ASHINGTON -- For five weeks, they withstood it all. The raucous crowds. The upset-minded teams. The pressure of being No. 1 in the country. Illness. Injury. Inconsistency. They clawed and scrapped and outpointed the opponent, then licked their wounds and boldly declared, "Who's next?"
But just when you figured fate couldn't catch them, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen stumbled.
UMass fell to Atlantic 10 rival George Washington, 78-75, yesterday and saw college basketball's longest winning streak end at 16 games. The Minutemen (17-2, 9-1) also suffered their first conference loss and undoubtedly will lose the No. 1 ranking they have held since Jan. 8.
The game was played before a sellout crowd of 5,020 that included President Clinton, daughter Chelsea and enough Secret Service and security personnel to pack a Greyhound bus. They watched GWU (14-8, 7-3) upset UMass at the Smith Center for the second consecutive year. The Colonials defeated the No. 11 Minutemen, 77-66, last year.
"Like all the teams that play against us, they compete," said UMass coach John Calipari. "We have to just expect that and understand that we have to pick that up a notch. You know there are certain games where everybody has to come and attack and play, and we had a couple of guys who weren't in that frame of mind."
The contest followed the same trend as other UMass games during their stretch atop the poll. The opponent came out hungry and aggressive, putting UMass in jeopardy early. Unlike others, however, the Colonials did not fold when UMass rallied.
The Minutemen trailed most of the game but battled back from a 67-60 deficit with 2:46 left and to 76-75 with 10.6 seconds to go on a 3-point basket by Edgar Padilla.
But with 4.6 seconds left, UMass guard Mike Williams, who has hit many winning baskets in similar situations (including a trey to beat GWU two years ago), picked up his fifth foul while guarding forward Vaughn Jones, who hit two free throws.
"The greatest thing in the world was that he wasn't in there on that last possession," said GWU coach Mike Jarvis. "I probably would have fouled him while we were up 3, and I've never done that before."
After a timeout, Derek Kellogg dribbled up the floor, briefly lost his handle while going right and cutting back center -- then launched an off- balance shot from about 30 feet that fell short of the rim.
"I was supposed to go up the sidelines, but I thought I saw an opening up the middle and went there," said Kellogg. "Basically, I botched up the last play."
GWU fans stormed the court as they did last season, and Kwame Evans (a game-high 27 points) sat atop the rim while fans celebrated beneath him.
"We went right at them," said Evans, the A-10 leading scorer, who said the Colonials did not change their plan after finding out UMass center Marcus Camby would not play after straining a hamstring. "We would have gone at them regardless of who was in the lineup."
GWU attacked the UMass front line during a 16-5 run to rally from a 9-4 deficit to lead, 20-14. UMass tied it at 24-24 but the Colonials led at halftime, 38-32.
UMass trailed, 52-45, with 13:16 left when forward Lou Roe (21 points, 12 boards) keyed a 14-6 run to put the Minutemen up, 59-58, with 8:56 left. It was UMass' first lead since 9-8, and the Minutemen would keep it for only 18 seconds. Evans drained a bucket with 8:38 left, and GWU would never trail again.
"We're not used to losing, so after the game, it was a bad atmosphere," said Roe. "But after a while the president came in and talked to us, and we said, 'Hey, we're 17-2 and this is February.' We have seven or eight games left and then we have the A-10 tournament to go, so we have plenty of time to regroup."
ASHINGTON -- Hours before yesterday's George Washington-UMass game, the front entrance of GWU's Smith Center resembled an airport security checkpoint during a bomb scare. Guards stood around a metal detector as patrons walked through. Other security personnel sifted through handbags and bookbags after their contents were X-rayed.
"What's going on," asked one onlooker.
"The President's coming," a guard replied.
President Clinton and daughter Chelsea were among the 5,020 on hand for George Washington's 78-75 upset over top-ranked Minutemen. Although it was speculated he would come during the second half, the President entered the building while the UMass starting lineup was being announced on the public address system.
President Clinton had been expected to attend the season-opening Tipoff Classic between UMass and Clinton's alma mater, Arkansas, but did not make the trip.
The Clintons (sans Hillary) made the half-mile trip from the White House to 22d and G Streets, N.W., in a sports van. While his Secret Service men wore dull brown suits, the President wore a maroon-and-sky-blue golf shirt, brown slacks and a dark brown leather jacket. It marked the first time Mr. Clinton has attended a George Washington game.
During the first half, the band played "Hail to the Chief," and a few of the fans sang, "Hey Chelsea," to the tune of "Hey Baby." The Clintons, who sat with five other people (including two Secret Service agents) just above and to the right of the west baseline stayed throughout the game but left before the GWU-Temple women's game that followed.
Afterward, the President spoke to both teams in their locker rooms. "We were aware the President was coming as we walked in the door," said UMass coach John Calipari. "I told his team that every gym we go in is packed, and now we have the President coming to see us play.
"He was very gracious. He's a good man, and I think the kids enjoyed meeting him."
Upon meeting the President, starting point guard Derek Kellogg high-fived with Clinton and said, "From the governor to the President." Later, he was asked what he was governor of.
"The team," Kellogg said. "I try to be a leader out there, so I try to be the governor. We have a few mayors, some senators out there. It goes down the line, and as they get older they move up in the ranks. Lou Roe, UMass forward is the vice president."
George Washington coach Mike Jarvis said he first met Clinton last April, when he and then GWU captain Rodney Patterson were guests of the President after Patterson and Missouri coach Norm Stewart were awarded the American Cancer Society Courage Award.
"At that time, the President said, 'You know, I'm a pretty big basketball fan, and I hear you play man-to-man defense, and you might want to consider playing a little zone,' " joked Jarvis. "So I thought that maybe today, especially with him being here, we would play zone for him.
"That's what makes this game so special. How many teams in the country have ever had the President in their locker room on their home court after a game?"
George Washington freshman center Alexander Koul, a resident of Borovka, Belarus, was asked what he knew about Clinton. "First of all," he said, ''he's President of the United States. In my country, I know about Clinton like I know about basic things. Like, he's president. And he's not far from GWU, and they call him, 'Bill.' "
|Massachusetts Minutemen (#1)||75|
|George Washington Colonials||78|
|at George Washington|
GEORGE WASHINGTON (78) -- Kwame Evans 7-15 12-17 27, Robert Hammons 7-15 2-2 18, Omo Moses 0-2 0-2 0, Antoine Hart 3-8 2-2 8, Billy Calloway 0-1 0-0 0, Vaughn Jones 6-13 6-7 18, Ferdinand Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Alexander Koul 0-3 7-12 7. TOTALS: 23-57 (40.4%) 29-42 (69.0%) 78.
HALFTIME: George Washington 38, Massachusetts 32. 3-POINTERS: George Washington 3-12 (Hammons 2-5, Evans 1-4, Moses 0-1, Calloway 0-1, Jones 0-1), Massachusetts 8-18 (Kellogg 4-6, Williams 2-3, Padilla 2-6, Bright 0-1, Travieso 0-2). REBOUNDS: George Washington 45 (Koul 9), Massachusetts 40 (Roe 12). ASSISTS: George Washington 14 (Hammons 5), Massachusetts 21 (Kellogg 6). FOULED OUT: M. Williams. TOTAL FOULS: George Washington 19, Massachusetts 31. ATTENDANCE: 5,020. RECORDS: George Washington 7-3/14-8, Massachusetts 9-1/17-2.
Massachusetts 32 43 -- 75 George Washington 38 40 -- 78