Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)
In the Atlantic 10’s final tournament in Atlantic City, it was UMass that ended the Temple Owls’ trip to New Jersey with a 77-71 win in the quarterfinals.
The Owls drew the same matchup in the same round of the conference tournament. But, even with a new city and a new venue to put the tournament on display, it was the same old story as the Minutemen toppled the Owls 79-74.
Minutemen guard Chaz Williams, who scored 16 points and dished out 13 assists in an 83-82 loss to the Owls earlier in the year, did all he could to pull the win out for UMass, scoring a game-high 28 points and collecting five assists. The senior guard, who’s listed at 5-foot-9, came into Friday night’s game averaging 17.6 points per game and 7.6 assists per game.
Forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson did a little bit of everything for the Owls on Friday night, scoring 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds (six offensive) and collecting seven assists. Guard Khalif Wyatt had trouble finding the handle all night, shooting 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) from the field, but scoring 19 points.
“I had some good looks, my teammates kept coming to me and kept trusting me,” Wyatt said. “Ball just wasn’t going in, took some tough shots, maybe could have made a couple extra passes. But I’m just trying to make plays and the ball just wasn’t going in today.”
The first half was tightly contested, with neither team grabbing a lead larger than five points. Despite being outrebounded by a 23-9 margin (13-6 on the offensive end), Temple still held onto a slim 38-37 lead heading into the half.
UMass opened the second half on a 9-3 run, with Williams and fellow guard Freddie Riley hitting on three three-pointers in a span of two and a half minutes. The small run gave the Minutemen a small cushion, but it was quickly cut away with by Scootie Randall, who hit a three-pointer of his own to bring the game back to one point.
The back-and-forth affair continued, as Temple continued to fight and eventually brought the game to a tie with a Hollis-Jefferson jumper with under 13 minutes to play. Hollis-Jefferson hit three free throws on two trips to the line to give the Owls the lead, one that would last until just under six minutes, when Williams hit a layup to take a one-point lead.
Wyatt and Williams traded buckets in the next minute to keep the deficit at one-point. The scoring stopped until the 1:32 mark, when Riley hit a wide open three-pointer to send the Minutemen supporters in a frenzy with a five-point lead.
Wyatt finally break out of his shooting slump, if only for a second, to hit a three-pointer with one minute left in the game. Forward Terrell Vinson hit a three-point shot with 30 seconds left on the clock to bring the lead back to five. Wyatt tried to draw a foul from beyond the arc, but no foul was called as forward Sampson Carter came down with the rebound.
The Owls never recovered on the boards. After being on the wrong side of the battle of the boards in the first half, Temple could not recover and were outrebounded by a 40-23 margin.
“The rebounding edge was 13 to 9, the way I look at it,” Dunphy said. “They got four more offensive rebounds as we did…we didn’t check them off and we didn’t do a good job of rebounding. Gave them extra possessions, but I think they turned it 19 times and we turned it 10 times, so we got some extra possessions.”
Temple forced UMass into committing 19 turnovers, 12 in the first half alone. On the season, the Minutemen had a turnover margin of -0.1, a mark that was the 195th best in the nation. The Owls only turned the ball over only 10 times.