Returning home to Brooklyn, Chaz Williams did not disappoint, scoring 16 points in homecoming as UMass advanced to Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals. (Photo courtesy of Jason Schott)
A local product who starred at Bishop Ford High School before arriving at the University of Massachusetts, with a one-year detour at Hofstra in between, Chaz Williams is Brooklyn-born and Brooklyn-bred to the core, and almost always takes his game to another level whenever he takes the court close to home, as he did in January when the Minutemen defeated Fordham. Last night was no exception.
Playing with several family members in the stands at the Barclays Center, Williams put on his typical show, leading UMass with 16 points as the Minutemen won their Atlantic 10 Tournament opener, defeating a valiant and upset-minded George Washington team by the final of 77-72 to advance to the quarterfinals.
"Nobody wants to come in and lose on the first night," said Williams, the hometown boy whose opening night in Brooklyn enabled him to come back a conquering hero. "We were going to do everything in our power to come out with this victory."
Williams ended the night with eight assists and three steals, perhaps none bigger than the one that came on George Washington's final possession, when the Colonials were down three. Williams came from out of nowhere, as he usually does, to intercept an entry pass, and made sure to release the ball before coming down, as he was dangerously close to the baseline. Prior to the theft that ultimately clinched the win for UMass, the 5-9 dynamo powered through the lane with two explosive driving layups that helped assure that the Minutemen would come out on top.
"I just wanted to go out there and play basketball and help my team win," Williams said. "I guess I was a little too anxious with my beginning. I felt like I was there, but hopefully I'm settled down tomorrow and ready to play."
"He's just matured," head coach Derek Kellogg said of his star point guard. "He controls the game better now. This year, he's picking his spots more and he has better control and command of the contest."
UMass advances to face Temple in the final eight for the second year in a row, and will be looking to make lightning strike twice one year after upsetting the Owls in Atlantic City behind 35 points from Jesse Morgan, who has been out since January with a torn ACL.