HILADELPHIA - They have sputtered and soared and sputtered again. And now the University of Massachusetts Minutemen are facing some desperate times.
Tuesday night at St. Joseph's Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, the Minutemen lost a great deal. There was the game, a 78-63 decision to the Hawks. There was their run of five straight Atlantic 10 regular-season titles. And there was their cool -- Bruiser Flint made his first return to his alma mater as a head coach, and wound up getting kicked out of the game for the second time this year.
"I got too emotional at the end," said Flint. "They threw me out of the game, and I deserved it."
While Flint was frustrated by a whistle-happy officiating crew (which called a whopping 53 fouls, including a season-high 31 on UMass), he also sensed the urgency his team now faces. An NCAA Tournament berth, which seemed all but wrapped up a week ago, is now an elusive goal. At 17-12 (10-5) with one regular-season game remaining plus the Atlantic 10 Tournament, it is time to get busy or face three letters that would spell failure in their eyes: NIT.
Tuesday night's dethroning was also something of a coronation, however. The 23rd-ranked St. Joseph's Hawks, rapidly emerging as a darling of college basketball, clinched at least a tie for first in the A-10 East. At 20-6, 12-3, their marvelous season saw its finest hour before a jam-packed throng of 3,200.
Playing their first game as a ranked team in 24 years, the Hawks rose to the occasion with the ego-free intensity that has characterized their unlikely surge up the ladder. A team of virtual unknowns has gelled in startling fashion.
"The game was a microcosm of the season," said St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli. "We did what we had to do. It was just really good basketball. There were no ghosts out there in the air. These are good players that we have."
Point guard Rashid Bey directed the show with a superb 18-point, six-assist performance. He said he fed off the overflowing energy from the crowd.
"It was crazy," he said. "I loved it."
The Hawks also got 16 points from Terrell Myers off the bench, 12 from Dmitri Domani, 11 from Arthur Davis and 10 from an exuberant Harold Rasul.
Despite trailing from wire to wire, the Minutemen hung close for most of the game, thanks in large measure to Lari Ketner. The often dazzling, sometimes disappearing sophomore center overpowered the Hawks with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
A dunk by Ketner brought UMass within one at 54-53 with 11:58 left. The Minutemen had two possessions where a basket would have given them their first lead, but they could not deliver. That ushered in a period of arctic-like shooting that ultimately made the difference.
From Ketner's dunk until Carmelo Travieso sank a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left, the Minutemen did not hit a single field goal for more than 11 minutes. In that same span, UMass shot a miserable 7-16 from the free-throw line, twice missing the critical front end of a one-and-one.
"The ball just wouldn't go in the basket," said Travieso, who finished with 18 points (on 5-15 shooting) and game-high totals of nine rebounds and eight assists.
In the end, UMass was just beaten down. The Minutemen seemed physically and emotionally spent. Flint's ejection with 37 seconds left was the finishing touch to a dispiriting evening. On the way out, Flint congratulated Martelli, and apologized to him for detracting from St. Joe's win.
Hawk Hill was rocking. The mascot, as ever, was flapping. And one of St. Joe's favorite sons was headed to the locker room with plenty of work to do.
HILADELPHIA - When they left campus Friday, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen were flying high.
They had won 11 of 12 games to improve to 17-10. They were tied for first place in the league with a 10-3 record. The NCAA tournament seemed almost locked up. They felt optimistic about road games at Dayton and St. Joe's; after all, the Minutemen were 6-0 in the league in other teams' arenas.
When they return to campus Wednesday, the feeling will be radically different. After the debacle at Dayton Sunday and Tuesday night's 78-63 smacking at St. Joe's the world has turned upside down, so much so that Saturday's regular-season finale against Temple likely will be a battle for third place in the A-10 East. Assuming second-place Rhode Island wins its remaining two games (hosting George Washington Wednesday and playing at lowly Fordham Saturday), the Minutemen and the Owls, both 10-5 in the league, will play for third place. Both teams then would have to play opening-round games in the Atlantic 10 tournament March 5.
ST. JOE'S coach Phil Martelli said that Tuesday night's heavily charged atmosphere in the tiny Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse is too often lost in the large multi-purpose arenas where college basketball usually gets played.
"You don't see the youthful exuberance of that student section," he said. "Because there's so much television, people almost get bored by it. You can't be bored by this kind of atmosphere."
AFTER publicly criticizing the officials in the aftermath of last night's game, UMass guard Carmelo Travieso poked his head back into the interview room to apologize.
"I'm a little upset," he said. "I thought it was a really important game for our school. I don't want to take anything away from St. Joe's. They did a great job."
TYRONE Weeks, who had been Mr. Steady for UMass all year, is slumping. In each of the last two games he has been forced to sit early because of two quick fouls. Tuesday night he managed just six points and six rebounds and committed six turnovers.
TUESDAY night marked the sixth time this season in which UMass has lost despite hitting more field goals (22) than its opponent (21).
HILADELPHIA - Things are looking bleak. Very bleak. The University of Massachusetts's five-year reign as Atlantic 10 champion - and perhaps its five-year streak of NCAA tournament berths - is close to ending.
With last night's 78-63 loss to St. Joseph's, the Minutemen suffered their 12th loss of the season. Twelve losses are hard for the NCAA selection committee to overlook, regardless of power ratings or strength of schedule.
The Minutemen rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit but ran out of gas against the 23d-ranked Hawks, who improved to 20-6 overall and clinched at least a tie for the conference crown at 12-3.
UMass dropped to 17-12, 10-5, and must win Saturday against Temple to get itself back into the NCAA picture; otherwise, it must win the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Trailing, 40-33, at the half, UMass got within 3 twice over the first four minutes, the second time on a 3-pointer by Carmelo Travieso that made it 47-44.
With 13:22 left, UMass forward Tyrone Weeks scored inside to cut the deficit to 49-48.
After the teams traded 3-pointers and 2-pointers, St. Joe's botched a possession. But with a chance to give UMass the lead, Weeks was called for traveling.
After St. Joseph's scored on a pull-up by Rashid Bey to go ahead, 56-53, UMass's Edgar Padilla threw a bad pass to Travieso that landed out of bounds.
Terrell Myers sank two free throws to give the Hawks a 58-53 lead, and then two more to make it 60-53. At that stage, the Hawks were shooting 69 percent in the second half. A put-back by Harold Rasul made it 62-53, and the Hawks pulled away.
St. Joseph's fans got things going 15 minutes before the game; when UMass took the floor for the shootaround, they began to chant, ``We beat Dayton,'' a reference to the Minutemen's upset loss Sunday.
The teams, on the other hand, started slowly.
UMass failed to score on its first four possessions, finally getting a bucket on a turnaround jumper by Ketner. The Minutemen missed six of their first seven shots.
St. Joseph's put together the first run of the game, outscoring UMass, 7-2, for a 14-9 lead. But the Minutemen countered with 5 straight points to tie the game, 14-14.
With UMass's big men collecting fouls, the Hawks jumped ahead, 23-16. Then Myers brought the crowd to its feet with a trey that gave the Hawks a 26-16 lead.
When the UMass bench was hit with a technical, Bey sank both to put the Hawks ahead, 28-16. Ketner finally silenced the rally with a 5-foot turnaround jumper, and Padilla scored on a pull-up bank shot to pull the Minutemen to 28-20. Then Padilla stole the ball and passed to Travieso, whose layup to cut the deficit to 6.
But St. Joe's responded. A driving layup by Arthur Davis and a free throw made it 31-22. Padilla hit a trey, and after St. Joe's botched its next possession, Ketner scored on a hook shot to cut it to 31-27. But Dmitri Domani hit a trey to put the Hawks up, 34-27.
Travieso scored a trey with 2:23 left to get UMass within 34-30, but Davis's 3-point play put St. Joe's up by 7 again.
The last two minutes of the half were fast-paced. Ketner had a put-back dunk to cut it to 37-33, but Davis answered with a spin move and bank shot with 42 seconds left.
Davis added a free throw with nine seconds left to give the Hawks a 40-33 advantage, and Travieso fired up an airball on UMass's last shot of the half.
Before walking off with UMass trailing, 40-33, at halftime, coach Bruiser Flint slammed the ball against the backboard in disgust.
s the St. Joseph's fans rushed the floor of Alumni Memorial Field House after last night's 78-63 win over Massachusetts, the Minutemen (17-12, 10-5 Atlantic 10) made it that much harder to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
With their first national ranking since March of 1973 and campus media dubbing last night's contests as "the game of the century" the No. 23 Hawks defended their turf to sweep UMass 2-0 on the season.
UMass cut the lead to a point on a Lari Ketner drop step jam with 12 minutes to play, but then went sour. On the heels of four Minuteman turnovers and hand full of fouls, the Hawks (206, 123) sparked a 121 run keeping the lead well out of reach the rest of the way. How cold was the Maroon and White? UMass went 11:07 without a basket during the lethal St. Joe's run.
When it came down the wire, the Minutemen got sloppy missing foul shots shooting just 716 from the stripe in the second half letting their emotions get the better of them. The Hawks, on the other hand, lit it up from the charity stripe going 18-23 (78 percent.
While officials tried to keep emotions on the court in check by calling a tight game, UMass coach James "Bruiser" Flint drew two technical fouls from the bench. Before being ejected in the games final minutes, Flint congratulated the coach of his alma mater - a classic show of sportsmanship in what was a frustrating situation.
Lari Ketner proved to be the scoring work horse for UMass, harassing the Hawks inside knocking down 19 points and pullingdown seven boards before fouling out with 3:20 remaining in the contest.
Despite shooting just 5-15 from the floor (4-10 from downtown) Carmelo Travieso notched 18 points and 8 assists.
In the first half, the Minutemen mustered the game's only tie when Travieso stripped the ball sending backcourtmate Edgar Padilla in for a dunk with 11:30 to go. That was as close as UMass would get.
The Hawks just out-hustled the Minutemen when it counted - in the first set, St. Joe's held a 2-11 advantage in second chance points.
Down by five (40-35) at the half, UMass struggled to contain point guard Rashid Bey whose dribble penetration and speed abused the Minutemen for 18 points and six assists before fouling out with 1:04 in the game.
While Ketner and Travieso were the only Minutemen to put up double digits in the scoring collumn, St. Joe's boasted five (Dmitri Domani 12, Bey 18, Arthur "Yah" Davis 11, Terrell Myers 16 and Harold Rasul 10).
If the Hawks beat La Salle on Saturday, (currently at the bottome of the A-10 West) the No. 1 spot in the East is theirs.
So, now what?
Despite falling to Dayton on Sunday, it looked as though UMass had taken a step off the bubble. However, with a loss to St. Joe's, they have taken a step backwards.
Before you sharpen the pencils and dust off your calculators, racking your brain to solve the equation that earns UMass an NCAA berth, the Minutemen need a big game against Temple on Saturday in the William D. Mullins Center to close out the regular season.
As for the A-10 Tournament, though a win ensures them a spot in the pool of 64, capturing its sixth consecutive conference Championship will not be as easy as it has been in the past.
hen it was finally over, they didn't need prodding. There could have been a giant wall and a deep moat between those students in the end-zone seats and the Fieldhouse court. There was no holding them back. And nobody tried.
They poured over the wall and took over the court. After the days of anticipation before tip-off, the final hours before the ball actually was thrown into the air and the 40 minutes of in-your-face hoops, this was the moment they had waited for.
The believers knew before it ever began last night. With this St. Joseph's team, you knew months ago. It is the Hawks' year.
And this was their game to prove it before their adoring fans, who packed every available space and blocked the windows at the top of the gym. There was also an ESPN2 audience and the dream opponent, Massachusetts.
The Hawks never trailed. Never.
UMass kept trying to come back, but it fought an opponent that knew what the Minutemen have known for years. It was going to win. There was no doubt.
St. Joseph's 78, UMass 63.
As the fans covered the court, St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli went on the public-address system and thanked them for being ``the best fans in the world.''
On this night, their team played as if it's one of the best in America. It's official. St. Joe's (20-6, 12-3 Atlantic 10) is in the NCAA Tournament. Martelli won't say it, but there is no way to keep the Hawks out now.
``One of the things we had to continue to play with was the fire in our stomach and a chip on our shoulder,'' Martelli said. ``And we did it.''
The Hawks ended UMass' five-year run atop the A-10 regular-season standings because they won all the little battles. Hawks guards Rashid Bey, Arthur Davis and Terrell Myers defended to the death, controlled the tempo of the game on offense and made a zillion big plays. Inside, the Hawks survived an incredible game by UMass' Lari Ketner, who had 19 points before fouling out with 3:18 left. Five Hawks -- Bey (18 points), Myers (16), Davis (11), Dmitri Domani (12) and Harold Rasul (10) -- scored double figures. Carmelo Travieso (18 points) was UMass' only other double-figure scorer.
Every time UMass charged, the Hawks answered. If you weren't sure the Hawks were going to win, it should have been obvious in the first half when Robert Haskins missed two foul shots, Domani tipped the ball out and Bey hit a trey. Or when Bey, who was ill with the flu and missed practice Monday, stripped the ball, roared the other way, flung the ball behind his back with such flair that Edgar Padilla fell to the floor. Padilla got up and fouled Bey, who hit two.
When Duval Simmonds came out of nowhere to block Padilla's shot in the lane, Bey, who played the entire game with a half smile as if immune from the pressure and emotion, calmly directed Myers on a flair cut. When Myers swished the trey to give the Hawks a 26-16 lead, you could have heard the noise in Center City.
A subsequent technical on the UMass bench upped the lead to a dozen, but the Minutemen weren't done. UMass closed quickly, but the Hawks stayed clear.
As the teams walked off the floor at the half with St. Joe's leading, 40-33, UMass coach Bruiser Flint collared referee Donnee Gray and had a very animated chat. Martelli was not at all pleased, waving his hand in disgust at the scene and wondering why the other refs didn't stop the conversation.
Flint and Martelli are good friends, which tells you just how serious both men were about the game. Maybe Flint was upset his team was called for 10 of 11 fouls during a long first-half stretch. Maybe Martelli was upset Gray was listening to Flint.
It got worse for Bruiser, much worse. His team, though, got better. Then, it too got worse. UMass (17-12, 10-5) hit nine of its first 11 second-half shots. Three times, it got within one point. It had two chances to lead. Never happened.
With St. Joe's leading, just 54-53, Bey hit a jumper, Myers made four free throws and Rasul dropped in two layups, the second on a spectacular feed from Bey. UMass was out of answers. The students started to get in their crouches, waiting for the starter's pistol.
The Hawks would not let UMass make a basket. For 11 incredible minutes, as the crowd counted them down one by one, UMass could not make a hoop. If one ever were going to compile a highlight reel featuring defense, this would be the one. UMass missed 10 straight shots, committed six turnovers. The Minutemen got to the foul line 16 times, but converted just seven. Their foul touble got worse by the minute. They were done.
``The crowd was so loud that even though they were rooting for you, they, like, distracted you,'' Davis said.
By the end, Flint was so distracted, he couldn't watch. He got himself tossed with 31 seconds to go, walked past the Hawks bench on the way to the locker room and congratulated their players and coaches.
``He apologized,'' Martelli said. ``He said that he was sorry, that he didn't mean to take away from our players' performance.''
Flint was upset because the Hawks were 30-for-42 from the line and his team was in constant foul trouble. The refs also seemed to be caught in the vortex, and made more than a few strange calls. But even Flint had to know the better team won.
``I'm just proud of St. Joe's, proud to be an alum,'' Flint said later. ``They've played great this year. They deserve to be at the top of the league.''
When the Hawks won at the Mullins Center on Jan, 5, Myers said it was the greatest win of his career. On Senior Night, the last home game for him, Domani, Nemanja Petrovic and Bob Del Vescovo, this was right up there.
``I don't know what I felt when I was out there,'' Myers said, after the Hawks completed their first sweep of UMass since 1989. ``I wanted to cry, but then I was so happy. I don't know what I was feeling. I was just glad to beat them -- again. Because they'd been beating on us for years. Getting beat like that can wear on you emotionally.''
And when you win as this St. Joe's team has won, there is only one emotion -- joy.
The Hawks have won 17 of 20. They have clinched a tie for the A-10 East. They have a bye in the A-10 Tournament. They have 20 wins for the first time in 11 years. They are in the field of 64. The celebration continues.
|St. Joseph's Hawks (#23)||78|
|at St. Joseph's|
MASSACHUSETTS fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Weeks 27 2-7 2-4 4-6 1 4 6 Clarke 32 3-6 1-2 2-3 1 4 8 Ketner 33 8-11 3-4 1-7 0 5 19 Padilla 40 3-10 2-5 0-3 7 4 9 Travieso 40 5-15 4-6 3-9 8 4 18 Smith 7 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 2 0 Babul 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Basit 2 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 1 0 Norville 18 1-5 1-2 0-2 1 4 3 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-54 13-23 10-32 18 28 63 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.407, FT-.565. 3-Point Goals: 6-18, .333 (Clarke 1-2, Padilla 1-6, Travieso 4-10). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 2 (Travieso, Ketner). Turnovers: 12 (Weeks 6, Padilla 4, Clarke, Smith). Steals: 8 (Padilla 2, Travieso 2, Weeks 2, Clarke, Norville). ST JOSEPHS PA fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Simmonds 23 0-4 3-4 1-4 1 2 3 Domani 25 2-6 6-6 2-2 1 4 12 Petrovic 20 3-4 2-6 5-8 0 3 8 Bey 37 5-12 6-6 0-3 6 5 18 Davis 31 4-11 3-7 1-3 1 3 11 Mazzio 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Myers 24 3-10 8-8 1-5 1 1 16 Gallagher 1 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Del Vescovo 1 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Rasul 20 4-5 2-3 3-6 2 0 10 Haskins 17 0-1 0-2 0-0 0 4 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-54 30-42 13-32 12 22 78 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.389, FT-.714. 3-Point Goals: 6-23, .261 (Simmonds 0-4, Domani 2-4, Bey 2-4, Davis 0-3, Myers 2-6, Del Vescovo 0-1, Haskins 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 2 (Simmonds 2). Turnovers: 10 (Petrovic 4, Bey 3, Domani 2, Davis). Steals: 3 (Bey 2, Myers). __________________________________ Massachusetts 33 30 - 63 St Josephs Pa 40 38 - 78 __________________________________ Technical fouls: Massachusetts 3 (Team 3). A: 3,200. Officials: Donnie Gray, Mark Distaola, Mike Kitts.