NEW YORK — The new Barclays Center is smack dab in Chaz Williams’s home territory. So clearly, no one had more incentive to do big things Thursday night than the UMass guard, who was reared in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section and schooled at nearby Bishop Ford High.
Williams, the smallest man on the court at 5 feet 9 inches, delivered 16 points (on 7-for-19 shooting), 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals in 40 tireless minutes of action as sixth-seeded UMass ousted 11th-seeded George Washington, 77-72, in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Thanks to Williams and Trey Davis (14 points in 17 minutes off the bench), Terrell Vinson (14 points and four assists), and Raphiael Putney (12 points and five rebounds), UMass (20-10) advanced to a quarterfinal date with third-seeded Temple (23-8) Friday night.
Williams’s layup with 1:18 left put UMass up to stay at 73-72. He also drove for the clincher with 32 seconds left, and two free throws by Davis with five seconds left ended it.
“My daughter was here, my grandmother was here, I just wanted to come through for them, as well as my teammates,’’ said Williams. ’’I had a tough first half, maybe my head wasn’t in it. That wasn’t close to my best basketball. But things came together for all of us in the second half. They had to. No one wants to go home after the first game.’’
To coach Derek Kellogg, his team’s play down the stretch — the Minutemen trailed by 5 with 3:53 to go — was “UMass basketball at its finest. We had a lot of energy left and started making our shots.
“We played a very physical and tough George Washington team [which had the decided size advantage] and were able to pull this one out. You never want to lose the first night.’’
George Washington forwards Isaiah Armwood (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Kevin Larsen (17 points, seven rebounds) were forces inside, giving the Colonials a 50-32 advantage on the boards.
But UMass’s relentless defense hounded the Colonials (13-17) into 26-of-67 shooting, and 0 for 8 from 3-point land.
The Minutemen went 28 of 62 overall, 7 of 20 from beyond the arc.
UMass took a 34-31 lead into the break but was never in control.
This nail-biter featured 19 lead changes and 14 ties. Neither team led by more than 5 points.
UMass overcame serious foul trouble, too — with Cady Lalanne and Vinson eventually fouling out.
Now, it’s on to Temple, which edged UMass, 83-82, Feb. 16 in Amherst, Mass. Then again, UMass stunned then-top-seeded Temple, 77-71, in the 2012 A-10 quarterfinals.
Saint Joseph’s 58, Xavier 57 — Langston Galloway (14 points) hit two free throws with 1.4 seconds left to lead the Hawks (18-12), who face No. 25 Virginia Commonwealth in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Rams had a bye after finishing second in the regular season.
Butler 73, Dayton 67 — Rotnei Clarke scored 21 points as the Bulldogs advanced. Clarke shot 6 of 12 from behind the 3-point arc and added five assists for Butler (25-7). Butler was 10 for 24 on 3-point tries. Josh Benson had 18 points to lead Dayton (17-14). The Bulldogs (25-7, 11-5) will face fourth-seeded La Salle in the quarterfinals.
Charlotte 68, Richmond 63 — Pierria Henry hit eight free throws in the final five seconds of a wild start to the tournament for the 49ers (21-10). The Spiders (18-14), who led, 63-60, with 4.7 seconds to go, were called for three technical fouls as the 49ers took the lead from the foul line with the clock stopped. Charlotte will play Saint Louis in the quarterfinals.