OLEAN, N.Y. — UMass appeared ready to finish off another second-half rally against St. Bonaventure Wednesday night at the Reilly Center.
Then, the Bonnies fired up a shot that seemingly had no chance when it left the fingers of Andell Cumberbatch. The shot clock ticked away. Cumberbatch aimlessly dribbled a few feet beyond the 3-point line and launched an attempt over the outstretched arms of Raphiael Putney.
Miraculously, the shot banked in, and St. Bonaventure’s lead grew from 1 to 4 (58-54) with a little more than seven minutes left. The Bonnies proceeded to run off 9 straight points and the Minutemen never got closer in a 78-65 Atlantic 10 loss before 3,881.
“Yeah, that really hurt,” UMass senior forward Sampson Carter said of Cumberbatch’s shot. “It kind of was like they took one of my ribs out on that shot, man.”
Coach Derek Kellogg saw it as a turning point.
So did the Bonnies. The No. 21 Minutemen, after all, had quickly cut a 9-point deficit to 1 and had the Bonnies scrambling offensively when Cumberbatch fired away.
“It was a desperation shot,” the Bonnies’ Matthew Wright said. “When it went in, it was finally like the basketball gods were on our side.”
They had sided with UMass (17-3, 4-2 Atlantic 10) in the first meeting between the teams when the Minutemen rallied from down 13 points in the second half for a 73-68 victory Jan. 11 at the Mullins Center.
This time, UMass didn’t have enough offensive firepower to come back. The Minutemen went scoreless for four minutes — they endured a similar drought in the first half — as the Bonnies (13-8, 3-4) forged a 10-point lead with three minutes remaining.
The Minutemen twice cut the lead to 6, but a Wright 3-pointer with just under a minute left secured the win for St. Bonaventure, its first over a ranked opponent since Jan. 15, 2000 against Temple — a span of 24 games.
The Minutemen, meanwhile, suffered their second straight road loss during a stretch in which they will play five of six games away from Amherst.
“I think everybody can see we’re not playing as well as we could be, but we’re going to right the ship,” Kellogg said. “We’re gonna play well. I don’t know what that’s going to lead to, but we’re going to play well and play tough.”
With Chaz Williams limited by foul trouble and an aggressive St. Bonaventure defense, backup guard Trey Davis led the Minutemen with a career-high 18 points. Williams added 11 points and six assists, but he fouled out with 1:39 remaining.
Williams twice missed front-end free throws on one-and-one opportunities in the final four minutes as UMass tried to get back in the game. The senior guard also struggled from the floor, going 3 of 10 and missing both of his 3-point attempts.
Oh, and Williams also had his headband torn off by a St. Bonaventure player during one drive to the basket.
“They were getting on him pretty good in there, being physical,” Kellogg said. “I think sometimes because of his stature and size, [the officials] don’t see it quite that way.
“They did a good job on him, though. He did get a little frustrated. We just kind of have to play through those bumps and grinds when we get in there. When you knock his headband off, though, I think he gets a little frazzled.”
UMass held St. Bonaventure to 22 of 59 shooting (37.3 percent), but the Bonnies sank 30 of 34 free throws (compared with 8 of 15 for UMass) and tallied 20 points off 17 Minutemen turnovers. St. Bonaventure also grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and had 18 second-chance points.
St. Bonaventure used an 11-2 run early in the second half to grab a 37-29 advantage and led, 47-28, before UMass started to chip away. The Minutemen outscored the Bonnies, 16-8, over a four-minute stretch and pulled to 55-54 on a Davis 3-pointer.
Then Cumberbatch connected and UMass couldn’t recover. Its next points didn’t come until Derrick Gordon scored inside with under four minutes to play.
“I just kind of wish we could have stayed grounded through tough times,” said Carter, who had 10 points and seven rebounds. “I kind of feel like we weren’t grounded enough as a team. It was kind of more than what was going on out there. So we’ve just got to tighten up off the court as well as on the court.”
St. Bonaventure had lost three of its last four games but improved to 9-1 at home.