Drexel's chance at a trip to New York ended with a second-half collapse and thus the Dragons' record-setting season is over.
Leading by 17 points after Frantz Massenat completed a three-point play with 16 minutes and 26 seconds left in the second half, Drexel gave way to fatigue and a resilient Massachusetts team that defeated the Dragons, 72-70, in Tuesday's NIT quarterfinal at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Trailing 72-70, Massenat missed a forced 10-footer off the dribble with 5 seconds left. The ball bounced around, Drexel's Samme Givens kept it alive and then UMass then batted it toward midcourt where Drexel's Chris Fouch retrieved it and threw a prayer air ball as time expired.
"Coach drew up a play to try to get to the basket, get the ball on the rim, like the VCU shot," Massenat said, referring to his missed three at the buzzer in the Dragons' 59-56 loss to VCU in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament final. "I thought it would go in and I thought we had a tip and I thought that would go in too."
Drexel finished 29-7, setting a single-season record for wins, but no doubt haunted by inability to put away a UMass team that won its third NIT game on the road.
It was also Drexel's first home loss. The Dragons finished 15-1 at the DAC.
"They just wore us down," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said.
That was evident by the second-half statistics. UMass caught fire in the second half, shooting 17 for 24 from the field (71 percent). Meanwhile Drexel shot 11 for 29 in the second half (38 percent).
What hurt the Dragons was their inability to hit from the perimeter. For the game, Drexel was just 1 of 13 from beyond the arc and made 13 of 20 free throws. Massenet, who played all 40 minutes and went all out on both ends of the court, hit 6 of 12 free throws.
Drexel received 17 points from 6-8 sophomore Dartaye Ruffin, all in the first half. Massenat had 16 points and nine assists.
Lightning-quick guard Chaz Williams led UMASS with 20 points, while Terrell Vinson, a 6-foot-8 junior who had just four first-half points, finished with 18 points.
Trailing 72-70, Drexel's Daryl McCoy missed a shot inside and Givens then missed the tap with 31 seconds left. UMass' Williams was fouled with 23 seconds left, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Drexel then called time with 15.7 seconds left, and UMass also called one, prolonging the drama a little longer before the missed final shot
UMass, which eliminated Temple with a 77-71 quarterfinal win in the Atlantic Ten tournament, plays a frenzied style. For the first half and early part of the second, Drexel dictated the tempo, but the Minutemen quickened the pace and lit up the scoreboard.
"When you play our style there will be waves and runs," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "We hit a couple of three balls and the flow of the game changed."
The Minutemen were 4 for 8 from beyond the arc in the second half.
UMass (25-11) will face the winner of Wednesday's quarterfinal matchup between Stanford and Nevada, in Tuesday's NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden at either 7 or 9 p.m.
The Dragons, meanwhile, have set the tone for future success. Givens, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds, is the lone senior.
"It's tough to lose, we were undefeated here and it's just hard," Givens said. "I am proud of the guys and everybody and appreciate coach Bru and the administration for giving me the opportunity at Drexel."
Find the Drexel blog at www.philly.com/dragonball