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Thrilling comeback from No. 16 UMass erases another subpar performance

Chaz Williams, Eric Mika

Massachusetts’ Chaz Williams goes up for a basket as BYU’s Eric Mika, right, defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Springfield, Mass. Massachusetts won 105-96. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Jessica Hill

At what point do we start to get concerned about No. 16 UMass?

The Minutemen went down to Fairfax, VA, tonight and knocked off George Mason, 88-87, in a thrilling, come-from-behind win.

UMass was trailing for much of the second half, but Chaz Williams made every play in the final minute, leading UMass back from five down with 41.3 seconds left. He forced a turnover with 10 seconds left, missing a layup that was put back in by Derrick Gordon to give UMass the win. All told, Mason turned the ball over three times in the last 30 seconds of the game. That’s not how you will close out upsets over top 25 teams.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened for UMass this season, however. Nine of the 16 games that they’ve played this season have been decided by less than eight points, and the Minutemen are 8-1 in those nine games. That’s good a thing. Winning is a skill. Having the confidence and mental toughness to execute in the most pressure-packed possessions is not an easy thing to do, and UMass has proven that they can do just that.

The teams they are struggling to beat aren’t exactly Final Four contenders, however: Clemson, Nebraska, LSU, Providence, Miami (OH), St. Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, George Mason.

The only real contender to make the NCAA tournament out of that group is Florida State, who just so happens to be the only team to have knocked off UMass this season.

Chaz Williams is awesome. He had 26 points, eight assists and five steals on Wednesday. UMass has length and athleticism along their front line that would make Kentucky blush. Derrick Gordon has turned into a nice secondary scorer. On paper, they look awesome. Their record does, too.

So why are they struggling to beat teams they shouldn’t be struggling to beat?

Follow @robdauster