Massachusetts will get to take a break from Atlantic 10 play this weekend, and it's probably also hoping to get a breather after a string of dramatic games.
The 16th-ranked Minutemen, however, needed overtime to beat Elon last season and will try for a more comfortable result while seeking a sixth consecutive win Saturday night.UMass (15-1) has dealt with some late drama during a five-game win streak that includes a 3-0 conference start. The Minutemen have earned those victories by an average of 4.0 points and had to rally from five down in the final 40 seconds for an 88-87 win at George Mason on Wednesday.Derrick Gordon made a go-ahead layup with 8.1 seconds left and Chaz Williams finished with 26 points and eight assists. Gordon hurt his lower back earlier in the second half and Williams was dealing with a bone bruise in his left ankle."We got a little lucky there at the end," coach Derek Kellogg said. "A couple balls bounced our way, and our guys made some big plays. I think they locked in like they have all year, and we came away with a big road victory."The Minutemen came back from 13 down in the second half to beat St. Bonaventure 73-68 last Saturday."I'm proud that these guys keep clawing and fighting until the end," Kellogg said. "It's a special group and special team, but we have to play a little more focused for 40 minutes so it doesn't come down to this every single time out."UMass blew a six-point lead in the final two minutes against Elon (10-8) on Dec. 15, 2012, but went on an 8-1 run in the extra period to seal a 78-73 victory in Springfield, Mass.Williams had 20 points and nine assists as the Minutemen earned their second win over the Phoenix in as many seasons. UMass won the initial matchup between the programs 85-67 on Nov. 11, 2011, in Amherst.Williams had a team-best 18 points and eight assists in that game. He will next try to help deny the Phoenix a season-high fourth win in a row.Elon hasn't beaten a ranked opponent in 19 tries, losing in its two attempts this season by a combined 55 points.The Phoenix also needed a late rally to keep their win streak going their last time out, erasing a 14-point deficit in the final 4:45 of regulation in an 87-85 overtime victory at Davidson on Thursday. Senior forward Lucas Troutman led the way with career highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds.Troutman, averaging a team-best 16.0 points and 6.5 boards, had 14 points and 10 rebounds in last season's matchup with UMass, but missed 12 of 18 shots. Senior guard Jack Isenbarger scored a team-best 22.