a bubble that others seemed to be vacating in a hurry, and one more upset might just allow them to sneak in the back door to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years.
But could motivation overcome fatigue, and obviously VCU - even though they were safely into the Dance - feasts on tired bodies like New York City pigeons do on discarded food.
Adrenaline can be powerful, though, real powerful, and the Minutemen came of the locker with guns blazing, scoffing at the fact that it was their third intense game in 43 hours. When Raphiael Putney took what looked like a quick and ill-advised superhoop but drained it anyway, UMass led 16-8 seven minutes in, Shaka Smart was forced to call a time out, and all was right with the underdog's world.
UMass still led by eight with 5:30 to go in the first half, but they had first-hand knowledge of the power of Havoc. Last month in Richmond, the Minutemen took a five-point lead into halftime, which happened to be the same time I got in from another game and was able to check out the second half.
Over the span of seven minutes, VCU scored 23 of the first 26 points after halftime, and it was ugly. Like can't turn your head away from the trainwreck ugly. I was left to scratch my head and wonder what the hell happened in the first half. Well, now I knew I guess, it probably looked similar to what I was seeing in Brooklyn.
The Rams really didn't shoot the ball that well this weekend, but Troy Daniels finally connected on a superhoop to cut the lead to five. Thirty seconds later, he connected again. Two-point game. On the next possession, Daniels decided to go for the turkey and got it. VCU up by one. Seconds later, Melvin Johnson picked Chaz Williams' pocket and tossed it ahead for the requisite Briante Weber dunk that culminates every Havoc spurt.
And against Havoc, your time outs only encourage the VCU War Chant.
But unlike the capitulation in Richmond, UMass found some energy in reserve. Desperation can be a pretty powerful force as well. The Minutemen briefly grabbed the lead before trailing 35-34 at the half.
Halftime featured some talented young dancers from Brooklyn, which led VCU Pav to Tweet: "Didn't know Chaz Williams was a good dancer."
Williams had the first bucket to start the second half to give UMass the lead, but unfortunately, it would be their last. Just as it happens in the wild (at least in the nature shows I watch), the smaller underdogs' fatigue eventually overcomes them, no matter how hard they try to avoid it. The will to keep fighting is strong, Williams had a couple of big buckets to keep the Minutemen within reach, but the turnovers were adding up, back-to-back steals and layups putting VCU up double digits for the first time midway through the second half.
As you'd expect, UMass - now facing imminent NCAA Tournament death - kicked and clawed one last time, Williams went coast-to-coast with 5:30 left to get his team within two. It was a four-point game with 1:25 left with the shot clock running down and Eric Brandenburg was stuck on the left side of the court. It was one of those moments that we'll see plenty of in the next couple of weeks with the Brandenburg shot hanging in the air for seemingly forever before hitting nothing but net.
If UMass was on the bubble, that was the moment it bursted spectacularly, and you could see it on every one of their faces, including coach Derek Kellogg, who could just stare and shake his head.
Finally, after fighting for three days through all kinds of adversity, the UMass NCAA Tournament hopes were pronounced dead, as VCU prevailed 71-62.
In the end, the Minutemen turned the ball over 15 times in the second, 24 in the game (the same number they had in Richmond), and - even with a 50-36 rebounding margin (three UMass players reached double digits in rebounds), an area they struggled mightily with against George Washington two days earlier - that's not a number that desperation or adrenaline or even motivation is going to overcome.
And so it was return to the NIT for UMass. The Chaz Williams Experience, Off-Broadway edition, which played to such rave reviews, was officially closed. Until next year, of course.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 71, MASSACHUSETTS 62
MASSACHUSETTS 21-11 (9-7) -- C. Williams 7-12 4-5 18; F. Riley 1-4 0-1 3; S. Carter 1-7 6-6 8; C. Lalanne 6-9 2-3 14; T. Vinson 1-7 0-0 2; M. Esho 1-5 4-6 6; R. Putney 1-5 0-0 3; T. Davis 1-3 3-5 6; T. Bergantino 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-53 19-26 62.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 26-7 (12-4) -- J. Reddic 5-15 8-10 18; D. Theus 3-7 3-3 10; T. Graham 1-12 1-3 3; R. Brandenberg 3-9 0-2 7; T. Daniels 7-10 0-0 20; B. Weber 5-8 1-1 11; M. Johnson 1-6 0-0 2; J. Guest 0-0 0-0 0; J. Tuoyo 0-2 0-0 0; T. Okereafor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-70 13-19 71.
Three-point goals: MASS 3-11 (S. Carter 0-2; R. Putney 1-2; F. Riley 1-2; T. Vinson 0-2; C. Williams 0-2; T. Davis 1-1), VCU 8-21 (T. Daniels 6-9; D. Theus 1-1; R. Brandenberg 1-3; B. Weber 0-1; T. Graham 0-5; M. Johnson 0-2); Rebounds: MASS 46 (S. Carter 12), VCU 33 (J. Reddic 12); Assists: MASS 6 (C. Williams 4), VCU 13 (D. Theus 6); Total Fouls -- MASS 19, VCU 22; Fouled Out: MASS-T. Vinson; VCU-None.
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