NEW YORK – Chaz Williams created some room with a cross-over dribble and let fly with a shot his coach never doubted.
Williams made his only 3-pointer of the game with 1:49 left, shrugging off a poor homecoming performance with some clutch plays late, and Massachusetts rallied to beat Rhode Island 65-61 in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament Thursday night.
"I was waiting for that," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said of Williams' big 3. "When he raised up, I knew it was in."
Williams, who went to high school about 3 miles from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, scored 11 points and didn't have any in the first 17 minutes of the second half. He went 3-for-12 from the field, playing in front of a large group of friends and family members.
"Half of Brooklyn," Kellogg joked.
The 5-foot-9 point guard hit two free throws with 2:25 left to put sixth-seeded UMass (24-7) up 58-56. After URI cut it to one, Williams made that off-the-dribble 3 from the top of the key to make it 61-57. His mother practically jumped over the railing in the stands after the shot swished and Williams celebrated by holstering his finger pistols.
"Once I made the shot I was like, 'Finally. Thank you,'" Williams said.
Williams added two more free throws with 34 seconds left to make it a five-point game.
UMass plays No. 3 seed George Washington in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
Xavier Munford scored 24 to lead 11th-seeded Rhode Island (14-18), which lost three games to UMass this season by a total of 12 points.
Munford, the league's sixth leading scorer but left off the A-10's three postseason all-conference teams, carried the Rams to a halftime lead. The senior scored 18 points and made all six of his field-goal attempts — including 3-for-3 from 3-point range. He got a friendly bounce on a drive to the basket with 58.4 seconds left to put the Rams up 10. Rhode Island went to the break up 37-29 and shooting 61 percent from the field.
Munford and Williams exchanged some not-so-friendly trash talk in the second half, enough to make an official step in and tell the two standouts to "Knock it off! Knock it off!"
Kellogg sat Williams for a few minutes after that to settle down his leading scorer.
"He was pressing a little bit. He's in Brooklyn, wants to be the best guy on the floor," Kellogg said. "I thought getting him a blow, letting him watch for a minute or two would kind of refocus him. I thought it worked."
After Munford hit a jumper with 9:50 remaining in the second half to make it 55-46, Rhode Island went 7:05 without a point. UMass had a tough time taking advantage, cutting the lead to three, and then going cold, too, for almost four minutes.
UMass kept pressing and Raphiael Putney came up with a steal and layup that made it 55-54 with 3:53 left.
Trey Davis gave UMass its first lead of the second half with 3:07 left on a baseline drive to make it 56-55.
Gilvydas Biruta finally broke the URI drought with a free throw at 2:45 to tie the game.
Then Williams took over and UMass advanced.
"No celebration," the senior said. "Getting ready for tomorrow. God willing we celebrate on Sunday."