The Minutemen (21-10, 10-7 A-10) are coming off a thrilling, down to the wire, 92-83 victory over No. 9 seed Duquesne on Tuesday night at the Mullins Center in the first round of the tournament.
All-Conference first team selection Chaz Williams, as he has been all season long, was the catalyst in the win, especially in the closing minutes.
After scoring only five points in the first half, Williams went to work in the second half. Battling foul trouble and an unforgiving Dukes defense, Williams poured in 16 in the second half, including nine in the final five minutes, making his shots at the free throw line, where he went 13-for-14 for the game.
Williams finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. But what may have been the biggest surprise was the sudden re-emergence of junior guard Javorn Farrell.
Farrell, who has seen a drop off in minutes played from last year to this year, came alive and had a career day, scoring a season-high 20 points, dishing a career-high nine assists and grabbing seven rebounds off the bench.
"It was nice to see him play well because we need a full complement of players if we're going to do anything in a three-day period the way we're trying to play in Atlantic City," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said after the game.
But if UMass wants to play a three-day period during its trip to Atlantic City, it will have to get by the top-seeded Owls (24-6, 13-3 A-10), the same team that handed them a heartbreaking overtime loss in Philadelphia just last Wednesday.
Temple looked to be in complete control of that game, up 77-67 with two minutes to go in regulation, but the Minutemen put together a furious, 13-3 run to push the game to overtime. In the extra session, UMass jumped out to a six-point lead, but a slew of fouls it committed allowed the Owls to come back at the free throw line, where they converted and eventually tied the game at 88 with 59 seconds left. With 22 seconds remaining, Williams – who put together a monster 26- point, 11-assist, eight-rebound performance –missed a layup and Maxie Esho's putback was blocked.
Temple's Khalif Wyatt, running ahead of the defense on transition, received a pass and put in a breakaway layup that would be the game-winner as the Owls escaped. The win over UMass for Temple clinched at least a share of the A-10 title.
In their regular season finale against Fordham, the Owls won it outright, which may be their last as they prepare to join the Big East in 2013.
Temple, who at one point won 11 in a row during the regular season before falling to Saint Joseph's on Feb. 25, is led by Ramone Moore (17.8 points per game)and Wyatt (17.1 ppg). The Owls are also coming off of six days rest following their win over the Rams on Saturday.
Tip-off between UMass and Temple is scheduled for noon ET at Boardwalk Hall. The winner will move on to the semifinals on Saturday where they will play the winner of St. Bonaventure/Saint Joseph's.
Contact: email@example.com, @steve_hewitt, @MDC_Hewitt