CONWAY, SC (Nov. 18, 2022) – When UMass senior guard Noah Fernandes took the inbounds pass with seven seconds to play and the Minutemen trailing Murray State by one point, he had no doubt what he was about to do.
Fernandes was going to drive the length of the court and attempt the game-winning shot. Passing the ball simply was not an option.
“If we go home with a loss, I want everyone to look at me. I don’t want them to point the finger at anyone else,” Fernandes said. “I want them to put it on me if I miss the shot.”
There would be no miss on this day, as Fernandes drained a step-back 3-pointer near the right sideline to give UMass a 71-69 victory over Murray State in Friday’s second round of the Myrtle Beach Invitation. The shot sent the Minutemen into the tournament’s championship game, and the UMass players into a storm-the-court frenzy.
The shot punctuated an impressive comeback by the Minutemen (3-1), who trailed 61-51 with less than seven minutes remaining after sinking only 26.5 percent of their shots up to that point. But UMass suddenly went on a 9-0 run, finally took the lead at 65-63, then survived a hectic back-and-forth with the Racers (2-2) over the final two minutes.
“We didn’t play bad. The ball just wouldn’t go in the basket,” UMass coach Frank Martin said. “And when that happens, you have to figure out a way to win. Once we got down 10 it looked like everybody relaxed and said, ‘Alright, let’s just go shoot the ball and see what happens.’ ”
None of the shots were bigger than the final one. Fernandes took the inbounds pass and immediately sprinted down the right sideline, motoring past Murray State’s Rob Perry and getting a half-step on Quincy Anderson. That gave Fernandes just enough room to get a good look at the basket.
“I had a little space on the wing to work,” said Fernandes, who finished with 14 points and five assists. “Once I got there, I just stepped back and trusted everything I’ve done my whole life.
“This is what I’ve worked for since I was really young. Even at practice when we’re doing shooting drills, when the time is running down (to end the drill), I like to take a shot. It’s one of those things you can train your mind for, so when you’re in the game, there’s nothing to it.”
Murray State coach Steve Prohm gave credit to Fernandes for making the shot, though he lamented his players inability to keep Fernandes from getting past them in the first place.
“We talk to our guys to keep him in front and contain, but we let him get up the sideline,” Prohm said. “He hit a tough fadeaway. Just buried it. They made the final play of the game.”