WORCESTER, MASS. — WORCESTER, Mass. -- Harper Williams fired the shot heard 'round Massachusetts yesterday.
It will reverberate all the way to Philadelphia, which is where the University of Massachusetts basketball team is headed for the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Williams, who made only one of five three-pointers during the season, hit one with 30 seconds left and the shot clock running down in overtime to help lift the third-seeded Minutemen to a 77-71 victory over sixth-seeded Syracuse in the second round at The Centrum.
UMass is making the most of its first NCAA tournament appearance in 30 years. Beating Fordham in Friday's first round is one thing; beating Syracuse, the Big East Conference tournament champion, is something else.
"The Oklahoma game [86-73 victory Jan. 4] might have brought this team to a national spotlight. This game woke everybody up," UMass forward Tony Barbee said. "[Syracuse] is a team that has got the respect of the nation. I think we earned a little respect."
This magical tour continues Thursday in an East Regional semifinal, when the Minutemen (30-4) meet No. 2 seed Kentucky (27-6), which defeated Iowa State, 106-98.
The UMass-Kentucky game will be the second meeting of the season. Kentucky, the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament champions, defeated UMass, 90-69, Dec. 4 in Lexington, Ky.
"We wanted a rematch with Kentucky," Massachusetts forward Barbee said. "Now we have our chance, and when we have a few days to prepare for teams, we usually do well."
Three-pointers also played a big part in Kentucky's win as the Wildcats hit double figures on three-pointers for the 16th time this season.
The Wildcats (28-6) finished 11-for-22 from beyond 19 feet, 9 inches, and that turned out to be the difference as Iowa State (21-13) outscored them 34-21 from the foul line.
"We take so many three-point shots in practice that in the game we only take open ones, the good ones," said senior John Pelphrey, who finished with 20 points, 12 from three-point range on five attempts.
Iowa State, the 10th seed, was within 93-90 with 3:18 to play and the pro-Massachusetts crowd was pulling for the upset as it thought ahead to next weekend.
Sean Woods --ed those thoughts, however, when he hit a jumper from the head of the key -- just the old two-point variety -- with 2:00 left and added a free throw 33 seconds later.
"Sean plays great for us," Pelphrey said of the point guard, who finished with 18 points and nine assists.
UMass, which won the Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles, has won 14 in a row and 19 of 20. The last time a UMass team won more games in succession was 1935.