AMHERST, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from a scintillating 67-64 win by the University of Massachusetts over Harvard:
BACK AND FORTH: Although UMass came in as the favorite, the Minutemen couldn’t pull away with the teams battling within a few points of each other the entire second half. Steve Moundou-Missi hit a pair of free throws with three minutes to go to give Harvard a 62-59 lead. After the teams traded blocked shots, a Freddie Riley 3-point try rolled around the rim and out. Harvard’s Wesley Saunders then hit a pair from the line for a 64-59 lead, but Jesse Morgan answered with a jumper in the lane to make it a 3-point game.
UMass, showing defensive intensity that had been lacking much of the second half, forced a five-second violation with 44.9 seconds left, and Morgan tied it with a three-ball with 37 seconds to go. The Minutemen cranked up their full-court pressure again and Chaz Williams forced a turnover on the sideline as Harvard lost the ball out of bounds.
The Minutemen took over with 28 seconds left. As time wound down, Williams drove the lane, dished to an open Sampson Carter in front of the UMass bench and he drilled the trey for the win -- and his only points of the game -- with 1.5 ticks remaining.
LOOKING FOR LEADERS: With forward Kyle Casey and point guard Brandyn Curry, expected to be seniors and two of Harvard’s main men this season, no longer with the team in the wake of a cheating scandal, Harvard struggled at times in the first half to find its way on offense. The Crimson repeatedly plunged inside with spotty results thanks in part to the defense underneath by Cady Lalanne and Raphiael Putney. Harvard’s first 25 points came either in the paint or at the line. But a 3-pointer by Siyani Chambers with 2:40 left in the first half changed that, pulling the Crimson within 5 at 33-28, and a three at the first-half buzzer by Christian Webster made it a 1-point game at intermission. In the second half, Harvard got more comfortable, particularly Chambers, a freshman at the point. Chambers got the Crimson moving and Harvard played with more energy than UMass in keeping the game close the rest of the way. The Minutemen’s defense got a little soft and the Crimson took advantage.
LALANNE UP AND RUNNING: After being limited to just 14 games last season because of a foot injury, sophomore big man Cady Lalanne was back and in the starting lineup for UMass. Lalanne’s presence was felt from the get-go, as he was active on the boards (eight rebounds in his first 10 minutes) and aggressive under the hoop (he missed a couple of shots from close in but blocked three in the first half on the other end). The 6-foot-9 Lalanne will need to get up to speed to keep up with a lightning-quick point guard like Chaz Williams though, as he wasn’t prepared for a fast-break alley-oop from Williams midway through the first half.
EARLY WAKE-UP CALL: When John Calipari was trying to get some attention to a moribund UMass program in the 1990s, one of his slogans was "Any team, any time, any place," and he never turned down a chance to appear on TV, even if it meant playing at midnight, which it literally did several times during his tenure. So in a season in which the Minutemen enter with as much anticipation since Coach Cal's days, it seemed appropriate to open at the unusual time of 10 a.m. ET, as part of ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon. The start time made for a late-arriving crowd (if any game could be excused for having a late-arriving crowd, this was it), but eventually business picked up and the noise level reached higher levels.
UP NEXT: The Minutemen are scheduled to fly to Puerto Rico later Tuesday for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament. Their first game is Thursday at 7:30 (p.m., not a.m. this time) against Providence. The Crimson play next Friday at home against Manhattan.