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Kellogg looking to stoke a fire

He hopes an old rival gets UMass pumped

By Chuck Betson
Globe Correspondent / March 9, 2012
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ATLANTIC CITY - The two teams once were fierce Atlantic 10 opponents who went at it with such fervor that one of the indelible images of the rivalry was Temple coach John Chaney trying to attack University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari at a postgame press conference.

Then UMass’s basketball fortunes faded and Temple’s evolved from Chaney to the current success of coach Fran Dunphy.

Enter coach Derek Kellogg and a rejuvenated UMass squad. The Heimlich maneuver, please.

Friday at Boardwalk Hall, Kellogg will try to turn up the heat in the rivalry once again when his eighth-seeded Minutemen take on the top-seeded Owls in the conference tournament.

“I talk to the team all the time about the history of the rivalry, having played in so many of those games,’’ said Kellogg. “Kids get lost in the shuffle when you haven’t seen it in a while.

“But I think the game we played against them 10 days ago brought back the memories. It was a great game in a big–time environment, with players fighting for every inch of the floor.

“That awakened the echoes of Temple-UMass for my kids. That’s what you expect a Temple-UMass game to be.’’

UMass lost that game, 90-88, in overtime at Temple.

“We were up 6 with two minutes left [in overtime] but didn’t close it out,’’ Kellogg said.

UMass point guard Chaz Williams said the team has not forgotten that game.

“We’ve been watching the film and replaying the game in our heads,’’ said Williams, who with a 16.2-point average could become the first point guard in 30 years to lead UMass in scoring. “We made some mental errors, and we know we can play with this team and win.’’

Williams turned philosophical when asked what has set this UMass team, which is 21-10 overall, apart from the failures of its predecessors.

“We’re playing as a team and a unit and as a brotherhood, and we want to be successful in life, and it’s carrying over to the floor,’’ he said. “Last year, if somebody took a bad shot on the floor, we would just stagnate. That’s not the case this season. We have a different mind-set.’’

Beating Temple will take all of that mind-set, plus some physical skill. The Owls are 24-6, including a victory over Duke, and are considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens this weekend.

Guards Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore, and Juan Fernandez have a combined average of close to 45 points.

“They are, as good as any three guards in the country,’’ said Kellogg.

The keys to beating Temple?

“Like Cal used to say, it’s a 12 noon game, so the team that shows up ready to play will win,’’ said Kellogg. “We have to slow down the three guards. We want to get the pace moving and free up our shooters. They probably want to play rough and tough. But Temple’s record speaks for itself at Boardwalk Hall.’’

Temple is 10-2 at the venue and has won three of the last five A-10 tourneys played in Atlantic City.

UMass, on the other hand, is 0-6 in its last six outings in Atlantic City. The last time UMass won here was in 1995 when it beat La Salle, 87-64, with Lou Roe making an Atlantic City homecoming.

“This should be a spectacular quarterfinal game,’’ said Dunphy. “It will be great for the fans.’’

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