UMass coach Kellogg earns 100th win

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FAIRFAX, Va. – In the building where he started his coaching career, Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg won his 100th game on Wednesday night.

None of the others in his six seasons might have been as hard-earned as the Minutemen rallied from five points down in the final 41 seconds to escape George Mason 88-87 on Wednesday.

Point guard Chaz Williams scored five points in the final 36 seconds, and made a steal which set up the go-ahead layup by guard Derrick Gordon with eight seconds left, as the Minutemen (15-1, 3-0 Atlantic 10) won for the third straight time in the conference by way of a second-half rally.

"Every once in a great while you pull out a win where everything kind of falls into place for you in the stretch run," Kellogg said. "We got a little lucky there at the end."

The catalyst in the final frantic minute was Williams, who finished with 26 points, eight assists, and five steals. George Mason (7-10, 0-3) had no answer for the relentless work of the 5-foot-9 senior.

Williams' biggest play came after his driving layup with 18 seconds left cut the lead to 87-86. Double-teaming George Mason guard Sherrod Wright, Williams stripped the ball from the senior and drove to the basket. His shot came off the rim, but sophomore guard Derrick Gordon was there for the put-back. His go-ahead basket with eight seconds left put UMass up. Junior forward Maxie Esho followed with a steal, sealing the Patriots' fate.

Gordon, who scored 10 points, was an unlikely hero after sustaining a nasty fall as he was fouled on a breakaway layup try. The 6-3 transfer from Western Kentucky, left the floor holding his back with 10:13 left and was unable to shoot his free throws. But he returned in time to save the Minutemen.

"When the fall happened, I honestly didn't know if I was going to come back or not," Gordon said. "I just got a nose for the ball. It was right place at right time. It just happened to fall into my hands once again."

Gordon was referring to another game where he scored the winning basket off an offensive rebound. His bucket with 1.1 seconds left of the third overtime beat Providence on Dec. 28.

This time, UMass needed Gordon's heroics to extend the miseries of George Mason, which has lost four straight and 10 of its last 13. Senior guards Wright, who scored 26 points, and Bryon Allen, who added 21, including a key 3-point-play with 1:02 left, put the Patriots in position to win their first conference game as a first-year member of the A-10.

But three turnovers in the final 24 seconds – two by Wright and one by Allen -- were costly.

"I know what they've got in them," George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. "I obviously have not done a good job of getting us to close the deal in a lot of close games."

Junior center Cady Lalanne contributed 19 points and nine rebounds for UMass before fouling out. The Minutemen shot 54.7 percent from the floor, led by Williams who made 11 of 17 shots.

Neither team led by more than five points during a fast-paced first half.

Senior forward Raphiael Putney hit two quick buckets to put the Minutemen up 5-0.

Allen scored eight points in a two-minute span for the Patriots midway through the half as the home team transformed a five-point deficit into a five-point lead.

In the final 7:19 of the half and first four minutes of the second half, Wright broke out of his slump to score 22 points. During that span, the Patriots surrendered field goals within eight seconds of scoring four separate times, failing to get back on defense.

George Mason took its biggest lead, 67-59, with 11:38 left as freshman forward Jalen Jenkins, who scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds, made a free throw.

That set the scene for UMass to make another comeback and deliver Kellogg his special victory. He coached at George Mason under Jim Larranaga from 1997-99.

"This was a great place for me, a really special time in my life," Kellogg said. "To come back here and get my 100th win, I think, in a weird way, it was fitting. It really is a place that was special to me for a couple years. My team kind of resembles it in a certain way, the teams that we had early on with Coach Larranaga."

NOTES: Prior to this year, the last time UMass was ranked was Nov. 1998. … Wednesday was a homecoming for UMass veterans Putney and Esho. Putney, a resident of Woodbridge, Va., scored 12 points before fouling out. In addition to making the game-clinching steal, Esho, who is from Upper Marlboro, Md., scored six points and blocked two shots. … George Mason goes on the road to face Rhode Island on Saturday. The Minutemen play at Elon on Saturday, the second of a three-game road trip which includes an A-10 game at Richmond the following Wednesday.

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