AMHERST, Mass. - Reggie Johnson scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Miami pulled away in the second half to defeat Massachusetts 75-62 Saturday for its fourth straight victory.
The Hurricanes (5-1) led for most of the second half, but a 3-pointer by Raphiael Putney, followed by a driving layup by Jesse Morgan, put the Minutemen (3-3) ahead 52-51 with 8:29 remaining.
Miami used a 3-pointer by Rion Brown to quiet the crowd and regain control. After Morgan made just one of two free throws, Kenny Kadji hit a long 3-pointer and pointed to the rafters as he backpedaled on defense. The sequence started a 13-3 run that gave the Hurricanes a 64-55 lead, their biggest of the game to that point, with 5:01 remaining.
"We played very well down the stretch," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "We made some free throws and got to the basket."
Playing a day after the death of his grandfather Gibbard Kadji, Kadji had eight of his 13 points in the second half and helped Miami seal the win.
"It was very special. I really wanted to honor him. It's a tough time for my mother," Kadji said. "I wanted to play for him and my parents. I really think he was out there with me. He was on my mind the whole time.
Kadji didn't sleep much Friday night and Larranaga was surprised to have him available.
"I didn't think he'd even be able to play today. Down the stretch he stepped up big time," Larranaga said.
In Miami's 67-59 upset of No. 13 Michigan State on Wednesday, the Spartans clogged the middle to prevent the 6-foot-10, 292-pound Johnson from making an impact. Against the Minutemen, whose defense is based on pressuring the perimeter, the senior center had more room to operate. He shot 6-for-13 from the floor and made 7 of 8 free throw attempts.
"Against some teams, it's very hard to pack in in there because they just pack it in around him," Larranaga said. "UMass' style is to stretch it out and pressure you, which gave him a little more room. Being big, you're going to get fouled. Even in the NBA, a lot of big guys can't make free throws. It's nice to have one who can."
Johnson's blocked shots were a key part of the Hurricanes' defense, which held UMass to 28.6 percent shooting (18 of 63) including 7 of 32 from 3-point range.
"Our defense was solid throughout the game," Larranaga said. "They're a very athletic team. They're capable of hitting a lot of 3s. Our 3-point defense was very solid today.
Durand Scott added 15 points and Shane Larkin had 14 for the Hurricanes.
UMass scored the first five points of the game and led most of the first half, but beginning with a 3-pointer by Larkin, the Hurricanes scored the last nine points of the half to take a 30-25 lead at intermission.
Terrell Vinson led UMass with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Chaz Williams added 11 points and 10 assists.
"To beat a top-level team, whether it's home, on the road, neutral site, every play is important," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "I thought we didn't make the play that you need to make to be competitive with a team that'll probably be in the top 25 next week with the win today."
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