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UMass gets another shot at VCU in Atlantic 10 semifinal round

Michael Phillis
Chaz Williams, left, of the University of Massachusetts, drives around a Cady Lalanne screen against Temple in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinal round in New York Friday. UMass won 79-74.

Michael Phillis Chaz Williams, left, of the University of Massachusetts, drives around a Cady Lalanne screen against Temple in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinal round in New York Friday. UMass won 79-74. Purchase photo reprints »

NEW YORK — Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart was scouting the game on press row as the final seconds ticked off the University of Massachusetts’ 79-74 win over Temple Friday in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinal round.

The Minutemen fans sitting behind him cheerfully serenaded him with “We want you Shaka.”

They’ll get their wish.

After avenging previous losses to George Washington and Temple in the first two rounds of the A-10 tournament, UMass will try to continue that run against the team that dealt the Minutemen their worst conference loss of the season, 86-68 in Richmond, Va.

During that game, the Minutemen had a terrific first half and led 42-37 at the break. But VCU extended its press after halftime and it swallowed UMass, which had 13 turnovers in the second half and 24 in the game.

Before the tournament started, UMass forward Terrell Vinson said he thought if the Minutemen got another date with the Rams, they’d do better partially because No. 2-seeded VCU wouldn’t have its home-court advantage.

He may have underestimated the Rams’ fans willingness to travel.

“I guess their crowd goes wherever they go,” Vinson said. “I’m expecting a lot of UMass people to be here tomorrow to match their crowd intensity.”

On Thursday, when VCU had a bye, there were fans in the Barclays Center chanting “V-C-U” during other games.

Their numbers multiplied on Friday. Before the Center’s gates opened, there was a huge contingent of black-and-gold clad supporters standing in front of the building where Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues meet.

As VCU (25-7) sealed its 82-79 quarterfinal win over Saint Joseph’s, the Rams fans chanted “This is our house.”

No other school had enough fans in the building to shout them down.

RIVALRY WRAP-UP — UMass’ win over Temple cuts its deficit in the all-time series to 44-22. The Minutemen have won six of the 10 meetings in the A-10 tournament.

BUTLER GONE? — Citing unnamed sources, the Indianapolis Star reported Friday that Butler will officially withdraw from the Atlantic 10 next week to join the new Big East along with the Big East’s seven departing Catholic schools. Xavier is expected to join the Bulldogs in the new conference.

The Bulldogs are still alive in the Atlantic 10 tournament after beating La Salle Friday, 69-58.

They’ll play top seed Saint Louis, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

MILESTONES — Chaz Williams (28 points) scored at least 20 points for the ninth time this season and the 22nd time in his career.

Williams’ five assists pushed him into fourth place on the school’s single season list with 232.

Senior Freddie Riley’s 15 points gives him 987 for his career.

CROWD — Brooklyn native Spike Lee was among the 7,384 fans in attendance for the second session as he cheered on VCU in the first game, but he didn’t stay for the second game featuring UMass.

Former Minuteman Dante Milligan was in the crowd as was Dana Dingle, whose brother Daniel is a freshman for Temple.

Javorn Farrell, who is sitting out with an ankle injury, and Clyde Santee, who is an academic nonqualifier, drove from Amherst for the game.

MISCELLANEOUS — Temple’s Khalif Wyatt was presented with his Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award prior to the game. ... All three Philadelphia schools were eliminated from the tournament in the quarterfinals for the second straight season.

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