Noah Fernandes’ buzzer-beater lifts UMass men’s basketball past Murray State

  • Senior point guard Noah Fernandes hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds of UMass’ 71-69 victory over Murray State on Friday in Conway, S.C. UMASS ATHLETICS FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer 
Published: 11/18/2022 8:04:56 PM
Modified: 11/18/2022 8:19:19 PM

CONWAY, S.C. — Noah Fernandes brought his cape with him to Myrtle Beach, just in case he needed to play hero for the Minutemen. The UMass men’s basketball program is glad he did. 

Down by a point with seven seconds to go, Fernandes took the ball and powered it up the court. Though he was heavily guarded, Fernandes launched an ice-cold 3-pointer that was nothing but net, clinching a 71-69 win for the Minutemen (3-1) and securing them a spot in the championship game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. 

“If we go home and lose, I want everyone to look at me. I don’t want anyone to point the finger at anyone else, I want them to go home and put it on me,” Fernandes said. “I knew TJ (Weeks Jr.) was going to be deep in the corner, so I knew I’d have a little space on the wing to work, and once I got there, stepped back and trust everything you’ve done your whole life. This is what you work for.”

With their opening game against Colorado at the Myrtle Beach Invitational going down to the wire, it seemed only fitting that the Minutemen’s second contest would do the same. Friday’s matinee was a close one, with the two teams trading punches all day. 

“I want to be a part of changing this program around, and all the guys want to chance this program around,” Fernandes said. “We’re really bought into what Frank’s got us doing. It feels good the past couple nights to get two gritty dubs, because that’s kind of our identity.” 

The two teams were tied at four different points during the opening half and the lead changed between the two teams seven different times. Murray State scored the first bucket of the game on a pull-up juper from MSU’s DJ Burns and they held the Minutemen at arm’s length for the first 10 minutes of the half. During that time, UMass tied the game twice on buckets from Brandon Martin and Isaac Kante, but MSU was always able to regain the lead shortly after. 

UMass took its first lead in the game with 8:39 left in the first period; Matt Cross unleashed a beautiful triple to make it 16-14 UMass. MSU’s Justin Morgan answered back 27 seconds later with a three of his own, and from there the two teams duked it out until the end of the half.

UMass built up a four-point lead with 5:39 remaining on a jumper from T.J. Weeks Jr., but the Racers went on an 11-2 run to re-take the lead, making it 31-26 MSU with 2:58 left. UMass closed the gap and tied the game at 31, but it was the Racers who went into halftime with a slim 36-33 lead. 

It was a group effort from the Minutemen in the first half; eight different UMass players found the scoreboard, led by Matt Cross with nine points. Fernandes was heavily guarded and locked down; he finished the first period with just two points. 

Weeks opened the scoring in the second half with a nothing-but-net three to tie things back up at 36, and the game was back on. The Minutemen spent nearly the entirety of the second half playing catchup, not taking the lead away from the Racers until there was 2:10 left in the game. Fernandes sank two free throws to take a 65-63 lead. After both teams traded buckets, it was 68-67 UMass with 17 seconds left. MSU fouled the Minutemen to send Weeks to the free throw line. He missed both his shots, and shortly after Murray State’s Jacobi Wood hit two free throws to make it 69-68 with seven seconds on the clock. His shots set the stage for Fernandes’ heroics. 

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