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Temple holds on to edge UMass men’s basketball in end to Atlantic 10 rivalry

AMHERST — The opportunity was there for the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team to end its tradition-rich Atlantic 10 rivalry with Temple by winning a key game in the present season.

During their glory days of the 1990s, the Minutemen won a handful of games over the Owls on last-second baskets and they had a chance to do the same Saturday at the Mullins Center.

Out of a timeout, UMass had the ball down a point with 17 seconds left in the game, but the Minutemen never got off a shot and fell 83-82 in the final regular-season game between the schools as Atlantic 10 rivals.

Chaz Williams never really had a chance to set something up as Temple doubled-teamed him almost as soon as he crossed halfcourt. After Williams unsuccessfully tried to draw a foul, he got the ball to Freddie Riley, who looked for a shot. Riley, who was guarded tightly, tried to pass the ball back to Williams, but it was tipped.

Players from both sides dove on the floor trying to get the loose ball. By the time the officials whistled for a held ball, time had run out.

“I was thinking about shooting and I heard some teammates calling my name, so I just tried to make the right play,” Riley said. “It ended up not being a good play, though.”

Terrell Vinson, who played just 13 minutes due to foul trouble, took advantage of his fresh legs when UMass trailed 80-74 with 3 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the game. He hit a layup to cut the deficit to 80-76 with 3:01 left and after Cady Lalanne blocked Khalif Wyatt, Williams fed Vinson again for a basket in the paint to bring the Minutemen within 80-78 with 2:16 left.

When UMass pressure led to a turnover by Dalton Pepper, the Mullins crowd of 7,438 was as loud as it has been all season.

The Minutemen again went to Vinson, who was fouled by T.J. Dileo. Vinson, who had been a good free-throw shooter earlier in the season, has shot just 50 percent in the last five games. He made one of two to bring UMass within 80-79 with 1:49 left.

Scootie Randall buried a 3-pointer from the right corner late in the shot clock to give the Owls an 83-79 lead with 1:25 remaining.

After Riley answered with a 3 from the top of the key, Williams stole the inbound pass and fed Riley for an open 3-pointer, but it hit the back rim.

At the other end, Rahir Hollis-Jefferson’s layup seemed to hang on the left side of the rim forever before bouncing off. Williams snared the rebound and took off down the court before Minuteman coach Derek Kellogg called timeout to set up the final sequence.

“In this particular instance, in the huddle, we talked about attacking the big guy. We knew he was jumping out and really trying to draw the ball,” said Kellogg. “I thought Chaz did a pretty good job of that, but in that situation, who knows if they’re going to call it or not.

“I think (opponents) have a pretty good indication of what we’re going to try to do, and I think at this point, we may add another wrinkle or two to mix it up a little bit,” added Kellogg, whose team has failed to get a shot off in its last two final-second opportunities. “The last two times we’ve been in that situation, they’ve done a good job of building a wall and we haven’t been able to capitalize.”

UMass (16-8, 6-5 Atlantic 10) did a good job of holding Wyatt, leading scorer in the Atlantic 10, in check in the first half with just seven points. But he took over in the second half with 17 of his 24 points to lead Temple (17-8, 6-5 A-10).

“He was firing balls that looked like they were going to hit the top of the Mullins that went in,” Kellogg said. “He makes tough shots. He’s just one of those guys that, when he’s missing them, you’re like, ‘That’s a tough, sometimes maybe a bad shot,’ but when they go in, you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s a big-time shot.’ And he made a lot of big-time plays.”

Riley led UMass with 17 points, while Williams had 16 (including his 1,000th as a Minuteman), 13 assists (one turnover) and six rebounds.

Cady Lalanne (14 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots) and Maxie Esho (11 points) both scored in double figures off the bench. Lalanne had all 14 of his in the first half, as the Owls did a good job of denying him the ball after intermission.

“I think the guys are hurt a little bit with how the outcome of the game came,” Kellogg said. “So I’m going to have to spend some time building these guys back up (Sunday) and getting them refocused for the last run here of games.”

UMass plays at St. Bonaventure at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Williams said the Minutemen will bounce back.

“Without a doubt. We can’t crumble at any points now,” he said. “We’re too deep in the season to even think about folding or even not sticking together.

“As long as we stay together and keep playing together like we have been throughout the season, we should be pretty fine,” Williams added. “It’s just little kinks we’ve just got to work out and then we’ll be pretty good.”

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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