MHERST -- On either end of last night's game against Fordham, University of Massachusetts fans had plenty to cheer about.
At the beginning, there was UMass' all-cylinder blast from the opening tip. The Minutemen sank all manner of shots on one end, rejected all manner on the other end and rebounded whatever was left. Before the sweat even started to flow UMass was up, 21-4.
Then came the long middle section of the game when human nature took its toll. The Minutemen, not pressed to perform against a vastly inferior squad, began a lengthy coast. Fans caught up with friends, sampled Mullins Center cuisine, worked on their yawning techniques.
Finally at the end, the Mullins faithful were rewarded with some more excitement. Their pleas for walk-on Ross Burns were answered; the guard from Greenfield with the buzz cut and the red soles on his black Nikes had his one shot rejected. Fellow walk-on Andy Maclay, the punter on the football team, launched one shot -- it was an airball, but he did have good hang time on it, managing to pin the Rams deep in their own territory. And then in the show-stopping moment, reserve center Inus Norville, a ferocious worker never to be confused with Nuryev, sank a 3-pointer.
The starters on the UMass bench guffawed. The fans went wild. Everyone went home happy.
The end result was a 75-58 victory over the completely overmatched Rams.
"Our kids played hard, and there was nothing else we could do," said Fordham coach Nick Macarchuk. "They're just a lot better than us."
UMass proved the point in particular in the inside game. Tyrone Weeks matched his career-high with 22 points, netting them in a mere 24 minutes. ("He was kind of like Hakeem Olajuwon out there," said teammate Charlton Clarke.) And Lari Ketner had his second straight dominant performance with 15 points and a Mullins Center record 16 rebounds.
"Right now my confidence is pretty high," Ketner said. "I don't come out with any set plan. I just go out there and play hard."
"Lari's come a long way," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. "The kid has the potential to do that. He just has to do it on a more consistent basis."
Fordham, which dropped its sixth straight and 11th out of 12, was led by Maurice Curtis' 17 points. The Rams are now 6-17, 1-12.
UMass is 17-10, tied for first with St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 East with a 10-3 record. That's the end of the easy, though. The Minutemen close the season with three stiff A-10 challenges: Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dayton (10-3 at home), Tuesday at St. Joseph's and the regular season finale March 1 at home against Temple.
"We know what we're in for," said Weeks.
MHERST - There were a few blunders and breakdowns, some lazy passes, several ill-advised shots and momentary lulls in concentration and intensity. But you can't blame the University of Massachusetts for such play. How can you generate 40 minutes of nonstop aggression and precision when you're up by 22 points during a half-hearted effort?
You can't blame Fordham, either. The Rams clawed, scrapped and hustled for most of last night's Atlantic 10 contest. Yet their talent level hardly compares to their work ethic.
Until Fordham improves on personnel, its future contests against UMass will probably resemble last night's game, a 75-58 Minuteman rout that was all but over at halftime.
Tyrone Weeks scored a game-high 22 points, and teammate Lari Ketner tallied 15 points and a Mullins Center record 16 rebounds to lead UMass (17-10). The Minutemen also improved to 10-3 in the Atlantic 10, marking the eighth consecutive season they have won at least 10 conference games.
UMass entered the game concerned about poor play at home. But after the first 10 minutes - when the Minutemen led, 24-8 - it was apparent that UMass would notch the victory. UMass led by as many as 19 points in the first half, allowed Fordham to cut the lead to 11 with sloppy play but was cruising by 13 at halftime, 38-25.
With 11:50 left in the second half, UMass guard Edgar Padilla (12 points, 4 assists) hit a 3-point basket that put the Minutemen ahead, 58-36. Fordham cut the lead to 14, but at no point did the win appear in jeopardy.
That's why UMass coach Bruiser Flint didn't seem upset when freshman center Ajmal Basit dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds three times. Or when Padilla pulled up behind the 3-point arc and fired up an airball that went untouched before going out of bounds. Or when senior center Inus Norville drained the second trey of his career with :55 left, then got the ball back moments later and stepped behind the arc for another attempt, missing badly.
``When we went up by 21, we started to showtime against them, and then they got it down to 13 [actually 14],'' said Ketner. ``Coach talked to us, because he didn't want us to overlook them or anything. This is one of the games he was scared of.''
But Flint didn't find much fault with his team's effort despite the lulls. He seemed more pleased that he was able to clear his bench with considerable time on the clock.
``We have a young team; with an older team, I think you're disappointed when they don't step it up,'' said Flint. ``But young guys don't know. Then they start thinking, `Oh, we're up 15.' Then they look at the scoreboard and see how many points they have. Then it's time to do their thing. But we talked about that that's one of the things we have to learn to do, put people away.
``We set a couple of goals we wanted to do; we wanted to hold them under 35 percent shooting, which we did. I won't talk about the other goals because we didn't reach them.''
Maurice Curtis had 17 points for the Rams (6-17, 1-12), who lost to the Minutemen by 17 points or more for the fifth consecutive time. ``We played hard and there's nothing else we could do,'' Fordham coach Nick Macarchuk said. ``They're a lot better than we are.''
f it was a fight, they would have stopped it.
The Massachusetts men's basketball team knocked out Fordham early last night, surging out to a 21-4 lead seven minutes into the game and cruising past the overmatched Rams, 75-58, last night at the William D. Mullins Center.
The Minutemen improved to 17-10, 10-3 in the A-10 with the win, and have now won six straight, a season high.
UMass never trailed against the Rams, which have now gone 3-25 in their first two years of A-10 play. Senior center Tyrone Weeks set the tone early, scoring six points in the first two minutes, and 3-pointers from Carmelo Travieso, Edgar Padilla and Charlton Clarke gave the Minutemen a 17-4 lead four minutes into the game. Fordham never came within 11 points after that.
"The difference for us is when we play the upper echelon teams [in the AŠ10]," Fordham coach Nick Macarchuk said. "We have a difficult time at the start of the game, because the teams that are really good try to get after us at the beginning of the game. They just came out early in the game and blitzed us."
Fordham (6-17, 1-12 A-10) had no answer for the inside combination of Weeks and sophomore center Lari Ketner. Ketner set a Mullins Center record with 16 rebounds, to go along with 15 points and five blocks, and Weeks tied a career high set against Virginia early in the year with 22 points, and nine rebounds.
Fordham made a series of brief runs, but never really threatened UMass. The Rams got to within 11, 36-25, at halftime by going on an 8-0 run to close out the half. Senior point guard Padilla fouled Fordham's Chris DiMascio behind the three-point line with :35 seconds left, and DiMascio converted on all three. But any Ram glimmer of hope was squashed 19 seconds into the second half, courtesy of a vicious Ketner block, one of five for the 6-foot-10 Philadelphia native. UMass regained it's focus, and a 22-9 run by the Minutemen gave them a 58-36 lead by the middle of the second half.
"We wanted to jump on these guys like we did in New York," Ketner said.
UMass beat the Rams 75-54 in Fordham on Feb. 3 by jumping out to a 40-26 halftime lead. "Once we got up by 21, we started show-timing, and they got it back to 13," Ketner said. "Coach [Flint] talked to us because he didn't want us to overlook them. This is one of the teams he's scared off."
According to Ketner, the starting five for UMass wanted to get out to a big lead so some of the less utilized Minutemen could see minutes. Freshman Winston Smith pulled down three minutes in 16 minutes of playing time, and Mike Babul saw five minutes of action late in the first half.
In a moment that seemed to epitomize the evening for the Rams, junior center Inus Norville drained only his second career three pointer with :55 seconds left. Norville, who's other three came incidentally enough against Fordham last year, launched a bomb from the right side and hit nothing but net, sending the 9,493 in the Mullins Center into a loud roar. Norville then tried another three the next time down the court, but it hit the rim.
"I just jumped off the bench and threw my hands up, because I knew it was good," Weeks said. Norville finished with five points and two rebounds.
Padilla scored 12 points and dished out four assists, and backcourt mate Travieso added nine for the Minutemen. Sophomore guard Charlton Clarke rung up eight points and six assists, and Ajmal Basit added three points and three rebounds.
|at the Mullins Center|
FORDHAM fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Berrien 34 4-12 1-2 4-9 3 0 9 Curtis 31 7-15 3-4 1-4 1 4 17 Ziskunov 18 0-2 0-0 0-1 0 4 0 Carroll 28 2-10 4-4 1-2 1 1 9 Harmatuk 27 2-6 0-0 0-3 5 3 5 Kissane 4 0-0 0-1 0-1 0 1 0 Mack 16 2-5 3-4 1-2 0 4 7 Dimasco 19 2-5 3-3 0-1 2 1 9 Pugh 23 1-4 0-0 0-3 1 2 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 20-59 14-18 7-26 13 20 58 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.339, FT-.778. 3-Point Goals: 4-14, .286 (Berrien 0-2, Carroll 1-4, Harmatuk 1-3, Dimasco 2-5). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 2 (Ziskunov, Harmatuk). Turnovers: 9 (Berrien 4, Harmatuk 3, Pugh). Steals: 6 (Dimasco 2, Berrien, Carroll, Curtis, Harmatuk). MASSACHUSETTS fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Clarke 31 2-4 2-4 0-2 6 0 8 Weeks 24 9-13 4-6 2-9 2 4 22 Ketner 27 4-6 7-9 3-16 0 2 15 Padilla 33 4-7 0-0 0-1 4 3 12 Travieso 27 3-8 2-2 0-1 4 2 9 Burns 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 Maclay 1 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Smith 16 0-1 1-2 2-3 1 1 1 Kirkland 4 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Babul 7 0-1 0-1 0-0 1 0 0 Basit 15 0-2 3-4 1-3 0 0 3 Norville 13 2-4 0-0 0-2 1 3 5 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 24-49 19-28 8-37 20 15 75 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.490, FT-.679. 3-Point Goals: 8-16, .500 (Clarke 2-2, Padilla 4-7, Travieso 1-5, Norville 1-2). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 5 (Ketner 5). Turnovers: 15 (Basit 5, Travieso 4, Ketner 2, Norville 2, Smith 2). Steals: 5 (Babul, Clarke, Kirkland, Padilla, Travieso). __________________________________ Fordham 25 33 - 58 Massachusetts 38 37 - 75 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 9,493. Officials: John Cahill, Leroy Hendricks, Fran Connolly.