SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- The way point guard Chaz Williams and his Massachusetts teammates are playing, the Minutemen could very well be taking a trip to New York City for the NIT Final Four very soon.
Williams scored 20 points and hit a big 3-pointer with 2:26 to play to lead Massachusetts to a 77-67 victory over Seton Hall in the NIT's second round Saturday.
The victory was the fifth in the last six games for the Minutemen (24-11), with their only loss in that span a four-point setback to eventual Atlantic 10 Conference champion St. Bonaventure in the league tournament semifinal.
"It's a testament to the guys on my team," coach Derek Kellogg said. "They are playing some of the best basketball we have played all year, and they want to play to July. I keep saying it. They would love to play all the way to July, if they could. Maybe even August because the weather is nice."
Massachusetts, which upset top-seeded Temple in the Atlantic 10 tournament, has knocked off Mississippi State (101-96 in double overtime) and Seton Hall in NIT road games in advancing to a quarterfinal game Tuesday against the winner of Sunday's second-round game between Drexel and Northern Iowa.
The Minutemen, who led by a dozen in the first half, got past Seton Hall by overcoming a 60-56 deficit with 6:40 to go and making the big plays in the final four minutes of a then one-point game.
Top-seeded Seton Hall (21-13) was down 65-64 and had a chance to take the lead when Fuquan Edwin, who led the Pirates with 21 points was called for a walk with 2:53 to play.
Williams, who also had seven rebounds and six assists, hit his 3-pointer on the next possession and then set up Terrell Vinson for another bomb and a 71-64 lead after Seton Hall came up empty at the other end.
"We just know that one more loss, we go home and there is no more basketball after this," said Williams, who had 28 points against Mississippi State. "That's one thing we don't want. Guys are being competitive in practice, and we still want to play basketball. It's just a game we love, a game we have been playing our whole lives. So why not continue to play?"
Raphiael Putney added 15 points for Massachusetts, while Sean Carter had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Vinson, who picked up a flagrant foul early in the second half for a hit on Patrik Auda, added 10 and seven rebounds.
"Coming into the season, no one expected me and Herb to really do anything, and no one expected our young guys to do anything," Theodore said. "I think we came a long way, and we showed people Seton Hall is back. Even though me and Herb are leaving, we have a lot of young guys and lot of transfers who are really going to make a name for themselves in this league (Big East)."