Defense hasn't exactly been Temple's strength this season, but the Owls got a stop when they needed one Saturday night at Massachusetts.
Clinging to a slim, one-point lead, Temple held UMass without a shot on the game's final possession to grab an 83-82 win on the road at the Mullins Center. The Owls improved to 17-8 overall and 6-5 in the Atlantic 10 two days after suffering a bad home loss to Duquesne at the Liacouras Center.
Temple has now played in five consecutive one-point games and gone 3-2 in that stretch. According to Stats, Inc., the Owls' string of five straight one-point contests is the longest since at least 1996-97.
The win over UMass (16-8, 6-5 A-10) sets up Temple's biggest game of the season - an A-10 and Big 5 game against La Salle Thursday at the Liacouras Center. A win over the 18-6 Explorers would go a long way in solidifying the Owls' NCAA Tournament resume.
Senior guard Khalif Wyatt led four Temple scorers in double figures with 24 points. Sophomore forward Anthony Lee had 14 points and seven rebounds and Scootie Randall had 11 points and a big three-pointer with 1 minute, 25 seconds left that gave the Owls a four-point cushion. Senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson shot just 4 of 10 from the floor and missed several key midrange jumpers in the second half, but he nonetheless fell two assists shy of a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Temple held off UMass' eight three-pointers by taking care of the ball and limiting itself to just eight turnovers. Guards Freddie Riley and Chaz Williams had 17 and 16 points, respectively, for the Minutemen. Williams, one of the nation's quickest point guards, had 13 assists and just one turnover.
The back-and-forth game featured 10 ties and 16 lead changes, with each team losing eight point leads in the first and second halves, respectively. UMass led by eight 40 seconds into the second half before Temple came back to win it.