AMHERST — Raphiael Putney saved the day’s best highlight for the final seconds Sunday, providing a fitting end to UMass’ strong finishing kick that finally put away Youngstown State at the Mullins Center.
Putney scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half alone and took off from just inside the foul line for a one-handed thunder dunk to seal the Minutemen’s 85-69 win before 4,231, boosting UMass to 3-0 on the early season.
“I don’t know, I didn’t look,” chuckled Putney, referring to the launch point for his dunk. “In the first half I was trying to be too aggressive. I came out with the mentality to just be patient in the second half.”
Chaz Williams and Sampson Carter each scored 19 points and Cady Lalanne had 13 points and 15 rebounds for UMass, which shot 55 percent from the field and owned a 48-33 rebounding advantage against the school where head coach Derek Kellogg spent the 1999-2000 season as an assistant.
“I had some fond memories of the Penguins,” said Kellogg, who worked at YSU for former UMass assistant coach John Robic. “I thought their perimeter scoring could give us some problems, and their transition game was good, but I thought we did a good job in spurts. We turned the ball over way too much (19 times) to a team that wasn’t pressing.
“I really like that we’re 3-0. We’ve met the task to this point, and now we’ve got three big games in four days.”
Youngstown (4-1) had early leads of 3-0 and 5-2, but never again after Carter’s trey tied the score. The Minutemen led 24-23 with less than five minutes left in the half before scoring six in a row, and Lalanne’s inside basket with 33 seconds left gave UMass its largest lead, 34-26, at halftime.
Lalanne and Derrick Gordon (nine points) then scored to open up the second half to put the Minutemen up by a dozen, and after a Kendrick Perry basket for the Penguins, UMass ran off seven more in a row to take a 45-30 lead on Gordon’s layup with 16:33 to go.
The Penguins then rallied back with six straight and within three minutes had pulled to within six, 49-43. Marcus Keene scored 18 of his game-high 20 points for Youngstown in the second half.
UMass used a 3-pointer by Carter, a free throw by Gordon and two at the line by Williams to extend a six-point lead to 12 at 57-45 with nine minutes remaining, and the Minutemen kept the margin in double figures over the last seven minutes, topping out at 18 points.
Perry, averaging 21 points over Youngstown’s first four games, was held to 6-of-20 shooting Sunday, 0-for-5 from three, and finished with 14 points. Bobby Hain had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Penguins before fouling out late.
Youngstown shot 37 percent from the floor and only 5-of-26 from beyond the arc.
“Could we have played better? Absolutely. Did we have as much energy as against LSU? Maybe a little less,” said Kellogg. “We took care of business, but not exactly the way I would have preferred.”
UMass travels to Charleston, S.C., this week for three games in the Charleston Classic tournament, opening against Nebraska Thursday at 12:30 p.m. and facing either Alabama-Birmingham or New Mexico in Friday’s second-round game.