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Chaz Williams continues to be a player to watch after UMass’ 105-96 win over BYU

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –  The game had been over for nearly 20 minutes, though, UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams clearly was not done dishing out the assists. He was the last to be seated at the postgame press conference, as he ventured over towards the table of Poland Spring water bottles, grabbed three extra ones and handed them to Sampson Carter, Maxie Esho and his head coach Derek Kellogg before he sat down and faced the rows of reporters and cameras.

Moments earlier, Williams had exited the floor to a standing ovation from the 7,331 fans in attendance after he poured in 32 points and recorded 15 assists, both career highs — with only one, yes, one turnover — in the Minutemen’s 105-96 win over BYU on Saturday afternoon at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

He accounted for 66 points on the day.

“My teammates made the shots,” Williams. “Fifteen assists, I credit them guys. They were open and they always tell me, ‘If I’m open, I’m going to make it for you.’ And that’s what they did tonight.”

Williams made plenty of his own shots on the afternoon. In the first half alone he had 16 shots, off a perfect 5-for-5 (3-for-3 on threes) shooting. He ended the game 9-of-14 from the field with a career-high five triples on the evening. And although the talented BYU back court of Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino went for 25 and 23 respectively, the Cougars 2-3 zone defense was no match for the Minutemen’s offensive attack.

The Minutemen and Cougars played at a rapid pace with UMass winning the shootout, knocking down 56 percent of its attempts. In the halfcourt set, UMass was able to beat the BYU zone, with not only 3-pointer shooting, but also getting the ball into the paint.

The Minutemen took an 11-point lead into the locker room, and after BYU tried to climb back into the game early in the second half, it quickly became the Chaz Williams Show, a showcase of drives, dimes and threes.

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UMass is No. 21 in the latest AP poll — ranked for the first time since 1998 — and will likely see  a bump when the new ones come out next week. Starting the season 8-0, with wins over then No. 19 New Mexico, LSU and now BYU, the Minutemen have a good early season resume that should help them reach postseason expectations.

“The guys around us, they’re hungry for more,” Williams added. “Every day can be a loss, so we need to keep our foot on the gas. We say there’s a target on our back, but we still have a target on everybody else’s back because we are chasing one thing and that’s making it to the NCAA tournament.”

Williams is the key piece to that potential tournament run. He’s a two-time Atlantic 10 first team selection, and currently listed on the Bob Cousy Award watch list. But more importantly, the Brooklyn native is the Minutemen’s fearless leader. If you needed any proof of that, go ahead and rewind to nine minutes remaining in the first half.

Raphiael Putney was whistled for a foul, as Haws hit the deck. A scuffle began after Haws pushed aside Putney, who was trying to avoid stepping on Haws. Players from both sides surrounded the scene, with Williams and BYU center Eric Mika, going toe-to-toe. A tale of the tape would show that Mika stands 6-foot-10, 230-pounds while Williams checks in at an exaggerated 5-foot-9, and weighs 175.

“I expected that,” Carter said. “I’ve been with him everyday for three years now. That’s our point guard. He’s got some fire in his heart and I know he’s not going to back down. His energy is so contagious, just seeing that, that automatically fires us up.”

Williams’ dazzling performance cements his place as one of the more exciting players to watch this season. UMass has 10 more televised games this year, and if Williams and UMass continue its early season play, games on TV will extend into March.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Kansas/Oklahoma rematch highlights a fun day of hoops

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and forward Perry Ellis (34) go to the floor with Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard, back, during the first overtime of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Kansas defeated Oklahoma 109-106 in triple overtime. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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GAME OF THE NIGHTNo. 6 Kansas at No. 3 Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

The rematch we’ve all been waiting for will happen on Saturday.

A little more than a month after Buddy Hield burst onto the national scene with 46 points in a triple-overtime thriller — thriller doesn’t do it justice, that was one of the best college basketball games of all time — the Jayhawks will may their return trip to Norman to take of the Sooners. Only the circumstances of Saturday’s showdown will be a little bit different than what they were on that Monday night in January, when the No. 1 team in the AP poll squared off with the No. 1 team in the Coaches poll.

Oklahoma is no longer the No. 1 team in the country, as they’ve gone just 3-2 in their last five games while needing last-second game-winners to hang on against LSU and Texas during that stretch. But Kansas is not longer ranked at the top of the polls either, as the Jayhawks have managed just a 2-3 record in the Big 12 away from Phog Allen Fieldhouse, with those two wins coming against TCU and Texas Tech. They needed to beat West Virginia on Tuesday night just to ensure that this game would feature two teams sitting at the top of the Big 12 standings.

And that, at the end of the day, is going to be the most important takeaway from this game. Kansas plays four of their last seven Big 12 games on the road, and three of those road trips are against top 25 teams. Oklahoma? They have four road trips left as well, but they will be paying visits to Texas Tech and TCU during that stretch. That’s what makes the result of this one so important. Oklahoma, with a win, would put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title race, and with a (road) game left against West Virginia — the third team tied for first in the league — they would control their own title destiny.

Before I move on, there’s one other interesting point that needs to be made here. When these two teams last played, Hield and Kansas guard Wayne Selden both looked like Big 12 Player of the Year candidates. Since then, Hield has emerged as the clear favorite for National Player of the Year, Selden has fallen off the map. It’s been 10 games since these two last faced off. Selden blew up for 33 in the win over Kentucky, but in the other nine games, he’s averaging just 9.9 points; he’s scored a total of 21 points in three games since beating Kentucky.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 24 Texas at No. 14 Iowa State, 8:30 p.m.

The Longhorns are suddenly looking like a legitimate Big 12 contender, which was not exactly expected to happen during Shaka Smart’s first season in Austin. The Cyclones, on the other hand, are trending in the opposite direction. They just lost at Texas Tech, they’re starting center (Jameel McKay) has been suspended for two games stemming from the way he’s behaved in practice and, even with McKay in the lineup, Iowa State is working with, essentially, a six-man rotation. So here’s the question: Will this game be the turning point in Iowa State’s season, or will Texas continue their assault on the top of the conference?

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Duke seems to have righted the ship when it comes to their season. The Blue Devils have won three straight and four of their last five, including Monday’s win over No. 13 Louisville. They get a visit from a streaking No. 7 Virginia at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, a team that has gone from being atrocious on the road to blowing out Louisville and Pitt in their own buildings.

2. No. 5 Xavier was mollywhopped by Creighton on the road on Tuesday. Butler? They picked up a critical win for their bubble profile at Seton Hall on Wednesday. The two will square off in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

3. We’re going to find out a lot about the SEC power structure this weekend. At noon on Saturday, No. 22 Kentucky will travel up to Columbia to take on South Carolina, both of whom are sitting in a tie for first in the league standings. Just an hour later, No. 15 Texas A&M — who was the best team in the SEC but now sits a game out of first place — will trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. The Tigers? They’re right there with Kentucky and South Carolina, tied for first in the conference.

4. The bottom-line is this: Gonzaga will not be receiving an at-large bid to the tournament if they do not win at No. 16 SMU on Saturday. Tip is at 10:00 p.m.

5. There are two games that will be featured on NBCSN on Saturday: James Madison at UNC-Wilmington (3:00 p.m.), Hofstra at Delaware (5:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

OTHER TOP 25 GAMES

  • St. John’s at No. 1 Villanova, 8:00 p.m.
  • Wisconsin at No. 2 Maryland, 6:30 p.m.
  • TCU at No. 10 West Virginia, 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 11 Oregon at Stanford, 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 13 Louisville at Notre Dame, 4:00 p.m.
  • No. 15 Texas A&M at LSU, 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 18 Purdue at Michigan, 2:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at No. 20 Providence, 12:00 p.m.
  • Texas Tech at No. 21 Baylor, 8:00 p.m.
  • Northern Iowa at No. 25 Wichita State, 12:00 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Wake Forest at N.C. State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Arkansas at Ole Miss, 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgia Tech at Clemson, 2:00 p.m.
  • Washington at Colorado, 2:00 p.m.
  • Tennessee at Missouri, 2:00 p.m.
  • East Carolina at Cincinnati, 4:00 p.m.
  • Ohio State at Rutgers, 4:00 p.m.
  • Alabama at Florida, 5:30 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at Auburn, 6:00 p.m.
  • Saint Louis at VCU, 6:00 p.m.
  • Oregon State at Cal, 6:30 p.m.
  • Georgia at Mississippi State, 8:00 p.m.
  • Tulsa at UConn, 8:00 p.m.
  • Illinois at Northwestern, 8:00 p.m.
  • Creighton at Marquette, 8:00 p.m.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78: