1After winning just their second and third Atlantic 10 Tournament games in the past decade, UMass (22-10) will face off against St. Bonaventure (18-11) Saturday at 1 p.m. in the semifinal round in Atlantic City. (TV: CBS Sports Network/Radio: UMass Sports Network)
Both teams came away with close victories on Friday afternoon at Boardwalk Hall, with the (8) Minutemen knocking off top-seeded Temple 77-71, while (4) St. Bonaventure held off (5) St. Joseph's 71-68. Neither program has grabbed an Atlantic 10 Tournament crown in the 15 past years, with UMass winning five straight from 1992-96, while the Bonnies are still looking for their first title, after losing in the title game three times. The Minutemen hold a 3-0 advantage all-time against St. Bonaventure in postseason play.
With neither team in the hunt for at an-large bid, both squads will need an A10 title to earn a trip to the Big Dance. The winner of Saturday's semifinal will play the winner of (2) St. Louis and (3) Xavier in Sunday's Atlantic 10 Championship Game at 1 p.m. UMass holds a 3-0 record against the three remaining teams in the tournament.
First Matchup: UMass 76, St. Bonaventure 67 (Feb. 8, 2012)
UMass used two huge second half runs at home to hold off the Bonnies after entering the half trailing 34-31. The Minutemen began the half on a 14-0 spurt and then used a 17-2 burst to knock the Bonnies out of the game, after they had cut UMass' lead to three with 8:41 to play.
Friday's star Jesse Morgan had a career night for the Minutemen, with a career-high 24 points off of 6-of-7 3-pointers. Backcourt mate Chaz Williams added 17 points and a team-high six rebounds and five assists. While the Bonnies owned the paint, with the edge in rebounds and points in the paint, the Minutemen used their 10-0 advantage on fast break points to pull out the victory.
Senior forward and Atlantic 10 Player of the year Andrew Nicholson led the Bonnies with 24 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 33 minutes. Junior swingman Chris Johnson was the only other St. Bonaventure player in double figures with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 26 minutes.
Friday Action: Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals
(8) UMass 77, (1) #21 Temple 71
UMass upended long-time rival Temple 77-70 behind a huge second half, that saw the Minutemen outscore the Owls 46-35 behind two more big runs.
After struggling to dictate the tempo and pace in the first half, UMass overcame a 36-31 halftime deficit, by opening the second stanza with a 15-0 run to grab a 10 point lead. Even though the Owls managed to grab the lead back, UMass used a 20-10 spurt over the final six minutes to advance to their first semifinal since 2001.
Morgan was the hero again, as he finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and three 3-pointers. Williams had a huge game of his own, as the former Hofstra point guard chipped in 20 points, 10 assists and two rebounds.
The Owls were led by senior guard Khalif Wyatt's 15 points, while three other Temple players finished in double figures. While Temple held a slight edge shooting the ball and on the glass, they couldn't overcome their 22 turnovers, 14 of which came in the second half.
With the win, UMass is almost assured of at least a NIT berth, which would be their first postseason tournament since 2008 when Travis Ford's was still the head coach in Amherst.
(4) St. Bonaventure 71, (5) St. Joseph's 68
In one of the two closest games of the day at Boardwalk Hall, the Bonnies used three free throws in the final two minutes to outlast the Hawks 71-68. Nicholson's free throw with 1:32 to go proved to be the game-winner, as the conference's leading scorer finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds to give St. Bonaventure their first trip to the A10 semifinals since 2000.
Sophomore guard Charlon Koof added a career-high 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, as the Bonnies connected on 54 percent of their shots on the day and held a 10-rebound advantage (33-23). While St. Bonaventure only managed to force four Hawk turnovers, they managed to force a turnover and two missed shots in the final 1:32 to hold on ot the victory.
Junior guard Carl Jones led the Hawks with 24 points, while sophomores Langston Galloway and Daryus Quarles chipped in with 12 points apiece for head coach Phil Martelli. With the loss, St. Joes will have to settle for a NIT berth, after being just off the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into the weekend.