The Massachusetts Minutemen might not be firmly on the bubble yet, but an upset win over Temple in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals certainly helped. UMass survived Friday night with a 79-74 win over the Owls behind a gutsy performance from Chaz Williams and a critical three from Terrell Wilson in the final minute.
With their backs against the NCAA Tournament wall, the UMass guards stepped up in a big way. Williams led the way with 28 points and Freddie Riley, who also had the responsibility of guarding Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Khalif Wyatt, had 15. Williams was 8-13 from the field and a perfect 10-10 from the line. Perhaps just as importantly, he took the game over in the second half, scoring 16 points and answering every Temple punch with one of his own.
Wyatt, who was honored at mid-court before the game, had seven points in the first 4:35, but struggled with his shot against Riley all night. UMass had a hand in his face on virtually every shot attempt, and when he was open, Wyatt could not connect. His 19 points came on 4-19 shooting, including a 2-11 mark from three.
But while Wyatt was struggling, his teammates stepped up. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson had 17 points to help out until Wyatt regained his stroke toward the end and hit some critical free throws to keep Temple in it.
And when it mattered most, the Owls turned to their star. Down five with a minute left, Wyatt hit an off-balance three to cut the deficit to two.
The turning point in the game, however, came with just over 20 seconds left. After UMass barely got the ball up the court and struggled for almost a full shot clock against a relentless Temple defense, Wilson somehow got open on the right wing to drain a three and put the Minutemen up five, virtually sealing the game.
Next, UMass will face VCU in the Atlantic 10 semifinals Saturday afternoon. A win there will certainly turn some heads and might help put the Minutemen on the right side of the bubble.