Coverage from:
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
The Boston Globe


UMass hits bottom with loss
By Marty Dobrow, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff, 1/12/97

AMHERST -- In the excavation known as the 1996-97 season, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen might have hit rock bottom yesterday. Can it get any worse than this?

The 63-47 loss to a middling Virginia Tech team had the Minutemen feeling bewildered.

"Our practices the last two weeks have been incredible -- the energy, the effort,'' said coach Bruiser Flint. "But we start to get on our own little islands come game time."

Which island exactly? Well, for most of yesterday, the Minutemen's play bumbled with the ineptitude of Gilligan. And with a 6-9 record a return to the Final Four (as predicted by all players in the media guide), or even to the NCAA Tournament for that matter, is beginning to look like Fantasy Island.

They started out auspiciously by hitting their first six shots and opening up a 13-7 lead at the first TV timeout with 15:55 left in the first half. From there, things came apart. By halftime, Virginia Tech (7-6) had a 29-21 lead. In the second half, the margin mushroomed to as many as 20 points. Really it was never close.

"As a team we have to want it more," said Lari Ketner. "It seems like everybody is doing their own thing."

Ketner was the one bright spot on a gloomy afternoon. The sophomore center scored a game-high 18 points on 9-12 shooting, playing with a forceful confidence throughout.

Virginia Tech was led by Ace Custis, who flashed several facets of his game. The power forward scored 16 points, surprising UMass with 4-4 shooting from 3-point land. He also yanked down a game-high 10 rebounds, and tied for game-high totals in both assists (5) and steals (4).

"Our chemistry was good," said coach Bill Foster. "Every time we subbed we seemed to get a little better."

That stood in sharp contrast to UMass. "Chemistry is important and we don't have good chemistry right now," said Flint. "We talked about the difference between having a fist and having five fingers. Right now we've got five fingers."

UMass next plays Tuesday at St. Bonaventure.


UMass recovery grinds to a halt
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/13/97

AMHERST - When they scored on their first six possessions yesterday to take a 6-point lead, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen appeared primed to finally turn their woeful season around. Undoubtedly, they made believers of the partisan UMass crowd, too, for the fans were still boisterous moments later when the Minutemen blundered and erred and lost their lead, making it clear their fast start was nothing to get excited about.

These are tough times for the winningest program in college basketball the past three seasons. After a promising start yesterday, UMass went nearly seven minutes without scoring. It gave up consecutive 3-point baskets to a power forward over the last 55 seconds of the first half and trailed by 8 at halftime. The second half was even worse; Virginia Tech outhustled and outrebounded UMass, led by as many as 20 points and posted a 63-47 Atlantic 10 rout.

UMass dropped to 6-9 overall, 1-2 in the conference. The 47 points marked its lowest output ever at the Mullins Center, UMass' home since Feb. 4, 1993, and its worst overall at home since a 39-point effort against St. Bonaventure Jan. 29, 1987. Virginia Tech improved to 7-6, 2-2. Power forward Ace Custis led Tech with 16 points and was 4 for 4 on 3s.

The loss was somewhat surprising to the Minutemen, who had shown signs of improvement during their last outing, a win at La Salle. But yesterday the Minutemen reverted to the type of play that has made this season so sluggish: 39 percent shooting from the floor.

It didn't look that way in the beginning. UMass guard Carmelo Travieso scored the game's first 5 points, and teammate Lari Ketner had three low-post buckets for a 13-7 lead with 16:18 left in the first half. Then UMass failed to score on its next eight possessions.

"We didn't play together as a team [after the first 3:42]," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint, who arrived for the postgame news conference an hour after the game, having issued another lengthy lecture to his team.

"I said today in the locker room that I don't have many more speeches. I don't," said Flint. "I told them, 'At some point in time, this is your team and you guys have to start assessing the problem on the team, not the coaching staff.'"

Flint's feeling is shared by his players, who believe their problems have been caused by a lack of cohesiveness at game time.

"I really don't know what is going on. In practices, we look like a team that is ranked," said Ketner, who tied a career high with 18 points. "I don't know why we can't carry what we do in practice to the game. [Yesterday] we just stopped listening, basically."

With 11:40 left in the contest, the Minutemen blew their best opportunity to regain momentum. Trailing, 46-30, UMass missed two shots, but point guard Edgar Padilla harassed Virginia Tech guard Troy Manns and stole the ball. That led to a bucket by forward Tyrone Weeks, who was fouled. He missed the free throw, but UMass forward Winston Smith forced a jump ball. The possession arrow gave UMass the ball, and Weeks scored again, pulling the Minutemen within 12 (46-34) with 10:38 left.

But just as the crowd noise neared a deafening level, Virginia Tech regrouped and outscored UMass, 15-7, for a 61-41 lead with 5:45 left. UMass had no surges left.


Virginia Tech Hokies 63
Massachusetts Minutemen 47
at the Mullins Center

VIRGINIA TECH (63)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Custis          37  6-15   0-1  4-10  5  1   16
Browne          19   4-5   0-0   1-5  0  0    8
Matthews        29  5-10   3-6   3-5  0  3   13
J Jackson       23   1-5   0-0   0-0  0  0    3
T Manns         30   3-6   0-0   1-4  5  1    6
D Jackson       20   4-7   2-3   0-0  2  1   12
Guillory        15   0-1   0-0   0-1  4  0    0
Ray             13   0-2   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
Wheeler         11   2-2   1-2   0-0  1  2    5
Tor              3   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 25-53  6-12  9-25 17  9   63
_______________________________________________
Percentages: FG-.472, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals:
7-15, .467 (Custis 4-4, Matthews 0-1, J Jackson
1-2, T Manns 0-1, D Jackson 2-5, Guillory 0-1,
Ray 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 1 (J
Jackson). Turnovers: 10 (Custis 3, Matthews 2, T
Manns 2, Guillory, Ray, Tor). Steals: 9 (Custis
4, D Jackson 2, Ray 2, T Manns).


MASSACHUSETTS (47)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Smith           24   1-4   0-0   4-6  3  1    2
Weeks           24   4-5   0-1   1-5  0  2    8
Ketner          30  9-12   0-0   3-7  2  2   18
Clarke          30   2-6   0-0   0-3  3  0    4
Travieso        35  4-16   0-0   1-2  3  0   10
Padilla         23   1-7   0-0   0-1  2  4    3
Kirkland        14   1-2   0-0   2-2  1  1    2
Babul            1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Basit            6   0-3   0-0   2-3  0  2    0
Norville        13   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 22-56   0-1 13-29 14 12   47
_______________________________________________
Percentages: FG-.393, FT-.000. 3-Point Goals:
3-17, .176 (Clarke 0-1, Travieso 2-12, Padilla
1-4). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 4 (Weeks
2, Ketner, Travieso). Turnovers: 17 (Ketner 5,
Basit 2, Kirkland 2, Norville 2, Travieso 2,
Clarke, Padilla, Smith, Weeks). Steals: 6
(Padilla 4, Clarke, Travieso).

__________________________________
Virginia Tech      29   34  -   63
Massachusetts      21   26  -   47
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 9,493. Officials:
James Burr, Tom Lopes, Ted Valentine.

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