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here will be no problem getting motivated for the season opener. Not when the opponent is the defending national champion, and the first one to return its entire starting lineup since 1967.
Arkansas, ranked No. 1 in most preseason polls, faces the University of Massachusetts in an eagerly anticipated Tip-Off Classic at Springfield Civic Center tonight.
The fact that they're playing the defending national champ -- and preseason favorite to repeat -- would be enough to motivate the Minutemen, who play one of the more grueling nonconference schedules in the nation.
But there's more: According to the Northwest Arkansas Times, Razorbacks forward Corliss Williamson stated at a media day that the Arkansas second string was better than UMass. When the comment drew a few stares, Williamson insisted he was only joking.
But word spread all the way to Amherst.
"It's a quote over everybody's locker," said UMass forward Lou Roe. ''That's a very big statement. I hope he can back it up. They will be a very big challenge for us."
Roe fired back a joke of his own. At Atlantic 10 Media Day, he was asked what it will be like to face Williamson, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. Roe replied, "What matchup?"
Then Roe said, "It will be a great game. Corliss is a big dude and he plays hard, somewhat like me. Since former Kentucky standout Jamal Mashburn, it will be one of the toughest guys I've played against."
Actually the two were supposed to play together on the Goodwill Games team during the offseason, but Williamson had to back out because of a broken wrist. He was in a cast six weeks.
In addition to Williamson (20.4 points a game, 7.7 rebounds), the Razorbacks are led by forward Scotty Thurman (15.9 ppg), whose clutch 3- pointer clinched the victory over Duke in the national title game. Also returning is point guard Corey Beck, considered the heart of the team.
Arkansas center Dwight Stewart sprained his left ankle in the team's Nov. 11 intrasquad game and is questionable. Forward Davor Rimac has a sprained right ankle.
UMass will be without shooting guard Mike Williams, who will be serving the third game of a three-game suspension for academic difficulty. Roe is expected to lead the way, and the supporting cast is one of the best in college basketball.
Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year Marcus Camby (10.2 ppg, 105 blocks) and forward Donta Bright (10.8 ppg) enable the Minutemen to match up well with the defending champs.
The road doesn't get much easier after Arkansas. UMass meets Kansas Dec. 3 in the Wooden Classic and then Maryland, the team that bounced it from the NCAA tournament last year, Dec. 10.
"We have the schedule right now that is definitely going to prepare us for the NCAA tournament," said Roe. "We have arguably one of the toughest in the country. We'll take one game at a time and worry about who is in front of us."
Like Arkansas, UMass has not been depleted by early exits to the pros, and that's one of the reasons the two teams are so deep.
"That's why the Razorbacks win all the time, they have teams that play together three or four years," said Roe. "That adds great experience. We have guys who have played together three or four years. We almost know what the other is going to do. We do it instinctively."
PRINGFIELD -- The wrong team administered 40 minutes of hell last night.
In the process, the University of Massachusetts sent shockwaves throughout college basketball. UMass outplayed, outhustled, outrebounded, outclawed and outscrapped top-ranked and defending national champion Arkansas -- the unit that made relentlessness and intensity its staple. Everyone in college hoops best beware.
The No. 3-ranked Minutemen routed Arkansas, 104-80, in a game that was over at halftime. One year and one day after registering its win over then-No. 1 North Carolina, the Minutemen jumped to a 52-36 lead at halftime, led by as many as 28 in the second frame and hit clutch free throws down the stretch when the Razorbacks cut the lead to 13 with 3:38 remaining.
A partisan UMass capacity crowd of 8,999 watched the Minutemen outrebound Arkansas, 54-34. Moreover, the Minutemen, annually criticized for their poor free throw shooting, hit 40 of 50 attempts.
Power forward Lou Roe (a career-high 34 points, 13 boards) led four Minutemen in double figures. Donta Bright added 24 points, Marcus Camby had 13 and Dana Dingle 10.
All this without the team's best shooter, guard Mike Williams, who was serving the third of a three-game suspension because of academic difficulty. Some expected the Minutemen would suffer.
Instead, they attacked one of the nation's best defenses with inside pullups, dunks and layups. They were so consistent that long before it was over the crowd seemed startled at the events.
"I am very proud of this team and the way they responded to the pressure of this big game," said UMass coach John Calipari, whose team took another big step in solidifying its place among college basketball's elite. "They played with no fear. We played UMass basketball. We made the extra pass and played very unselfishly."
With the win, UMass stands a good shot of vaulting above No. 2 North Carolina for the No. 1 spot when the new poll is released Sunday night. Moreover, it has proven that its No. 3 ranking was no fluke; in the past UMass would use its intensity to compete with such teams, but often its lack of size and speed at certain positions would hamper it against the better programs in the country.
Now, UMass has the balance, depth, athleticism, quickness, size and experience that marks the better programs. It is only November, but no amount of speculation seems overstated. Not after last night.
"UMass came to play. It was obviously an aggressive game, and they should be commended for their effort," said Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, whose team was slow to the offensive glass and disjointed offensively at times.
"We talked about the fact that every team is going to play us like it's a national championship game. We didn't come out and shoot well. I'm not happy, but we can take a lot of things from this game."
It's the first time UMass has scored 100 points since the first game of the 1991-92 Atlantic 10 tournament, when the Minutemen beat Rutgers, 106-94.
Roe got things going on the opening tip, which he grabbed and slammed through the rim for the first bucket of the game. Arkansas countered with two free throws by Corliss Williamson, and when Edgar Padilla was called for traveling, Arkansas took its first lead of the game, 4-2, on a pullup in the paint by Scotty Thurman.
With 17:30 left in the first half, Roe missed on a putback, but reserve forward Inus Norville rebounded and threw down a two-handed dunk that gave UMass a 6-4 lead and sent the crowd into bedlam.
For the remainder of the half, UMass played at a level clearly above its counterpart. The Minutemen stepped up their defensive pressure and made each Razorbacks attempt difficult. They attacked the Arkansas defense with lean-in shots and pull-up jumpers.
Most important, they attacked the glass, giving Arkansas few second-chance attempts while getting second and third attempts themselves. With 8:13 left, a jumper by Roe made it 33-21, UMass. With 1:23 left, Bright hit a jumper to build the lead to 50-31.
"At halftime, I told them not to look at the scoreboard, pretend its 0-0," said Calipari. His team responded. With 12:40 left, Bright hit a jumper to put the Minutemen up, 68-40.
After the game, Calipari stressed that it is still November. "Arkansas is a great, great ball club," he said. "Tonight we were better. But I never want to play them again."
PRINGFIELD -- Concealed in the rubble of Your State U's stunning 104-80 bombardment of defending national champion Arkansas was a landmark court decision: Roe v. Williamson.
The evaluation of the 8,999 combined judges and jurors was unanimous. So let the world know that in the case of Louis Roe vs. Corliss Williamson for the title of Preeminent Collegiate Power Forward in the entire United States of America, the judgment is clear and unambiguous. The jury has ruled in favor of Louis Roe.
These two fine 6-foot-7-inch hunks of young manhood were indeed matched up as Your State U squared off against mighty Arkansas in the annual Tipoff Classic here at the Civic Center last evening. No one could get away with any of that "I-really-wasn't-checking-him" jive. Nor did either team play a lick of zone defense. This was a clear mano a mano confrontation.
That being the case, the evidence was very straightforward. Lou Roe, represnting the University of Massachusetts, compiled 34 points and 13 rebounds. Corliss Williamson, representing the University of Arkansas, compiled 15 points and 7 rebounds, or 2 fewer points and 2 fewer rebounds than Lou Roe had in the first half.
The jury didn't even bother to retire. There was no need to sequester anyone. The decision was rendered before the game had even concluded, the verdict handed down with 44.9 seconds remaining when Roe headed to the UMass bench with his team ahead by a comfortable 100-78 margin.
There was no need to summon the appellate court, either, although the experts insisted on having their say. "I knew Lou Roe would play the way he did," declared Minuteman coach John Calipari. "If he's not the best player in the country, let me put it this way: I wouldn't trade him for anybody. He's my guy. He's been my guy for four years."
Coach Cal did not get an argument from his Arkansas counterpart. "I always thought Lou Roe was a great player," acknowledged Nolan Richardson, "but now that I've seen him in person I know he is. You may see a kid on television, but that doesn't show you the whole story. When you watch in person, it's a totally different story than on TV or on tape. I watched how well he moved, how well he moved without the ball, how he rebounded and how he passed. He did everything you can do to win the ballgame. That's my impression. He's a great player."
What Lou Roe did should not have come as a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to his continual career progress. He has established himself not only as a great physical talent but, significantly, as the type of player who responds to great personal and team challenges.
Consider that in the last two seasons he has played against then-No. 1 North Carolina, against always potent Kentucky and now against defending national champion and No. 1 Arkansas, and in each of those games he has been the best player on the floor, putting up a total of 90 points while gobbling up 40 rebounds. That is a 90/40 club you can be sure lists Lou Roe as an exclusive member.
As a general rule, the only motivation Lou Roe needs in order to play basketball is for someone to print the schedule. But in case he needed an artificial boost to prepare for this particular game, it was thoughtfully provided by none other than Corliss Williamson himself.
It seems that Williamson made the mistake of joking with a naughty scribe during the Southeastern Conference Media Day proceedings a couple of weeks ago. Asked if he thought Arkansas' second team could defeat UMass, Williamson smiled and said, "Sure, our second team could beat their first team." Then he laughed and reassured the inquisitor that he was joking, joking, joking.
But, of course, that's not the way it came out when the quote was transported to Amherst, Mass. Somehow or other, the joking part was omitted. The version presented to UMass dealt only with the idea that the Arkansas subs could easily handle the UMass starters. The joking part fell out of the quote somewhere over Memphis. What we had here was your basic locker room bulletin board material.
"We all had that up in our lockers," reported Roe. "That pissed me off."
A benign Roe is a problem for anyone. An angry, irritated, tormented Roe is a force of nature. Lou Roe dunked off the tap, and the systematic dismantling of Corliss Williamson and his All-America reputation had begun.
Lou Roe did unto Corliss Williamson, Darnell Robinson, Lee Wilson, Dwight Stewart and anyone else wearing a red uniform as he did unto Eric Montross, Kevin Salvadori, Rasheed Wallace, Andre Riddick, Rodrick Rhodes, Jared Prickett and anyone wearing North Carolina or Kentucky uniforms the year before. The glass and the entire painted area belonged to Lou Roe. Williamson is a powerful 235 pounds, but he was not powerful enough to bother Lou Roe by flexing biceps, and he was nowhere near as quick. Roe has great strength, superb leaping ability and the unteachable gift of being quick to the basketball. He can jump twice before someone else is halfway into jump one. Most of all, he is ferocious. He understands Rule No. 1 in rebounding the basketball: Quite simply, he wants the basketball.
That's not all he wanted in this game. "We were ranked No. 3 in the nation, and we wanted to live up to that standard," Roe explained. "And I saw Corliss as a big challenge. I wanted to prove I was one of the premier players in the country."
Consider it proven. Roe v. Williamson is now in the books. If there ever is an appeal, it must wait until early April, when a court in Seattle might be willing to clear a date for a new hearing.
ean McDonough sharply criticized the Globe last night during the Arkansas- Massachusetts national telecast on ESPN for the newspaper's story last month that revealed lagging grades of UMass basketball team members.
"You can't defend the Globe . . . printing names and grades of the players. It violated all kinds of privacy," said McDonough. "They were eligible by UMass standards. What more need be said?"
McDonough also claimed that the news story violated the Buckley Amendment, but managing editor/administration Al Larkin disputed that last night. "We asked our lawyers to find out if we violated the law before we printed the story. And we did not," Larkin said.
The Buckley Amendment is a federal law that prohibits colleges from releasing academic information about individual students without a student's permission. It applies even to releasing information to potential employers.
Larkin cited a similar case in which a newspaper printed subpar grades of athletes at the University of Maryland. A federal court ruled that the public's right to know how tax funds were spent outweighed the privacy rights of the students.
McDonough's comments came midway through the second half, by which time the game was onesided in UMass' favor.
Dick Vitale, McDonough's broadcast partner last night, endorsed the criticism, while adding that the story did not appear in the Globe's sports section. It was written by news reporter Dan Golden.
PRINGFIELD -- Talk of No. 1, Final Four and the NCAA championship makes me nervous. These are attainable goals for Your State U, but I prefer the cautious approach. I don't want to see people getting giddy and then having their hearts broken for no good reason.
The John Calipari squad that took the floor against defending NCAA champeen Arkansas last evening here at the Civic Center is, on paper, a strong and scary team. By the end of the season, for example, there may be no better 1-2 frontcourt punch in the land than Marcus Camby and Lou Roe. Rasheed Wallace- Jerry Stackhouse? Hey, bring 'em on!
It's just that I like to adopt a walk-before-you-run posture. The college season is now long enough to allow for a little ebb and flow. In the wake of last night's stunning destruction of Arkansas, fans of Your State U likely will be planning their trips to the Final Four. I'm not in favor of the apocalypse taking place the day after Thanksgiving, not when the games that really matter are played in March and early April.
So what I'm saying is, let's establish a proper goal for this talented team. Let's see if it can finish the season with the distinction of being the Best New England Team Ever, and then take it from there.
So what's the competition? I thought you'd never ask. Here it is, in chronological order:
1. 1946-47 Holy Cross (27-3, NCAA champions).
I know you young folk are looking at that last line and snickering -- champions of what? The United States of America; that's what. Doggie Julian went into Madison Square Garden with a powerful squad and knocked off Navy, CCNY and Oklahoma to win the title. This really didn't have much to do with freshman Bob Cousy, who was 0-2--2 in the title game. It had to do with George Kaftan, Dermie O'Connell, Frank Oftring, Joe Mullaney and Andy Laska, among others.
They didn't shoot jump shots. They kept their feet on the floor, unless they were going for rebounds. They used the give-and-go and played what was known as "East Coast Basketball." It was an entirely different world, in every way. Athletically, they couldn't compete in today's game, especially up front. But I'd like to throw them at a good team today just to see them play the game the way it was classically conceived. Come to think about it, they are playing today. They're called Princeton.
2. 1953-54 Holy Cross (26-2, NIT champions).
Now we're creeping closer to the modern era. Tommy Heinsohn is a Hall of Famer whose swashbuckling style would be worth many millions today. Don't think for a milisecond he couldn't play with a Lou Roe (I'd like to see Roe's jaw drop when Heinie unloaded his running 15-foot hook shot). Togo Palazzi was an old-fashioned 6-foot-4-inch inside killer. Ronnie Perry Sr. was a very clever self-sacrificing playmaker. Again for you young-uns: Don't let the NIT tag fool you. Forty years ago, the NIT had as much or more cachet than the NCAA. There is every reason to think that Holy Cross would have been favored in a neutral court matchup with NCAA champ LaSalle. It's a fact that Holy Cross beat a better opponent (Duquesne) in the NIT final than LaSalle did (Bradley) in the NCAAs.
3. 1966-67 Boston College (23-3, NCAA Eastern regional finalists).
This was Cooz' best team, much better physically than his '68-69 NIT finalists. The Eagles didn't have the one legit truly big man, but they went a long way on a rotation of 6-8 Willie Wolters (father of UConn's Kara), 6-8 Jim Kissane and 6-7 Terry Driscoll, the 1969 NIT MVP. BC had balanced inside- outside scoring with the big guys inside and 6-5 Steve Adelman sniping from outside and a wonderful backcourt duo in Billy Evans and Jack Kvancz.
The Eagles beat Providence in the single most ballyhooed regular-season college basketball game played in New England during the past 40 years, and they advanced to the cusp of the Final Four by defeating UConn and St. John's. The last hurdle was North Carolina, and when BC got up, 12-3, on a Kissane follow-up dunk, Dean Smith called time and I remember thinking, "Please, God, let the game stop now." It was a good thought. North Carolina won, 96-80. But this is still the best of all BC teams.
4. 1972-73 Providence College (27-4, NCAA Final Four).
The absolute greatest of all New England college basketball "what-ifs?" is "What if Marvin Barnes had not gotten hurt against Memphis State?" It was the national semis, and Ernie DeGregorio was destroying Memphis State over the first 10 minutes. Then Marvin went down, and the one thing PC did not have was frontcourt depth.
I think we have the answer right here to our central question. I'd take this PC team over any New England quintet I know of. It was a very special group, and going into the NCAA tournament it was the hottest team in America. Even better, it had played UCLA earlier in the year and came away believing itself to be the victim of an officiating hose job. If anyone could have dealt with Bill Walton, it would have been Marvin. And I know Walton wasn't shooting any 21 of 22 against the 1973 Marvin Barnes.
5. 1989-90 Connecticut (31-6, NCAA Eastern regional finalists).
If Tate George holds onto his steal along the sideline, UConn goes to the Final Four and Christian Laettner can't throw in his miracle double-clutch jumper. This was the hardest-working team in show biz, a frightening defensive team that radiated selflessness. It reminded me of the great Ernie D.-Marvin B. PC team of '72-73, in that its whole far, far exceeded the sum of its parts. Without question, it was the best pressing team New England has ever seen. What the Huskies did to whining Lou Campanelli and California was criminal in execution and exquisite to watch.
6. 1991-92 Massachusetts (30-5, NCAA Sweet 16).
Another great team because it was a T-E-A-M. The senior nucleus of Jim McCoy, Will Herndon and Anton Brown exuded leadership. Harper Williams was a man and a half as a 6-7 center, and Tony Barbee was a superb Mr. Fix-it on the floor. The Minutement had a real shot at Kentucky, and Lenny Wiurtz took it away by T-ing up Calipari on a pathetic technicality important only to a mini- mind. The current UMass team is bigger and stronger, but it must yet prove it has even half the resourcefulness of this team.
So there you go, boys. Are you up to the challenge?
PRINGFIELD -- The thing that struck you most about the game was its lopsidedness. Not only did the University of Massachusetts beat top-ranked Arkansas in Friday's Tip-Off Classic, but it made the season opener for both teams a mismatch.
After the Minutemen's 104-80 rout, both Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson and UMass coach John Calipari reminded a surprised media that what counts most is how teams play in March (and, if possible, April). There were references to the partisan UMass crowd, travel woes and concerns about opening with a ranked opponent.
But none of that could explain third-ranked UMass' domination of the defending national champions. It shows how much the program has improved not only from the 1980s to the 1990s but also from the Sweet 16 team of 1991-92 to today.
This is not the 30-5 team of 1991-92, still the most successful in UMass history. The 1994-95 squad is deeper, more talented and more capable of reaching the Final Four. It should also receive its first-ever No. 1 ranking when Top 25 polls come out tomorrow.
"That would be amazing, great, but this team knows we're gearing for the whole season," said Calipari. "We have to play Kansas next week Saturday. Kansas is always the best team in the beginning of the season.
"What this win does is it gives other teams that watched us the chance to say, 'We have to play hard against UMass.' So we're not going to get any gimmes. People know if they don't play hard they're going to get beat."
It could also represent a major shift among college basketball's hierarchy. In recent years, few teams outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference have been capable of matching size, quickness and depth with the likes of Arkansas. At a time of resurgence in the Northeast, it appears the region's most dominant team resides outside the Big East.
"They're very quick," said Richardson, who saw his team outrebounded, 54-34. "I thought they were a lot quicker than we were in certain spots, particularly in the first half. I thought they were quicker than I anticipated. Donta Bright is very quick and Marcus Camby presents a lot of problems inside."
Other successful UMass teams had quickness and athleticism but were lacking in size. They worked hard to offset that, and it wasn't unusual to see 6-foot-3-inch William Herndon (owner of a 42-inch vertical leap) play power forward on the 1991-92 team. Or 6-7 Harper Williams play center.
But against teams with height, speed and athleticism, they were often outmatched. Now Calipari has height, speed and balance at each position. And they still play with the same tireless work ethic.
"We are a better shooting team than we've been in the past with the same players from last season," said Calipari. "That means these guys have worked hard to improve their game. The guys go through the year to get better and then they use the summer to get better."
That's why the Minutemen were able to dominate the first national champion since 1967 to return its entire starting lineup. One of the reasons the season looks so bright for UMass is that it is one of the deepest teams in the country at a time when college basketball as a whole has been depleted by early exits to the NBA.
UMass is one school (Arkansas, Duke and Kansas are among others) whose players regularly stay for four years. Calipari has not had one player leave early. While other teams are making adjustments to fill voids, UMass simply reloads.
"That's why teams like Arkansas and Duke are so successful," said power forward Lou Roe at Atlantic 10 Media Day. After Friday's win, he cautioned against excessive optimism.
"This is one game, and we have about 30 more games," he said. "We have Kansas next."
|Arkansas Razorbacks (#1)||80|
|Massachusetts Minutemen (#3)||104|
|Starter Tip-Off Classic|
at the Springfield Civic Center
MASSACHUSETTS (104) -- Dana Dingle 2-6 6-8 10, Donta Bright 7-12 10-11 24, Andre Burks 0-3 0-0 0, Edgar Padilla 2-4 0-0 4, Derek Kellogg 1-5 6-7 8, Louis Roe 12-20 10-11 34, Marcus Camby 4-7 5-7 13, Carmelo Travieso 2-4 0-0 6, Tyrone Weeks 0-2 0-0 0, Rigoberto Nunez 0-0 0-0 0, Inus Norville 1-1 3-6 5. TOTALS: 31-64 (48.4%) 40-50 (80.0%) 104.
HALFTIME: Massachusetts 52, Arkansas 36. 3-POINTERS: Massachusetts 2-7 (Travieso 2-2, Dingle 0-1, Burks 0-1, Kellogg 0-3), Arkansas 10-23 (Dillard 3-6, Thurman 3-7, McDaniel 2-4, Garrett 1-2, Stewart 1-3, Robinson 0-1). REBOUNDS: Massachusetts 54 (Roe 13), Arkansas 34 (Williamson 7). ASSISTS: Massachusetts 15 (Dingle 5), Arkansas 16 (Beck 4). FOULED OUT: Beck, Williamson. TECHNICAL FOULS: Burks. TOTAL FOULS: Massachusetts 21, Arkansas 31. ATTENDANCE: 8,999. RECORDS: Massachusetts 1-0, Arkansas 0-1.
Arkansas 36 44 -- 80 Massachusetts 52 52 -- 104