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Road-wary UMass stifles Bonnies ; After flight fright, Minutemen earn win

Massachusetts isn't likely to forget its trip to St. Bonaventure anytime soon, which made its impressive 78-69 victory over the Bonnies on Wednesday night more gratifying than usual.

The plane carrying the Minutemen had to make an emergency landing in Albany on Tuesday and the team didn't arrive in Olean until 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. As the team attempted to leave its hotel for Wednesday's shootaround, the bus wouldn't start.

"The karma's not quite right for this trip," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

Turns out UMass didn't really need much pregame help. The Minutemen shot 52.7 percent for the game while utilizing their 3-2 zone defense to muzzle the Bonnies' top scoring options, including junior center Andrew Nicholson, the Atlantic 10's second-leading scorer, who was held to 11 points.

The Bonnies (10-9, 2-4 Atlantic 10) were led by Marquise Simmons, who scored a career-best 14 points off the bench and also had eight rebounds to tie Nicholson for team-high honors. St. Bonaventure, which defeated George Washington, 62-49, on Saturday, had difficulty stopping UMass' dribble drive offense featuring slashing guard Anthony Gurley, who scored a game-high 28 points.

"The last couple of days really haven't been easy for us but we stuck together as a family and as a team and we came out with a win," said Gurley, who had four assists. "I'm very proud with the way my teammates came out and played and I couldn't be happier."

The team's charter had to make an emergency landing at Albany International Airport after smoke spread throughout the cockpit. The plane landed safely with no injuries.

"It was pretty scary and you didn't know what was going on," Gurley said. "When you're that high in the air it's not easy to not panic. The flight attendant said we have an emergency landing because they smelled smoke in the cockpit. They did a great job getting us back on the ground and getting us off the plane."

After the team settled from the ordeal, Kellogg conducted a walk-through at the airport in Albany on Tuesday before the team boarded a plane to Bradford, Pa. On Wednesday, St. Bonaventure sent vans to pick up UMass for its shootaround.

"It could have been easy for it to be a distraction," Gurley said. "Myself and my teammates showed that we were focused. We tried not to let the adversity that we were facing get in the way of what we had to do."

Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said the game came down to two factors: defense and rebounding. The Bonnies did neither. UMass shot 54.2 percent in the second half and outrebounded the Bonnies, 39-32.

"When we win, [George Washington] for instance, we do a good job defending and we do a good job rebounding," Schmidt said. "We didn't defend [Wednesday] and we didn't rebound."

A block by Nicholson ignited a fast-break layup by Simmons off a feed from Matthew Wright with 14:35 left to pull the Bonnies to within two at 45-43. But Gurley scored seven points during a 12-2 UMass run that expanded the lead to 57-45.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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