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t is only fitting that top-ranked Massachusetts (26-0, 14-0) face Atlantic 10 foe George Washington (17-5, 10-2) in its quest for perfection. During the 1988-89 season, GWU's program was headed in the opposite direction -- trying to avoid going winless for the first time in school history -- when the Colonials pasted the Minutemen, 103-77, at home Jan. 21. GWU finished the season 1-27.
Rarely have the meetings lacked drama since then. Forget Temple: Today's contest, scheduled for noon at the Mullins Center, is another installment in the hottest, most competitive rivalry in the A-10. It matches the Minutemen against the only league team to post a winning record against them (8-7) during coach John Calipari's tenure.
Last season GWU became the first team to sweep UMass since Temple in 1990-91. In the first game, at George Washington, the Colonials knocked the Minutemen from the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a 78-75 win before a capacity crowd that included President Clinton. In the second game, GWU prevailed, 80-78, at the Mullins Center to snap UMass' 41-game on-campus home winning streak, the longest in the country at the time. That game is still UMass' only loss at Mullins (38-1).
As UMass has continued its upward trek toward national prominence, GWU has been the only regular opponent to consistently match its brand of aggressive defense and relentless hustle for 40 minutes.
"It's been a battle since our win over them in the A-10 tournament," said Colonials coach Mike Jarvis, referring to GWU's 84-83 overtime decision over UMass in the first round of the 1991 tourney, a game that may have denied the Minutemen an NCAA tournament berth. "They've always been great battles."
Four of the last five games have been decided by 3 points or fewer.
"It's definitely going to be a good game," said GWU guard Kwame Evans. ''We're not going to pay attention to all that No. 1 stuff. We're just going to practice hard and play hard. Emotionally, it's going to be a very tough game, and it will be a very physical game."
"It's going to be another challenge," said UMass guard Carmelo Travieso. ''We just have to come out ready to play. They're going to come at us and they want us, and we want them for what they did to us last year. It's going to be a great game."
UMass forward Tyrone Weeks said the matchups against GWU are always good. ''They have some good players," he said. "We just need to have a few good practices and go out there and play them as tough as we can."
As in many UMass games this season, the key matchup today is at center -- the first duel between 6-foot-11-inch Marcus Camby and 7-1 GWU sophomore Alexander Koul. Camby's a more advanced player: better hands, a better touch, better passing skills, more fluidity and agility. But Koul definitely has the weight advantage (296 pounds to Camby's 220).
It's virtually pointless to try to shoot over Camby; he's one of the best shot blockers in the game. But some centers have been effective attacking him laterally or backing him down on the blocks with the body.
On the other hand, Koul is foul-prone. He has fouled out seven times this year, including Wednesday's game against Duquesne, in which he picked up his fifth personal trying to reject a 3-point attempt with 6:35 left and the Colonials up, 70-55.
"He was just trying to add a dimension to his game, showing he could block a 3-point shooter," joked Jarvis. "But obviously, we're not the same team without him on the floor for long periods of time."
The other big matchup comes at point guard, between UMass' 6-2 Edgar Padilla and GWU's 5-3 Shawnta Rogers. The latter has held his own against players more than a foot taller than him. That's why Jarvis has few concerns about whether opposing teams post Rogers or try shooting over him.
"Normally, posting up point guards doesn't work because it takes away from what teams normally do," said Jarvis. "As far as shooting over him is concerned, it's a matter of is Rogers where we want him. If he's right up on the guy, it's very difficult.
GWU fans began chanting, "We want UMass!" with 15:29 left in Wednesday's 84-72 win. But today's contest has been a hot topic in the area for a lot longer. Asked how difficult the week leading up to the game has been, Jarvis replied, "You mean weeks. They've been tough weeks."
MHERST -- They held on to the zero in the loss column as long as they could. But it was apparent they wouldn't end the day with it; from the outset, the opponent was sharper and determined to take it away. So the rash of baskets and timeouts down the stretch didn't help the University of Massachusetts. Neither did relentless pressure or steals or rejections. In recent weeks, such things had helped the Minutemen keep their record unblemished. Yesterday, they merely delayed the inevitable.
Close the record books. Hold the doughnut.
Yesterday, the No. 1-ranked Minutemen became the last team in major college basketball to taste defeat, as Atlantic 10 foe George Washington outplayed them in almost every phase of the game, jumping out to a 23-point lead and holding off a furious rally for an 86-76 upset.
UMass, looking to become the first team to finish a regular season unbeaten since Nevada-Las Vegas in 1990-91, fell to 26-1 overall, 14-1 in the conference.
In one of the most exciting A-10 games of the season -- one in which UMass coach John Calipari was ejected for the first time in his career -- George Washinton (18-5, 11-2) shot 51 percent and never trailed after going ahead, 4-2. GWU led, 47-30 at halftime and 55-32 with 16:36 remaining.
UMass staged several rallies, all of which were answered by the Colonials, but managed to cut the deficit to 73-64 with 2:36 left. With 1:59 left, though, George Washington forward Kwame Evans drained a 3-point basket just before the shot clock expired to put his team up, 76-64. The Minutemen cut the lead to 81-73 with 41 seconds left, but the Colonials hit 5 of 6 free throws the rest of the way.
It was George Washington's fourth consecutive win over the Minutemen, their second straight at the Mullins Center. It is still the only team to beat UMass at the facility, and the only A-10 team with a winning record against Calipari (9-7).
"They have our number for sure," said UMass center Marcus Camby, who scored 18 points on 8-of-21 shooting. Camby had considerable problems with center Alexander Koul (14 points, 6 boards before foul-ing out), who rejected two of Camby's first three shots.
"They came out here and executed their plays," said Camby. "They hit their shots and free throws. Koul had it going inside on me and he just had his way with me today. He's just real big and strong on the high post, so he's hard to get around."
Koul's rejections set the tone for the game. But, undoubtedly, the Minutemen were most hurt by 5-foot-3-inch freshman point guard Shawnta Rogers (14 points, 8 assists, 3 steals), who dribbled through UMass pressure several times -- something few guards have been able to do against the Minutemen.
"I felt comfortable out there because my teammates make me feel comfortable," said Rogers. "All the time out there they were guiding me in the right direction."
Said UMass guard Carmelo Travieso, "It felt like he kept getting to spots before we did, and we kept running him over. That's how some of us got into foul trouble. He's a good player."
Calipari, who picked up his fourth technical foul in four games, was ejected with 10:31 left in the first half. He watched the remainder of the game on television in the locker room, and wasn't pleased.
"I really got a clear view of my team right now, and I think we really have some work to do," said Calipari. "I think the kids know that. I think you get a little soft. I tell them all the time, the publicity and notoriety are like poison. As long as you don't swallow it, you're OK. We've swallowed it.
"UMass basketball is playing like if you lose, you're going to the electric chair. Well, guess what? It wasn't today. You didn't see the fire. You didn't see the emotion and passion. And I'm not blaming one guy, I could blame myself. George Washington came out and right from the get-go were ready to go, and they beat us at every position."
The Minutemen saved their best run for the last five minutes, when they got a 4-point play from Travieso (23 points). That cut it to 71-61 with 3:31 left. A free throw by forward Dana Dingle with 2:36 left made it 73-64. Then came Evans' trey.
For the first time all season, UMass was up against a team that made more big plays down the stretch than it did.
"I think we were hurting most down on the defensive end," said Travieso. ''It seemed like they made every shot.
"Today it was a tough one. We just have to see what they did to beat us, so it won't happen again. After losses last year, we came out last year and learned from our losses, and when we faced the team again, what they were successful at last time didn't work. This could be good for us."
ost University of Massachusetts followers consider the Minutemen's rivalry with Temple their most dramatic. Not so. Yesterday's foul-plagued, tension- filled loss to George Washington was just the latest installment of one of the most underrated series in the Northeast. Here's a sampling of games past:
- Feb. 4, 1995: George Washington 78, UMass 75 -- Before a sellout crowd that included President Clinton and daughter Chelsea, GWU knocked the Minutemen from the No. 1 ranking with the victory.
As the buzzer sounded, Colonials coach Mike Jarvis stepped onto the court, crouched and pumped his fist, to the delight of the home crowd -- and chagrin of UMass. The Minutemen coaching staff about-faced and headed toward the locker room, eschewing handshakes.
- Feb. 13, 1993: UMass 68, George Washington 65 -- Before the game, GWU fans chanted, "Overrated!" to the Minutemen, who had been ranked in the Top 25 most of the season. The chant became louder late in the second half, when UMass trailed by 16. But the Minutemen staged a furious rally, and with :0.4 left, guard Mike Williams drained a 3-pointer for the win.
- Jan. 16, 1993: UMass 76, George Washington 68 -- GWU center Yinka Dare had impressive billing, but unheralded UMass reserve Jeff Meyer played a season-high 13 minutes and helped hold Dare to just 6 points and 4 boards.
- March 3, 1991: George Washington 84, UMass 83 (OT) -- In the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, there were eight second-half ties, the last when UMass guard Rafer Giles hit one of two free throws with :02 remaining. There were three more ties in overtime. The winning basket came with 1:40 left in the extra frame on a layup by Dirkk Surles.
- Feb. 27, 1994: UMass 56, George Washington 55 -- UMass rallied from an 11-point deficit to win on a dunk by center Marcus Camby with one second left after a controversial offensive foul on GWU.
- Feb. 14, 1995: George Washington 80, UMass 78 -- The decision snapped the Minutemen's 41-game on-campus home winning streak. Jarvis was asked if he felt the loss of Camby in both games contributed to the season sweep. He cautioned the media not to take away from his team's effort, saying Camby's absence was not the difference.
- Jan. 21, 1989: George Washington 103, UMass 77. The Colonials enter the game 0-14, then blow out the Minutemen for their only win of the season. Calipari, in his first year as UMass coach, gets hit with a technical foul and is so frustrated that he tries to incur another, throwing his jacket and tie into the stands. But the officials balk, so Coach Cal leaves of his accord, high-fiving fans.
MHERST -- They played like the best team in college basketball, not a team that had lost to lowly La Salle six days earlier. George Washington, a team with little national respect, once again played like a top-five program against the University of Massachusetts yesterday.
The Colonials (18-5, 11-2) showed a diverse attack in rolling over the previously unbeaten and top-ranked Minutemen, 86-76, at the Mullins Center.
It was the Colonials' fourth consecutive defeat of the Minutemen, including twice when UMass was No. 1.
"Just getting a win here was a great feeling," said guard Kwame Evans, who had 14 points, including a crucial 3-point bomb with 1:59 left when UMass had cut a 23-point deficit to 9.
The Colonials felt inspired from the outset when 7-foot-1-inch, 290-pound Alexander Koul blocked a Marcus Camby shot in the first minute.
"That set the tone for the entire game," said George Washington coach Mike Jarvis.
"We answered each challenge they gave us," said forward Vaughn Jones, who scored a team-high 21 points, one of five Colonials in double figures. "We knew they were going to make a run at us, but we met it each time."
The win was crucial for George Washington, which was regarded as a ''bubble" team to make the NCAA tournament being upset by La Salle last Sunday, but now appears to be a lock.
"I'm scared to death about tomorrow, a road game in Cincinnati against Xavier," said Jarvis. "But for the next few days I'm just going to sit back and enjoy this one."
KNOCKOUT BLOCK ATTEMPT
For the second time in as many games, Koul fouled out trying to block a player's 3-point attempt.
Wednesday night against Duquesne, Koul fouled Nick Bosnic and headed to the bench immediately after the whistle. Yesterday, he fouled guard Carmelo Travieso with 3:31 left. Travieso completed the 4-point play. It was the eighth time this season Koul has fouled out.
The play cut UMass' deficit to 71-61 and delighted the crowd, who hoped UMass would be more effective in the interior without Koul in the game. Nothing doing. Freshman Yegor Mescheriakov and junior Ferdinand Williams held their own against Camby, who scored just 4 points in Koul's absence.
"When you consider how young they are, they did a great job," said Jarvis.
Jarvis said he was pleased with Koul's effort, but he added, "I wish he could have stayed in the game longer."
George Washington doubled up on UMass in the free throw department, 38-19. In a physical game, the Colonials had 18 personal fouls, the Minutemen 25 . . . UMass' reign at No. 1 is the longest since Duke held the spot from start to finish in 1991. Could the Minutemen still be ranked No. 1 despite the loss? ''I think they're still the No. 1 team," said Jarvis. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of people ready to move them out of the No. 1 spot so they can move others into the spot." . . . UMass had 18 turnovers.
MHERST -- The sharply dressed bald guy was on his way out of the press conference, having fielded questions concerning the biggest upset in college basketball this season. George Washington coach Mike Jarvis was almost out the door when the crowd gave him a round of applause.
Imagine that. A round of applause at a press conference. Granted, someone had let GWU officials and alumni into the room, but they weren't the only ones clapping.
"You know, that's the first time I've ever received an ovation," said Jarvis, the former coach at Cambridge Rindge & Latin and Boston University, who showed yesterday he could still make an impact in this area even though he now lives in the nation's capital.
The man who coached Cambridge R&L to two unbeaten seasons and the Terriers to two NCAA tournaments continues to restore credibility to a once-beleaguered program. It's not like it was at BU, when Jarvis annually would guide his team to the North Atlantic Conference final; GWU has reached just one Atlantic 10 final in his tenure.
But the school's biggest wins have come in his tenure. Jarvis added another to the list yesterday with an 86-76 upset of No. 1 Massachusetts. In all probability, this will be the second consecutive season the Colonials will knock the Minutemen from the No. 1 spot.
Last Wednesday, after the Colonials' sloppy win over Duquesne, Jarvis was asked what he would have to do to beat the Minutemen again.
"We'll have to travel in a time machine back to last year, step off and relive the moment," he said.
Not so. The Colonials merely needed a solid, all-around effort. They shot 55 percent in the first half, 51 percent for the game and withstood several UMass rallies after building a 23-point lead.
"I have to hand it to them," said UMass center Marcus Camby. "They beat us last year without me, and they beat us this year with me."
In fact, GWU hasn't lost to UMass since 1994, when the Minutemen won on a dunk by Camby with one second left. The play followed an offensive foul call on GWU guard Omo Moses.
There was no nail-biting yesterday; GWU answered each UMass rally.
"What we said at halftime was that we're up 17, and we're not going to quit," said Jarvis.
"I was trying to find some secrets, tricks that others did against UMass. I was trying to be a genius for a day. But you have to do what you do best. You just have to play harder than they do, and that's almost impossible. But I think they did that today."
The tempo of the game was set when center Alexander Koul twice blocked shots by Camby -- against Jarvis' orders.
"He disobeyed me," said Jarvis. "I told him don't leave his feet and he leaves his feet and blocks a shot. He set the tone for the game by doing what he wasn't supposed to do.
"But, as I always say, I'm not in charge and I don't think the kids are in charge sometimes. It was obvious he got a message from another coach, because it wasn't me."
Yesterday's win likely solidified an NCAA tournament bid for the Colonials (18-5), who were a bubble team last year but were denied a bid.
Asked if he was upset that the Minutemen and Colonials no longer play twice in the regular season (because of A-10 divisional play), Jarvis said, "Are you crazy? Are you nuts? I'm glad we don't come back next year. In 1998, I'll be retired, so I don't know if I'll ever come back to the Mullins Center."
MHERST -- In the end, there were only scattered cheers from a small segment of the crowd at the Mullins Center that saw something it hadn't seen all season.
The cheers came from a small section just behind the University of Massachusetts bench. The applause was not for yesterday's performance because, quite frankly, the effort didn't merit it.
Instead, the cheers were in recognition of what UMass had done over the course of a season that was suddenly somewhat normal again.
The story of the day -- and of the year thus far -- was written by George Washington yesterday afternoon when it did the improbable, not the impossible, giving the Minutemen a sound 86-76 beating.
Gone was the undefeated season and the talk of chasing history. Gone, by tomorrow no doubt, will be the No. 1 ranking, which the Minutemen held so proudly and so fiercely for nine weeks.
"Now," said UMass coach John Calipari, "the pressure is off. We can go out and play. We can get on with the season."
Jerry Donaghy gets an earful from John Calipari after he was T'd up twice and ejected.
"I didn't do a very good coaching job," said Calipari, who had to do his coaching in the locker room at halftime and was relegated to being a televison spectator thereafter, watching the Colonials beat the Minutemen for the fourth consecutive time.
Calipari responded with a sardonic smile and a humorless laugh when someone asked him if it was better -- from a pressure standpoint -- that the Minutemen finally did lose a regular-season game.
"Yeah," he said. "We really wanted to lose this game."
Of course they didn't. They were within three games of becoming the first team in five years to go through the regular season unbeaten. They wanted that, no matter what happened in March.
"To me, they are still the No. 1 team in the country," said George Washington coach Mike Jarvis. "It might sound crazy, but they might thank us for what we did today."
And, in a crazy way, the Minutemen might do that. Now they can go about their business and not shoulder the burden of being No. 1. Calipari conceded that benefit.
Perhaps the Minutemen needed a dose of reality. Calipari conceded they were beginning to believe some of their own press clippings. They were beginning to think they could escape from any situation. But when the Colonials built a 47-30 halftime lead, even the staunchest UMass backer had to have doubts.
Calipari has told his players that publicity is like poison, that it can't hurt you unless you swallow it. They did, but it wasn't a fatal dose.
"We're 26-1," said Calipari. "We probably won't be No. 1, and the team that will move ahead of us Kentucky we beat. But that's OK, too."
It really is. Unless the Minutemen go into a swan dive, they will still be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. And Calipari can now chew on his players a little harder in practice the next couple of weeks. Any time he sees them getting a little bit full of themselves, he has a tape he can show them.
He also can go about his business at a less frantic pace.
"I can go and clear my head a little bit as well," he said.
While watching the game on television, Calipari said, he learned a few things. He saw a softening in intensity and a few other flaws that will be worked on.
This doesn't mean the Minutemen should be tossed from the heap of national championship contenders. It doesn't mean they can be ignored.
But they must be wary. George Washington exposed some flaws. The Colonials showed that a bulky big man such as 7-foot-1-inch, 290-pound Alexander Koul can throw even a Player of the Year candidate out of the flow of his game. Koul banged Marcus Camby around for 21 minutes yesterday.
They showed that a small (5-3) but super-quick guard, Shawnta Rogers, can negate some of the natural advantage in speed that the Minutemen usually have with Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso.
And they showed that sometimes a team digs holes for itself that are too deep to climb out of.
All of that was evident yesterday. Now it is time to look ahead. As Calipari said, "We go on from here."
So they do. No longer unbeaten. No longer No. 1. But still very confident of climbing back on top when it really counts.
Stand-in coach Bruiser Flint watches Charlton Clarke launch one from deep.
he best player in college basketball didn't wait for the dreaded word to emerge. He brought it up instead.
"We're in a little slump right now, including myself," said University of Massachusetts center Marcus Camby following the Minutemen's first loss of the season, an 86-76 setback Saturday to Atlantic 10 foe George Washington.
The game showed that during a time when the Minutemen usually play some of their best basketball they have dropped a notch. There have been some dramatic victories in recent weeks, but Saturday the slump was evident.
How else could you explain No. 2 scorer Donta Bright -- one of the best finishers in the game -- coming up with three missed dunks and an airball?
Ditto Camby's showing in UMass' last two games: 15-for-41 shooting from the floor (37 percent), 11 turnovers. That includes an 8-for-21 effort in the loss to George Washington, a game in which Camby also turned the ball over five times.
Camby's contributions are key, because the rest of the Minutemen feed off his play. When he's on, they are tough to beat. When he's slumping, his teammates are not as effective. Against George Washington, Camby had two of his first three shots blocked by center Alexander Koul. That set the tone for the game.
"That hurt a couple of guys. We were expecting him to score, and off that we score layups," said UMass point guard Edgar Padilla. "A lot of us were hurt by that."
"I've been missing a lot of shots, forcing a lot of things," said Camby. ''I just have to learn to let the game come to me like I did against Virginia Tech.
"I try to get it all back at once and I was forcing shots. I think I hurt my teammates. But I'm not worrying about it that much. I'm going to pick it up, play the season out and go from there."
UMass coach John Calipari wants to guard against making too big a deal over one loss, however. "I want them to understand that 26-1 is pretty darn good," said Calipari, whose team faces league foe St. Joseph's in its last home game of the season Wednesday.
"We're still a terrific basketball team. But we have to remember what got us good: that UMass plays like we're going to the electric chair."
The Minutemen played that way against the likes of Virginia Tech and Temple. The result was sound victories. "We have to get back to being the fierce competitor we are," said Calipari. "We've gotten away from that.
"A lot of times you read in the paper how great you are, how special you are, and you forget, 'I'm good because I play so hard and I play with so much passion and I want to win in the worst way that it shows.' And we didn't do that."
Calipari said that the good news is the pressure associated with being undefeated and ranked No. 1 is gone. His players echoed those sentiments.
"We were happy with the attention and we feel we deserved it," said guard Carmelo Travieso. "But then people kept asking, 'Do you feel pressure to go undefeated? Do you feel pressure being No. 1?' We just wanted to go out and play. But everyone kept talking about it and we kept answering the same questions.
"The whole undefeated thing was perpetuated by reporters and friends and family. When you're asked every day, 'Do you feel pressure?' and you say no, and the next day someone else asks the same thing, you want to say, 'Didn't you read that we're not worried about that?' "
UMass' loss dropped it to second place in the USA Today-CNN coaches' Top 25, 59 points behind Kentucky.
Kentucky had all but one first-place vote (31), the Minutemen the other.
|George Washington Colonials||86|
|Massachusetts Minutemen (#1)||76|
|at the Mullins Center|
Geo Washington (86) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Brade 34 7-7 2-4 1-3 1 3 16 Jones 39 4-8 13-16 1-6 2 3 21 Koul 21 7-10 0-2 2-6 0 5 14 Rogers 36 3-7 7-8 1-2 8 3 15 Evans 36 4-12 5-6 0-3 2 3 14 Krivonos 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Green 11 1-5 0-0 0-2 0 1 2 Williams 4 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Mescheriakov 18 1-3 2-2 0-0 0 0 4 _______________________________________________ Totals 200 27-53 29-38 5-22 13 18 86 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.509, Ft-.763. 3-Point Goals: 3-8, .375 (Rogers 2-3, Evans 1-4, Green 0-1). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 2 (Koul 2). Turnovers: 14 (Rogers 5, Brade 4, Evans 2, Koul 2, Green). Steals: 13 (Jones 3, Rogers 3, Brade 2, Evans 2, Green, Mescheriakov, Williams). Massachusetts (76) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Dingle 34 6-6 3-7 5-8 2 0 15 Bright 25 3-13 0-2 4-7 2 5 6 Camby 36 8-21 2-2 3-8 2 3 18 E Padilla 36 3-11 4-4 1-5 3 4 11 Travieso 36 8-14 2-2 1-3 1 4 23 Clarke 16 1-3 1-2 1-1 1 1 3 Weeks 12 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 1 0 Nunez 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 3 0 Norville 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 _______________________________________________ Totals 200 29-68 12-19 15-33 12 22 76 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.426, Ft-.632. 3-Point Goals: 6-20, .300 (Bright 0-2, E Padilla 1-6, Travieso 5-10, Clarke 0-2). Team rebounds: 8. Blocked shots: 5 (Travieso 3, Bright, Camby). Turnovers: 18 (Camby 5, E Padilla 5, Bright 2, Travieso 2, Weeks 2, Clarke, Nunez). Steals: 10 (Clarke 2, E Padilla 2, Travieso 2, Bright, Camby, Dingle, Nunez). __________________________________ Geo Washington 47 39 - 86 Massachusetts 30 46 - 76 __________________________________ Technical fouls: Massachusetts 3 (Head Coach Calipari 2 (ejected), Bench). A: 9,493. Officials: Larry Lembo, Jerry Donaghy, Gene Monje.