DAYTON, Ohio — With a minute left in Saturday’s first half, Chaz Williams’s frustration was obvious.
After leading comfortably for much of the half, UMass’s 7-point lead over Dayton had evaporated. Williams airballed a 3-pointer and was knocked down hard by a defender. He got up, fought for the rebound, and missed an off-balance jumper.
UMass got the ball back a few seconds later, and Williams again took the ball down the court, gingerly touching his lip as he checked for blood from the fall. He drove inside, lost control in the paint, and couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer. Shaking his head in disgust, he walked off the court.
UMass’s sloppy last few possessions allowed the Flyers to string together a 16-2 run that continued after the break. Dayton built a quick 8-point second-half lead that it never relinquished as UMass fell to the Flyers, 86-79.
“We just have to lock in a little better and be a little tougher. I thought it was a toughness thing today, and not so much energy or intensity,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “The three loose balls you don’t get or rebounds that get knocked out of the way, that’s 6, 8, 10, 12 points. That part of it is what really annoyed me.”
Williams came in averaging a team-high 15.6 points but he scored just 2 in the first half. Excluding the last minute of the game, in which Williams made three consecutive layups as the Minutemen attempted to come back, he shot 2 for 14 from the field and 0 for 2 on 3-pointers.
Of his 17 points, 6 came in the last minute and seven were free throws.
“Five for 17. Shucks,” Williams said, looking at the postgame stat sheet for the first time. “Five assists. Not good. I told the guys in the locker room, this game is all on me. I did a poor job of getting my guys involved.”
The first half was fast-paced as both teams found a rhythm on offense. Forward Sampson Carter started strong for UMass (22-6, 9-5 Atlantic 10), scoring 9 of the team’s first 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, as the Minutemen took an early lead and kept it for the rest of the half.
The Minutemen’s early confidence on offense was obvious on two consecutive 3-pointers by Trey Davis (19 points), shot from well beyond the line, that extended UMass’s lead to 7 late in the half. UMass shot 53.6 percent from the field before halftime.
But the Flyers (20-9, 8-6) stole the momentum late in the first half with a 7-2 run, went into halftime trailing just 37-36, and took the lead immediately after halftime on consecutive 3-pointers.
“The two open threes and basic basketball plays that we didn’t do a good enough job of covering, that kind of set the tone when we were fighting to get back into the game for the next 18 minutes,” Kellogg said. “We just have to be better defensively.”
Dayton shot 56 percent in the second half and built a 12-point lead with 5:38 left. In the next 4½ minutes, UMass scored 12 points off free throws and just 5 from the field to crawl back within 6 with a minute to play.
Williams tried to orchestrate a comeback, hitting those three layups in the final minute. UMass pulled within 80-77 with 40 seconds left, but the Flyers made six free throws to seal the win.
“You know, they just wanted it more,” Davis said. “This is a game to build their résumé and we let them do it. They came out hard and we came out sluggish.”