Barely a week after playing an exciting ranked Temple Owls and Massachusetts Minutemen find themselves on the same floor once again as they compete in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The top-seeded Owls won the A-10's regular-season title for a record 10th time, but the first in more than two decades, as they delivered a 13-3 league ledger. Temple has been highly successful in this event since it moved to Boardwalk Hall as well, the program posting a record of 10-2 in the building over the last five tournaments and winning the title three times. Overall, Temple has a record of 11-5 in the facility, having played other high-profile contests in the building previously.
As for the eighth-seeded Minutemen, second only to Temple (nine championships) in terms of conference tournament titles with five, they are trying to get back to the final round of the event for the first time since losing to the Owls back in 2001 (76-65). UMass, which defeated the Owls in four consecutive championship games between 1993-96, began this year's tourney with a 92-83 win over Duquesne three nights ago.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, Temple leads by a count of 43-20, but the teams have split their eight meetings in the A-10 Tournament. The most recent game took place on Feb. 29 when the Owls slipped by with a 90-88 overtime victory at home.
The winner of this meeting will be moving on to the semifinals on Saturday to take on the survivor of the Saint Joseph's/St. Bonaventure encounter.
Trailing by a score of 78-73 with just over six minutes remaining on Tuesday night, the Minutemen went on a 9-0 to assume the lead and eventually grab the nine-point victory against the Dukes in order to advance. Chaz Williams led all scorers with 21 points, adding eight rebounds and four assists, while Raphiael Putney and Javorn Farrell both dropped in 20 points, the latter adding nine assists and seven boards in 31 minutes off the bench. Terrell Vinson chipped in with 11 points and Jesse Morgan 10 as UMass knocked down 50.8 percent from the floor and 8-of-17 behind the three-point line. One of the top scoring teams in the A-10 this season, UMass has been putting up 76.6 ppg, led by Williams with his 16.4 ppg. But more than just a scorer, Williams is also first on the unit in both assists and steals with 197 and 69, respectively. Putney checks in with 10.5 ppg and is one of the better rebounders for the group with close to six per game.
Under the direction of Fran Dunphy, the 2012 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, the Owls were again the team to beat in the league this season. Opponents chased after Temple and Ramone Moore who earned first team all-conference honors as he led the team and was second in the conference in scoring with 17.8 ppg. Moore scored in double figures in all but two outings this season and generated 18.4 ppg in conference games. But just ahead of him in those league outings was Khalif Wyatt who logged 18.7 ppg as he not only shot 40.6 percent from three-point range but also knocked down 97-of-109 (.890) at the free-throw line which was by far the most time spent at the charity stripe among the Owls in conference games. A potential double-double just waiting to happen, Micheal Eric was responsible for 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in league bout as the Owls beat opponents on the glass by almost two boards per game.