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Much on the line Saturday for UMass and Temple

AMHERST— It’s hard to quantify exactly how Saturday’s game between the University of Massachusetts and Temple will impact both teams’ seasons.

But in the last regular season game as Atlantic 10 rivals, both teams will have plenty on the line at 6 p.m. at the Mullins Center. With the league tightly contested, both schools are trying to improve their potential seed in next month’s conference tournament as well as trying to improve their position in the NCAA tournament at-large picture.

UMass (16-7, 6-4 A-10) and Temple (16-8, 5-5 A-10) are trying to shake off tough losses Thursday and capture a valuable win in hopes of gaining some homestretch momentum. Both teams have six regular season games to go.

Temple, which will join the Big East next year, arrives in Amherst after four straight games decided by one point. After losing to Saint Joseph’s 70-69, the Owls beat Charlotte (89-88) and Dayton (72-71) and figured to be in great shape for their third straight win when Duquesne, which was previously winless in A-10 play, came to Philadelphia Thursday.

But the Dukes stunned Temple 84-83, leaving the Owls very much in need of a win.

Coming off its own tough loss, an 86-68 defeat at Virginia Commonwealth, UMass could use a win

“You have two hungry teams that are really looking for a victory coming off tough losses,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I anticipate this will be another one that comes down to the wire once again.”

After Thursday’s loss, Kellogg chose to rest his players, doing video preparation and a walk-through instead of a full practice Friday. UMass junior forward Sampson Carter said playing on Saturday after a Thursday game is as much a test of character as it is skill and preparation.

“Mentally you’ve got to be strong,” Carter said. “Whether you win or lose on that Thursday, you’ve got to be mentally tough to come back right way on Saturday. It’s all about maturity. I feel like we have a group of guys that can put this game behind them. Despite a short amount of time to prepare for Temple. I think we’re going to be ready.”

Senior Khalif Wyatt leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 19.6 points per game. He’s scored at leads 18 points in the last 10 games, including three games over 30 points.

“He might be the best scoring guard we’ve faced,” Kellogg said. “He’s really playing at a high level. He just plays so mature. He can shoot the 3. He can get to the rim and he’s got great size. We want to make him work for his stats.”

Sophomore big man Anthony Lee is next with 11.0 points to go with his team best 7.6 rebounds per game.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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