Charleston, SC (SportsNetwork.com) - After surviving their opening-round contests, the Massachusetts Minutemen and 19th-ranked New Mexico Lobos square off in the semifinal round of the Charleston Classic on Friday afternoon at TD Arena.
The winner of this matchup will advance to Sunday's championship game to play either Davidson or Clemson. The losers will also play on Saturday in the third-place game.
This marks the first-ever meeting between UMass and New Mexico on the hardwood.
For the third time in the last four seasons, UMass is off to a 4-0 start. It continued its undefeated campaign in the opening round of the tournament, as it dismissed Nebraska by a 96-90 final. After a back-and-forth first half, the Minutemen scored the last four points of the frame to take a 42-39 advantage into intermission, and they never faltered in the second half as their lead swelled to as many as 13. They shot 50 percent from the field in the triumph while also taking advantage of their ample opportunities from the free-throw line (33-of-43). Pacing six players in double figures was Derrick Gordon with 20 points on 8-of-13 from the field. Sampson Carter (16 points, seven rebounds), Cady Lalanne (15 points, nine rebounds) and Raphiael Putney (12 points) were all strong in the frontcourt, Maxie Esho scored 13 points off the bench and Chaz Williams finished up with 10 points.
After registering wins in each of its first two games at home, New Mexico was put to the test in the opening round of this event, and its epic battle concluded in a 97-94 win in double overtime. The Lobos nearly cost themselves the game by coughing up a double-digit, second-half lead, but facing a six- point deficit with under a minute to play they forged an unlikely comeback, and a last-second Kendall Williams 3-pointer tied the game and forced overtime. The story was much of the same in the first extra session, but this time it was Alex Kirk who drained the game-tying bucket from beyond the arc, and the Lobos finally finished the deal in the second overtime. Williams led the way with 29 points while also finding time to hand out 10 assists. Cameron Bairstow tallied 21 points and eight rebounds, Kirk logged 16 points, 11 boards and five blocks and Cleveland Thomas added 10 points.
UMass is one of the nation's highest-scoring teams in the early going at 89.8 points per game on 50.2 percent field goal shooting, which has helped mask its vulnerabilities on the other end of the court (80.5 ppg allowed). Williams orchestrates the operation by scoring 18.3 points per game and handing out 6.8 assists per contest. Lalanne (17.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg) is a nightly double-double treat and has missed just nine of his 40 field goal attempts (.775). Carter pours in 16.0 points per game, while Putney (11.3 ppg) and Gordon (11.0 ppg) round out the remainder of the outstanding starting five.
The Lobos proved in the opening round that they are one of the most potent scoring teams in the nation, as they now average 98.0 points per game, although their lackluster field goal percentage against UAB (.341) was much lower than they shot in their first two games of the season (.591). New Mexico's strength comes in the frontcourt, where Bairstow (24.0 ppg, 8.0 ppg) and Kirk (18.7 ppg, 12.0 ppg. 4.0 bpg) are both off to fast starts. Williams (16.0 ppg) leads the charge in the backcourt, as he's already handed out 27 assists paired with only six turnovers. Williams has also been nearly automatic from the free-throw line (29-of-32, .906).