The sixth-seeded Massachusetts Minutemen will try to pull off another upset as they tangle with the second-seeded Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the semifinals of the 2013 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament at the brand new Barclays Center.
The winner moves on to Sunday's championship game to face either Butler or Saint Louis.
Both UMass and VCU squared off for the first time in history this season, and the result was hardly what Minutemen head coach Derek Kellogg wanted, as he watched his troops dismantled in an 86-68 setback.
UMass took down George Washington, 77-72, in the opening round of this event, as senior Chaz Williams tallied 16 points and eight assists. The team followed that with an even better performance on Friday as it defeated Temple, 79-74, behind a 28-point showing by Williams. Against the Owls, the Minutemen also got 15 points from both Freddie Riley and Terrell Vinson. The win was the fifth in six games for UMass, which has been impressive for the majority of the 2012-13 campaign. It notched wins over Providence, Elon, Ohio, La Salle and Xavier during the regular season, and will be looking for its first A-10 Tournament crown since 1996 when Marcus Camby was the big man on campus in Amherst.
Williams has been solid for UMass this season, scoring 15.8 ppg to go along with 7.5 apg. Vinson adds 12.7 ppg, while Cady Lalanne is the squad's top rebounder, pulling down 7.2 rpg. UMass owns a high-powered offense, averaging 73.8 ppg, third-best in the conference. The Minutemen's perimeter defense actually gave it the boost it needed in the opening and quarterfinal rounds, as they held the Colonials and Owls to a combined 8-of-35 shooting from 3- point range, and watched them turn the ball over a total of 26 times.
VCU also took down a Philadelphia A-10 school on Friday as it held on for an 82-79 victory over the 10th-seeded Saint Joseph's Hawks in a quarterfinal matchup. Treveon Graham scored 17 points to lead five Rams in double figures. Troy Daniels accounted for four of the team's 11 makes from 3-point range as part of a 14-point effort, while Rob Brandenberg added 13 and Darius Theus contributed 12 on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting. The recent win was VCU's first in the A-10 tourney following a 17-year tenure in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Shaka Smart's squad improved to 25-0 this season when forcing 15 turnovers or more on Friday as it baited the Hawks into 17 miscues with its constant full court press. Statistically, UMass can avoid a loss if it is able to limit turnovers to 14 or lower as the Rams are winless when failing to force 15. Graham has been a huge part of the Rams' success this season as he heads a list of four double-digit scorers with 15.8 ppg. The second-most productive scorer is Reddic (14.3 ppg), thanks to his 56.8 percent shooting from the floor. Reddic is also first on the unit with better than eight rebounds per contest. While Reddic maintains a presence in the paint, Daniels (12.2 ppg) is the top 3-point marksman, connecting on 3.5 long-range baskets per game at a 40.4 percent clip.