- Image 1 of 2
- Image 2 of 2
CHARLESTON, S.C. – No. 19 New Mexico couldn't escape a second time at the Charleston Classic, no matter how many points Alex Kirk scored.
Despite Kirk's career-high 32 points, the weary Lobos (3-1) lost 81-65 to Massachusetts in the tournament semifinals Friday. New Mexico played less than 24 hours after needing double overtime to escape UAB 97-94 on Thursday.
Kirk played 44 minutes before fouling out against UAB and went for 39 minutes against the Minutemen.
"I feel fine. I feel like I just played a basketball game," Kirk said. "I get a day off, which is perfect and then going to play 40 (minutes) more" Sunday in the tournament's third-place game against Davidson or Clemson.
Kirk understood it was easy to point to fatigue, especially when New Mexico got outplayed down the stretch during a 14-0 run when UMass took control. He thought it was more about his team's mistakes, missed shots and lack of execution when it mattered most at the end.
"Once they got on that run, we weren't really able to get back into it," he said.
The Minutemen improve to 5-0 for the second time in four years. Cady Lalanne had his third double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg knew after the UAB game that New Mexico likely would not have the legs to withstand his team's up-tempo pace late in the game.
"Their stamina was a little bit better than I anticipated or expected," he said. "Both teams played really hard. But once that run came, we were going to take advantage of it."
Few push pace like Williams, a dynamic 5-foot-9 senior from Brooklyn who's up the court in a flash and seeking teammates like Putney and Lalanne to finish. He was content Thursday to let others lead the way — UMass had five players score more than his 10 points in a 96-90 win over Nebraska — but took charge against New Mexico.
Not only did Williams strike for a team-high in points, he had five rebounds, five assists and a steal. He also played effective defense on New Mexico's high-scoring guard Kendall Williams, who was held to 13 points after going for 29 in the UAB win a day earlier.
"Coach just emphasized playing defense and helping each other out," Chaz Williams said. "That's what we did."
New Mexico coach Craig Neal said, "I thought we were prepared for the press, that's on me."
Neal said his team is designed to handle and excel in high-tempo games. Doing that after going 50 hard minutes to defeat UAB a day earlier was a factor, he said.
"I think it might be a little bit of a problem playing two overtimes and have to turn around and play at 2:30. But that's not an excuse," he said.
Still, the game was tied at 61-all at just under eight minutes left on Kirk's jumper when things got away from the Lobos, who missed their final eight shots after tying the game and managed just four foul shots down the stretch.
Kirk worked hard to top his previous best of 31 set against Cal State-Bakersfield in January 2011, going 11 of 26 from the floor as he was swarmed by Minutemen whenever he got the ball. Kirk also finished with 11 rebounds.
Kendall Williams was held to 13 points on 5 of 12 shooting. Much of the time, Chaz Williams was tightly defending him.
Cameron Bairstow, who was averaging 23 points this season, was held to eight points on just eight shots.
"We gave great effort," Neal said. "I thought we had a couple of mental breakdowns and that could've been from fatigue."
Putney's slam on a pretty feed from Chaz Willilams broke the tie at 61 and gave Massachusetts the lead for good. Derrick Gordon followed with a basket and Williams had his third 3-pointer to put the Minutemen ahead 68-61.
Putney followed with a jumper and a 3-pointer and Gordon closed the charge with a basket that made it 75-61. The Lobos had no answers unlike the UAB game when Kendall Williams' 3 tied it at the end of regulation, Kirk's 3 tied it at the end of overtime and Cleveland Thomas' 3 put them ahead for good in the final minute of the second extra period.
But the Lobos matched the Minutemen for much of the first half, building a 27-22 lead with 7:33 left on 16 points from Kirk.
That's when Massachusetts got its attack in gear with a 14-0 run ignited by Chaz Williams. The point guard hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 27-all. After Gordon's two foul shots, Williams had a layup to extend the margin to 31-27.
Williams added two more foul shots after a technical was called on the New Mexico bench in protesting Cullen Neal's turnover. His dad, the Lobos' coach, drew a technical foul in the tournament opener against UAB.