BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — There were neither heroics nor suspense at the buzzer for the University of Massachusetts this time.
After opening the season with back-to-back wins as time ran out, the Minutemen were knocked out early Friday as they couldn’t keep up with sixth-ranked North Carolina State and fell, 94-76, in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez.
The Minutemen escaped a big scare as star point guard Chaz Williams landed awkwardly and grabbed his left ankle with 1:09 left in the first half. After limping to the bench, he walked gingerly to the locker room with his team trailing, 48-32, at intermission.
The pocket of fans behind the UMass bench cheered when Williams emerged for second-half warm-ups. Williams (13 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers) played 14 minutes after the injury and could have played more, but coach Derek Kellogg chose to rest him as the score got out of reach.
Williams downplayed the injury.
“It’s all right. I’ll be back on it tomorrow,” Williams said. “Pain is pain. When you’re tough, and I’m from Brooklyn, so I really don’t feel much pain. If it ain’t broke I can play.”
Terrell Vinson (13 points, seven rebounds) opened the second half with a 3-pointer. But N.C. State answered with 5 straight points and gradually pulled away.
UMass relies on its pressure defense, but the deep and athletic Wolfpack (3-0) thrived in the up-tempo game, getting their big men easy shots in the paint. Freshman T.J. Warren led N.C. State with 21 points, and senior Richard Howell had 19 points and nine rebounds.
“If you want to press us we can make you pay,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “I thought we were going to get 100 [points]. We came up a little short.”
The Wolfpack lead reached 27 at 92-65 with 2:47 left before Jesse Morgan scored 5 of his team-high 15 points in UMass’s game-closing 11-2 spurt.
“They got the ball in as fast as any team we’ve played and really beat our pressure up the floor,” Kellogg said. “Not having a ton of time to prepare, we didn’t have much to switch up with. We went with how we play and how we do, and tonight that wasn’t good enough. They have four McDonald’s All-Americans, a couple guys that are probably draft picks, and on occasion those guys make plays. You run something and they make a play that a normal guy can’t make.”
UMass will play Tennessee in the third-place game on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Volunteers fell to Oklahoma State, 62-45, in the other semifinal.
“It’s great to have a day off. We exerted a ton of energy to win that Providence game [Thursday],” Kellogg said. “I think a day off will be good to really just get us mentally and physically back refocused and ready to go.”