UMass' recent history in the Atlantic 10 Tournament has been forgettable at best; the Minutemen had won just 2 of their past 10 games heading into this season and had failed to make a run since 2001. With Derek Kellogg just 1-3 in postseason play and struggling to put a winning team on the floor, the pressure was on Kellogg to win, and win now if he wanted to stay at his alma mater.
After a 21 win season and two thrilling wins in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, basketball may be officially back in Amherst and Kellogg can focus on worrying about the team's postseason chances, rather thanan his job security.
Sophomore guards Chaz Williams and Jesse Morgan led two second half comebacks as the Minutemen upset top-seeded and nationally ranked Temple 77-71 in the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals. Both players finished with 20 or more points in their first trip to Atlantic City and spurred UMass to the first semifinal appearance since 2001, when Bruiser Flint was still the head coach.he
Williams played all 40 minutes and finished with 20 points and 10 assists, to go along with four steals. Morgan, a Philadelphia native, continued his impressive streak against Big Five teams with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting. While Morgan only averages 9.8 points per game, the sophomore has been much better against Philadelphia teams. In six games this season against LaSalle, Temple and St. Joseph's, Morgan has posted 86 points, or just over 14 points per game. Morgan poured in 16 of his points in the second half and closed the door on Temple with two free throws with 14 seconds to play.
Senior center Sean Carter, the lone UMass senior, led the Minutemen with eight rebounds and added six points in 37 minutes of play. The win over Temple avenges a 90-88 overtime loss on the Owls floor nine days ago, that sparked the Minutemen's current three-game winning streak.
Senior guard Khalif Wyatt finished with a team-high 15 points, despite being benched to start the game because of tardiness this week. Ramone Moore (14 points), Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (13 points) and Juan Fernandez (12 points) also finished in double-figures but the trio combined for 14 of Temple's 22 turnovers.
After taking 30 fewer trips to the free throw line in the first matchup, UMass managed to put the game away from the free throw line this time around. The Minutemen knocked down 14-of-20 (70 percent) of their attempts, while Temple went 12-of-15 (80 percent).
Temple held the lead for all but 29 seconds of the first half but UMass was able to keep the game within two possessions despite the Owls ability to slow down the pace and neutralize UMass' full court pressure. The Minutemen though were able to quickly erase Temple's 36-31 halftime lead with a huge run.
UMass went on a 17-0 run, bridging the two halves, to grab a 46-36 lead with 15:56 to play. Temple's failed to score over the first 5:07 of the second half, as they turned the ball over seven times in that span. Morgan scored seven of the Minutemen's first 13 points of the half, including the first five to erase Temple's lead.
The Owls would quickly cut into the lead and used a 14-2 spurt of their own to grab the lead back at 61-57 with 8:03 to play. But Williams and Kellogg were not going to be denied. The Hofstra transfer poured in five quick points to take a 62-61 lead and scored eight of his 20 points in the final eight minutes of play.
Wyatt responded with a 3-point play to give Temple the lead (64-62) with 5:26 to play, but that would be the last lead the Owls would hold. Williams found Morgan and Tuesday's hero Javorn Farrell on back-to-back threes off kickouts and the Minutemen would never look back. The Minutemen hit five of six free throws in the final minute to ice the game and keep UMass' NCAA Tournament hopes alive for at least one more day.
The Minutemen will play the winner of the second quarterfinal of the day between (4) St. Bonaventure and (5) St. Joseph's. UMass beat both teams during the regular season in Amherst but the Minutemen also dropped a decision at St. Joes.