AMHERST, Mass. — Saint Louis guard Jordair Jett hit the game-winning layup with 3 seconds remaining to lead the 17th-ranked Billikens to a gritty 64-62 victory over Massachusetts on Sunday.
The win gave Saint Louis its second straight outright Atlantic 10 Conference championship.
UMass led for most of the second half, and by four with just over two minutes remaining, before Saint Louis stormed back and stunned the home crowd hoping to send their team off to the conference tournament in style.
Instead, the Minutemen squandered a chance to earn a first-round bye and will play in the opening round of the A-10 tournament Thursday.
They can thank Jett for that.
Following a jumper from forward Dwayne Evans that brought the Billikens within two, Jett tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:32 remaining.
UMass guard Chaz Williams then delivered as he had most of the game and season, slicing through the lane for a difficult layup to put UMass back in front by two.
Following a couple missed shots by the Minutemen, Jett held the ball as the clock wound down, driving to the hoop with under 10 seconds remaining and hitting an acrobatic layup that put the Billikens on top for the first time in the second half.
Williams had one last heave from just over halfcourt that missed wide.
Jett scored 17 points and Evans added 14 for Saint Louis (26-5, 13-3 Atlantic 10), which used a school-record 19-game winning streak to improve to 25-2 and ended its three-game losing streak Sunday.
Williams paced UMass (23-7, 10-6) with 29 points and nine assists and Derrick Gordon chipped in with 15 points.
UMass sizzled earlier in the season, too, cracking the Associated Press top 25 for the first time since November 1998 and rising as high as No. 13 in the country with a 16-1 start. However, the Minutemen struggled over the past two months, finishing the season 7-6 and remain on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, which they have not qualified for since 1998.
Williams netted 13 points in the first half, igniting an early 10-0 run with back-to-back 3s and scoring five straight down the stretch, including a nifty, slicing layup with five minutes to go that handed the Minutemen a 30-26 lead.
Consecutive layups from Derrick Gordon and Putney in the final minute sent UMass into the locker room with a 35-33 edge.
NOTES: Massachusetts is one of 10 Division-I teams to start the same lineup all season. … Saint Louis is one of the few teams in the country to start five seniors. … The Minutemen entered the game averaging a league-high 76.9 points per game, which ranks 43rd nationally. The Billikens, meanwhile, came in leading the conference and were 15th in the country in scoring defense, allowing 60.9 points per game. … UMass G Chaz Williams, who entered the game tied with Chris Lowe for the most career assists in school history at 678, set the new standard early in the first half. … These two teams met in the opening round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, with the Billikens winning 51-46. That was the last time the Minutemen made the Big Dance.
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