Temple eludes UMass
Owls get top seed in A-10 tourney
PHILADELPHIA - Trailing by 10 points with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in a game marked by huge swings in momentum, the University of Massachusetts seemed doomed last night against Temple.
The Minutemen, however, staged an improbable rally - sinking four straight 3-pointers and getting a clutch Raphiael Putney putback - to force overtime but ultimately succumbed to the 23d-ranked Owls, 90-88, at Liacouras Center.
It was yet another unsuccessful trip to the City of Brotherly Love for UMass, which has lost to La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, and now Temple this season.
Temple’s Fran Dunphy, whose club controlled play most of the way in large part because of a 40-10 disparity at the free throw line, 29-3 in regulation, was breathing a sigh of relief in the aftermath. His Owls wrapped up the top seed in the Atlantic-10 tournament. UMass coach Derek Kellogg, whose club must beat Rhode Island Saturday to have any shot at a first-round home game in the A-10 tournament, was frustrated.
“I thought we played well enough to win the game,’’ said Kellogg, whose club fell to 19-10, 8-7 in the A-10, putting it a three-way tie for sixth with La Salle and Dayton. “We just put them at the line too many times.
“Forty to 10 [at the line] is tough to overcome but Temple is a very good team. I respect the way they play. I think their age and experience won the game for them.’’
The Minutemen knew they had squandered a huge opportunity, which seemed well out of reach following a key seven-minute stretch in which Temple (23-6, 12-3) turned a 58-55 deficit into a seemingly safe 77-67 lead.
Or was it? Before they could start celebrating UMass’ press forced a flurry of turnovers, then Chaz Williams and Freddie Riley buried two 3-pointers apiece, before Sean Carter’s putback of Williams’s driving layup sent it into overtime, 80-80.
When Carter threw down a pair of dunks to start the extra session, followed by free throws from Carter and Williams, the Minutemen seemed on their way to pulling off the upset and snapping an eight-game losing streak in this building that stretched to 2001 .
It didn’t happen, as Temple converted five of six free throws before Khalif Wyatt’s 3-point play tied it at 88 with 58.9 seconds left. Williams ran the shot clock down, but missed a short-range jumper. Maxie Esho grabbed the rebound, only to see Temple’s Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson reject his layup. The ensuing outlet pass triggered a fast break that sent Wyatt in for an uncontested layup.
Going for the tie and another overtime, Jessie Morgan drove the baseline, only to see his shot spill off, eventually winding up in the hands of Hollis-Jefferson with only seven seconds remaining. Hollis-Jefferson missed two free throws but the clock expired before UMass could launch a desperation shot.
“We know this was a big opportunity for us,’’ said Carter, who scored all 7 of his points at the end of regulation and in overtime. “We let it slip through our hands. Next time in that situation we have to capitalize on it.’’
Certainly Williams, who collected 26 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, and 4 steals, did all he could.
“Down the stretch we just made shots,’’ said Williams about the comeback. “But we had some unforced turnovers which caused us to lose the game. This would’ve been [a big win].’’
Instead it will go down as just another empty trip to a city that has shown them anything but Brotherly Love.