AMHERST, Mass. -- Sean Johnson did his best to bring Duquesne back, but, in the end, the hole was too deep.
The senior had a career-high 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting, but the Dukes made one field goal over the final 7:10, and lost, 79-66, at Massachusetts in front of 3,421 at Mullins Center.
Johnson got hot in the first 4:10 of the second half, hitting four consecutive shots -- including a 3-pointer from the corner while being mauled by Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams -- to rack up 14 points as the Dukes cut a 14-point halftime deficit to five.
The Dukes hacked the lead down to three with 7:10 remaining, but Massachusetts scored a five consecutive points in short order, and, after guard Freddie Riley hit a 3-pointer to give the Minutemen an eight-point lead, Duquesne coach Jim Ferry called timeout to try to stop the bleeding.
It was too late for that, though.
"That was a big 3. If he misses that, the game can still stay intact a little bit," Ferry said. "Then, it looked like we ran out of steam."
The Dukes ended the game on the wrong end of a 14-4 run as the Minutemen buckled down inside defensively over that final stretch and iced the game.
"You have to credit them defensively for that. Their length really bothered us," Ferry said. "In the last seven minutes, we went cold and really got hurt on the glass."
The game started a frenetic pace, each team scoring 10 points in the first 4:19 and making shots at a rate reminiscent of the up-and-down track meet they played last season in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Then things got sloppy for the Dukes, who committed 12 first-half turnovers leading to 13 Massachusetts points, and trailed, 44-30, at halftime despite Johnson's 11 points in the half.
"We only turned it over three times in the second half, and you saw the difference. That's really what it came down to -- that stretch where we turned the ball over," Ferry said. "We can't do that, our margin of error is extremely small with such a young group."
Johnson, who could not miss in the early going of the second half, said his best offensive game as a collegian didn't matter because of the outcome.
"I don't care if I had 60," Johnson said. "If it's in a loss, it doesn't count."
Ferry, who said on the Atlantic 10 teleconference Monday he felt his team was moving in the right direction after a 72-66 loss to Saint Joseph's at home Saturday, said his team took steps both forward and backward against the Minutemen.
"I think it was a step backward to start. We're not playing great on the road, but I thought we learned something about ourselves that we were able to come back against a team as good as UMass," Ferry said.
"They're a team that won 25 games last year and is 90 percent back.
"We're a team that has one guy that played in the Atlantic 10 last year. We're at two ends of the spectrum right now."
The Dukes (7-9, 0-2) flew home immediately after the loss and have one day off before playing No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth at 7 p.m. Saturday, at Consol Energy Center.
Freshman guard Derrick Colter was the only other starter in double figures for Duquesne, scoring 14 points and adding six assists.