AMHERST, Mass. - St. Bonaventure (12-9, 5-3 Atlantic 10) nearly withstood a pair of big runs in the second half, but Massachusetts (18-6, 7-3) was too much for the Bonnies in a 76-67 decision at the Mullins Center on Wednesday.
Andrew Nicholson led the Bonnies with 24 points and nine rebounds, but UMass, which started the second half on a 14-0 run, put together a 17-2 advantage over a five-minute span down the stretch to lock up what had been a three-point game with 8:41 left.
St. Bonaventure started well, as Nicholson scored 10 of the Bonnies' first 20 to help build a lead as large as 10, 23-13, at the 6:21 mark of the first frame. Freshman Youssou Ndoye sparked a 7-0 charge with a putback slam to get momentum, pushing the Bonnies to their biggest lead of the game.
Chaz Williams answered with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to cut into the deficit, before Jesse Morgan's trifecta at the buzzer pulled UMass to within three, 34-31, at the break. Morgan finished with a career-high 24 points on 6-of-7 from deep with Williams passing out five assists and chipping in 17 in the Minutemen's 12th win in 15 games.
SBU endured a 2-for-16 performance from beyond the arc for the game but managed a late push that made things interesting. Trailing 73-56, Chris Johnson and Ndoye tallied seven points in an 11-0 run over a two-minute stretch that saw SBU pull to within six before UMass put it out of reach from the free throw line.
Johnson totaled 14 points in the loss, but improved to 46-of-50 on the year from the free throw line, the second-highest mark in school single-season history (92.0 percent).
The Bonnies begin a three-game homestand Saturday by hosting Duquesne in a game syndicated by CBS Sports Network and aired live on Comcast, Comcast Southeast, Cox Rhode Island (Connecticut only), Verizon, and Time Warner (Rochester & Buffalo).
NOTES: Former Boston Red Sox manager Don Zimmer, Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette McGlade, and Bona AD Steve Watson were all in attendance … scouts from the NBA's Magic, Thunder and Warriors also took in the game … Nicholson blocked three shots, marking 215 rejections in his career.