AMHERST, Mass. – Massachusetts needed to win its regular season finale to get a bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Jordair Jett made sure the Minutemen would have to play that early round game when his driving layup with 3 seconds left Sunday gave No. 17 Saint Louis a 64-62 victory.
A win would have guaranteed the Minutemen (23-7, 10-6 A-10) the No. 4 seed, the last spot to earn a bye.
Instead, a jump ball gave St. Louis (26-5, 13-3) possession with 36.4 seconds left , allowing Jett to run down the clock before his game-winning shot ended the Billikens' three-game losing streak and clinch the conference title outright for the second straight season.
"Hurts a little bit," Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg. "Because I wanted to be a top four seed and have some extra time to get ready for the A-10 tournament I would have liked to send the seniors off with win."
Massachusetts falls to the sixth seed and will face No. 11 Rhode Island on Thursday in the Atlantic 10 tournament in New York.
Chaz Williams tried to steal the win, getting a 3-point attempt off before the buzzer but it bounced off the rim.
"I didn't get a good enough running start," he said. "I only had three seconds, that was my fault. I had to take the shot from further out. It's just one of those shots where you just have to make something happen."
Williams finished with 20 points and nine assists while Derrick Gordon scored 15 points for the Minutemen.
The game-winning shot was Saint Louis' only lead of the season half after trailing 35-33 at halftime.
""It's one of those games where I felt like they kind of took from us," Kellogg said. "That we had control of it, we had the plays that we normally make."
Massachusetts took its largest lead at 57-49 on two free throws by Gordon with 5:48 to play.
Mike McCall Jr. scored to make it a one-possession game and Dwayne Evans tied the game at 56-56 with 3:16 left, but the Minutemen responded with two straight baskets.
Sampson Carter made it a four-point game, but Evans cut the lead to 60-58 with 2:14 left.
Coming out of a timeout, Carter missed a 3-pointer for what Kellogg thought was a crucial play with 1:33 remaining.
"When Sam missed that 3 in front of our bench . I knew we might be in a little bit of trouble," he said.
Jett was fouled and made two free throws to start his closing run.
"We had guys made big plays throughout from big passes, to big post ups to big blocks to big rebounds to big shots," Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said. "I'm really proud of our guys."