UMass 77, No. 21 Temple 71
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP)
Temple made its second exit from the A-10 this week.
Two days after Temple said it was bolting the Atlantic 10 for the Big East following next season, the Owls made the kind of farewell they were looking to avoid: One game and out in the conference tournament.
The eighth-seeded Minutemen (22-10) stunned No. 1-seed Temple with a 15-0 run to open the second half and spoil the Owls' bid for a fourth tournament title in five seasons.
''We get down, we don't stay down,'' Temple coach Dunphy said. ''Hopefully, we use this an opportunity to play better basketball.''
The top-seeded Owls (24-7) still have basketball to play this March. Temple won its first outright A-10 title since 1990, and will still be in the NCAA tournament field of 68.
''When you're playing a Top 25 team who's been here, and kind of done very well here, sometimes you're not exactly certain how things are going to work out,'' UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.
He had little to worry about after halftime.
UMass took control in the second half on a string of 3-pointers and Williams clinched it down the stretch from the free-throw line. Williams popped his No. 3 jersey toward a small but vocal group of UMass fans behind the basket in celebration.
''We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch,'' Moore said. ''In these types of games, you've got to be perfect down the stretch.''
The game was another back-and-forth showdown in the second half, reminiscent of the last meeting, Temple's thrilling 90-88 overtime win on Feb. 29.
Knowing a tournament bid depended on winning the A-10, the Minutemen shook off a sluggish first half to outwork and outhustle Temple in the second. Morgan, Raphiael Putney and Terrell Vinson all buried 3-pointers, and Williams' lob to Carter for an emphatic alley-oop made it 46-36.
Williams, about an inch or two shorter than his 5-foot-9 listed height, saluted the UMass fans behind the basket.
''It's just his passion,'' Carter said.
Even though the run pushed the momentum back toward UMass, the Owls didn't have another standout season because they fold in crunch time.
Once Moore and Juan Fernandez shook off some cold shooting, the Owls got going and pulled ahead of UMass. But Temple simply didn't have enough in the waning minutes. Moore connected on three straight 3-pointers and Fernandez hit a 3 to pull within 55-50. The Owls tried to win this one from the outside. But they did little to stop Williams and the Minutemen's speedy guards.
In the end, it cost them.
Morgan and Javorn Ferrell hit back-to-back 3s for a 68-64 lead - making the Minutemen a sizzling 9 of 16 from beyond the arc. Williams made 8 of 10 free throws and Morgan hit three 3-pointers.
UMass played the final 4 1/2 minutes without a timeout. The Minutemen didn't need one.
Williams made it a four-point game from the free-throw line after Temple pulled to within two with 28 seconds left.
''We didn't answer very well,'' Dunphy said.
Wyatt started on the bench for what the Owls called a recent ''timing issue,'' and was replaced by T.J. DiLeo.
The Owls are still locks for the NCAA tournament. But it could affect their seeding. It could also hurt a bubble team like Drexel, Temple's Philly neighbor. The Dragons certainly didn't need a tournament favorite to go down early. Drexel coach Bruiser Flint, incidentally, led UMass the last time it made the tournament in 1998.
This is the final tournament in New Jersey before it moves to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Owls are leaving for the Big East after next season.
Temple led 36-31 at the break. By the time UMass led 46-31 in the second, though, the Owls didn't know what hit them. After all, Williams is talented, fast and too hard to guard.
Temple won the last meeting by making all the big plays in overtime. It was UMass' turn when it really counted this time.
''Once we found out Temple was our first matchup, we just locked in and learned from our mistakes from last game,'' Williams said. ''We just tried to move on from them.''