Turnovers doom Temple in A-10 tournament upset

No. 24 Temple lost to UMass, 77-71, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament. ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Top-seeded Temple (24-7) was upset by No. 8 Massachusetts (22-10), 77-71, in the Atlantic Ten

No. 24 Temple lost to UMass, 77-71, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament.

TTN ABI REIMOLD Junior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson attempts a lay up against UMass defenders in the Owls' 77-71 loss on Friday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Top-seeded Temple (24-7) was upset by No. 8 Massachusetts (22-10), 77-71, in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.

The loss is the earliest Temple has been eliminated from the A-10 tournament since coach Fran Dunphy’s first year with the team in 2006-07. The Owls won three consecutive A-10 championships from 2008-10, but the title has eluded them for the past two years.

The Minutemen were led by redshirt-sophomore guard Chaz Williams, who recorded his second double-double in a row against Temple with 20 points and 10 assists. Williams scored 26 points and 11 assists in a 90-88 Temple win last Wednesday, Feb. 29.

“We tried to learn from our mistakes in the last game and move on from that,” Williams said.

“I was very impressed,” Dunphy added about Williams. “He plays really hard. He’s just really a good player and a great competitor. His competitive nature is what I think separates him.”

Temple needed overtime to win that game after UMass’ fast-paced style gave the Owls trouble down the stretch. The Minutemen run a full-court offense and defense, force turnovers and hit threes. Temple committed 17 turnovers in last week’s contest and tied a season-high with 22 in Friday’s loss.

“We made some really poor decisions with the ball that led to easy baskets down at the other end,” Dunphy said. “You can’t do that. We got out of character. When you get out of character, you pay the price and we certainly did today.”

Owls’ junior guard Khalif Wyatt didn’t start due to a timing issue with a team meeting, but scored 15 points to pace Temple. The Owls shot 45.6 percent from the floor, including 42.1 percent from behind the arc.

“[Wyatt’s] a really good guy, there’s not a malicious bone in his body, but occasionally he thinks his time is more important than anybody else’s,” Dunphy said. “When he puts the control in my hands, I have to do something. It’s disappointing.”

Temple led by five at halftime, but the game took a complete turnaround at the beginning of the second half. UMass opened up a 15-0 run in the first five minutes of the second half, creating a 10-point lead and taking a stranglehold of momentum.

“I thought it was a toughness thing,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I thought if we could rebound the basketball and not turn the ball over and match their toughness, I thought we would have a chance in the second half.”

Temple fired back, hitting four threes in a row to cut the lead and eventually gained a four-point margin before a three-pointer by Minutemen sophomore guard Jesse Morgan retook the UMass lead for good.

Redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore hit three of those four consecutive treys and finished with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and six turnovers.

“It’s very difficult,” Moore said. “My five years here, we’ve always down well in the [A-10 tournament]. It hurts a lot. I wanted it as bad as anybody.”

Morgan led all players with 21 points and scored 15 in Temple’s win last week.

“[Last game] was a big thing,” Morgan said. “We knew we could come and play tough and compete with them.”

Temple will find out on Sunday what seed it will get in the NCAA Tournament. The Owls are expected to pick up one of the 37 at-large bids given to teams that didn’t win their conference tournament.

Dunphy said it won’t be difficult for the Owls to move past this loss and focus on the goal ahead.

“I don’t think it will be a challenge at all,” Dunphy said. “I was impressed that we did such a good job today in finding a way to retake the lead. We get down, but we don’t stay down, and hopefully we will use this as a way to play better basketball.”

Joey Cranney can be reached at joseph.cranney@temple.edu.

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