Is this the changing of the guard? The weekend we officially see basketball retake hockey in campus supremacy for the first time in nearly a decade?
It certainly felt that way. This felt like a chance for UMass to rock the worlds of both Hockey East and the A10 with upsets over the #1 team in each conference tournament. On the hardwood, it happened. One the ice, well, not so much, despite easily the best game the Minutemen have played at Conte Forum in probably ever. We’ll get the bad out of the way first, since it’s fresh on our minds and Walsh and I were there: 30 seconds, two defensive breakdowns, Mullane scores on a deflection, Cross snipes the top corner, and that’s all the hockey BC had to play for a 2-1 win in Game 1. Shots were 27-17 to the visitors. Fans were, at best, split 50-50, although that comes as absolutely zero shock. (What does shock is the nerve of the Conte security, but I’ll cover that at greater length in my series wrap-up). Mike Marcou got the only UMass goal, but the Minutemen couldn’t get the equalizer despite owning the ice pretty much from the moment the power came back on (seriously…halfway through the first, the power went out and the lights took 15 minutes to come back on. In the home rink of a school that charges 50k a year). Tomorrow is another day I guess, but UMass is 2-2 this year against BC despite competing in all four of them. They’re gonna need to win the next two to keep the dream alive. Tomorrow is do-or-die, and I’m not giving up hope yet, but they blew a huge chance tonight, without question.
Alright, that’s out of the way. Now let’s talk about what is easily the biggest win of the Derek Kellogg era, a 77-71 triumph over Temple. UMass advances to the semis along with Bonaventure, Saint Louis and Xavier – teams UMass is a combined 3-0 against this year. The impossible dream continues.
While Walsh and I made the trip to Conte, and Matt had work, Fight Mass is proud to say we apparently talked some kids into going down to Atlantic City, where they easily had the best time out of all of us. Cameron Legge, one of the student leaders of the Mullins Militia, got on the interwebs long enough to write up a recap, in our latest edition of contributors’ corner:
Contributor’s Corner: “A Favor House Atlantic”
by Cameron Legge
Well I was alerted that Fight Mass wanted me to write a little something of a recap of what exactly happened at Boardwalk Hall today in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Boy am I honored! As whoever really wrote the post from yesterday (as we all ask continuously when it comes to tweets, posts, and the like), UMass sports do not do this. UMass basketball does not do this, especially this year. Time after time we have paired a big win with a frustrating loss. Beating the Billikens (still wondering what that buddha thing is) then losing to URI, beating the Bonnies and then losing to St.Joe’s, and beating Xavier then getting crushed by Dayton. Would DK ever manage to get that elusive third straight conference win? Could the guys catch Temple off-guard again? Well it happened today in the Dirty Jerz.
As we approached Atlantic City there was a sense of hope in the air. By the way, what is supposed to be somewhat of a Vegas of the East really isn’t, but that is besides the point. Immediately waiting in line for tickets we see Temple fans going to and fro up the boardwalk. We were welcomed by a warm Temple fan behind us hoping we hadn’t made hotel reservations because we were going home tonight. Of course we went through how UMass got thoroughly screwed in the game at Cherry Hill nine days earlier in every which way. We then entered through a portal of sorts where UMass basketball would play another great installment of a rivalry suddenly revitalized this season. We grabbed our seats in the “student section” which included me, five other Militia members, the hoop band, and some high school kids on some sort of “fun trip”. What then ensued was a day that all UMass Hoops fans and especially diehards will remember for a long time.
Anyone that has watched UMass at least couple a couple times this year know that they are notorious for runs, in both directions. The Owls started out dictating tempo and controlling the paint, but UMass hung around with one of those patented Maxie halves like he had in the first half in Dayton. Chaz did his best near disappearing act in the first half, he just wasn’t the usual Chaz. Off the record, but really on it, Temple’s Khaliff Wyatt’s head is a rag doll and I seriously considered reigniting my basketball career because I could do an equally as good acting job. Somehow what felt like a 15-point Temple lead was just five as UMass headed into the locker room.
Then wazahhh out came Chazkettaball! Chaz lead the troops to a 15-0 run to start the second half. Of course with help from backcourt mate Jesse Morgan and the bunch. All of a sudden the cherry and white fans were stunned, sitting there speechless as Sean Carter finished one of those patented lobs. Temple was about to get ran over by the MAROON and white. Just like any Top 25 team, Temple fought back. The Minutemen weathered the punches falling behind by four points, but I stood there and thought that the team’s tank was on E, coming back from five down late against the Dukes and having to overcome an early eleven point Temple lead today was just too much. Then they showed why this team is not like we have seen, they continued to go blow for blow with #21 Temple Owls. They did not fold, led all by the savior otherwise known as Chaz Williams. The thesauras should definitely add his name next to the synonyms gamer, warrior, and closer as he was all three of those today and usually is. As soon as we I knew it I was looking up at the clock like it was Al Michaels in Miracle. Praying it would run out and UMass would once again be making major strides up to the mountaintop that is dancing in March. And much to many’s surprise…..IT DID.
There was no sweeter feeling than looking around the arena where small patches of Minutemen fans roared. Temple fans came in Big East happy and left A-10 dissapointed. It was by far my best memory of UMass Basketball so far and I got a ways to go, but this was a damn good start to a weekend in AC. This could end up being the road trips of all road trips.
Thanks again to Matt and Max for tweeting to my roommate Chris to sack up and drive us boys out here.
P.S. Get to Atlantic City ASAP! You don’t want to miss this…
It’s tempting, isn’t it? Fight Mass salutes Cam, Chris, and the rest of the gang that made the trip to Jersey. Work obligations are gonna keep Walsh and Matt from going down there, but if the Minutemen knock out the Bonnies, and hockey’s season ends Saturday night, I may just have to make the trip. After all, this’ll be the last time the tourney is held at Boardwalk Hall before it moves to that beautiful new building in Brooklyn. That said, if you’re not heading down there, come out to Conte tomorrow and join in the already-loud ranks of the UMass fans. (And if you’re stuck on campus and can’t come to EITHER? The 5th-best lacrosse team in the country plays at Garber at 1. Hint, hint.) Really, we’re proud of both groups of fans.
At the very least, we’ve bought ourselves one more home game (in the NIT) for the hoops team, and they’re two wins away from a miraculous tournament berth. The biggest weekend of the year moves on. Keep the faith, kids.