MHERST - In the game where the University of Massachusetts Minutemen were plunged into darkness, maybe just maybe, they found the light.
Completing the final 7:32 of a game suspended on Saturday night because of a power outage at the Mullins Center, UMass looked impressive on Sunday afternoon, rolling to a 90-72 victory over Wyoming. The win put the brakes on a three-game losing streak and improved the Minutemen's record to 2-3.
"The guys played hard, and we did some good things," said head coach Bruiser Flint. "Like I said before, this whole year's about improvement. We've taken some hard losses, but I think we've gotten better. As long as we continue that, I think we'll be fine come February and March, which is our goal."
The first home game in Flint's career bore an eerie resemblance to the first game in the career of his predecessor. Back in 1988, John Calipari's debut was marked by a half-hour delay in the first half of a game against Southern Connecticut when the scoreboard at the Curry Hicks Cage blew a fuse and started smoking. Clearly, under Flint, UMass basketball seems destined to remain the theatre of the absurd that it has always been.
On Saturday night, with UMass leading 69-53 and 7:32 remaining, the Mullins Center lost electricity from the heavy snows that downed trees and power lines throughout the region. The entire campus was plunged into darkness. A well-behaved crowd of more than 8,000 fans waited for a backup generator to restore the power, while the pep band played on, cheerleaders boogied and teams retreated gingerly to locker rooms. Ushers with flashlights, sportswriters with battery-driven laptop computers and fans with butane lighters (ultimately emitting a burnt, electronic smell) provided the only illumination. The athletic administrators of the two schools met hastily and decided to resume the game at noon on Sunday.
"I'm like, man, I'm up 14, I'm maybe going to finally get one (a win), my team's playing well and the lights go out on me," Flint said on Sunday. "I can't win for losing."
When the game picked up Sunday before just a few hundred fans, UMass had Noon Lunacy instead of Midnight Madness. Charlton Clarke, fouled the night before, stepped to the free-throw line to shoot two foul shots when Wyoming coach Joby Wright inexplicably called a 20-second timeout.
"I thought I got iced enough," said Clarke. "It's cold outside. Then I come here and they try to ice me again."
It didn't work. Clarke hit both free throws, and play was stopped again for a TV timeout -- even though the continuation of the game was not televised. Channel 40 had televised the Saturday night portion of the contest.
Once the kinks were worked out, UMass put together an impressive finish to the game. While Wyoming (1-3) does not exactly represent the iron of the schedule, the Minutemen nevertheless filled the road with good signs.
Clarke had by far his best game in a UMass uniform, scoring a team-high 22 points. On the advice of the coaching staff he foresook his ailing perimeter game for an aggressive, take-the-ball-to-the-hole style. The results were encouraging as he got to the free-throw line 16 times (hitting 12).
First-year big men Lari Ketner and Ajmal Basit continued the strong play they launched in last week's loss to Georgetown. Ketner, earning his first start, scored 15 points and blocked four shots. Basit, quickly becoming a crowd favorite with his whirlwind energy, scored 11. They needed to play a lot because of the absence of Tyrone Weeks, who missed his second straight game with a sore ankle. (Weeks' status for Tuesday night's game against Fresno State is uncertain.)
The guard play of Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso returned to form. Padilla, who had slumped badly in the first four games, was outstanding. He hit 7 of 10 shots for 18 points, dished out eight assists and pocketed five steals. Most important, he found the mix of aggressiveness and control that made him such a standout last year.
"In the second half, Edgar started to play like Edgar," Flint said.
Travieso had 14 points, five assists and no turnovers before fouling out.
LaDrell Whitehead of the Cowboys led all scorers with 25 points.
In the first half on Saturday night, UMass struggled. The Minutemen committed fouls as if they were getting a commission on every whistle. They were often overaggressive on defense, occasionally leading to easy baskets for Wyoming. The result was a surprising 39-36 Cowboy lead at intermission.
In the second half, UMass put together a burst of inspired play, seizing control of the game -- until, of course, other forces intervened. Sunday, though, the Minutemen picked right up, handing Flint his first win over a Div. 1 team.
The Minutemen will try to keep the lights shining on Tuesday night when they play host to nationally ranked Fresno State.
|at the Mullins Center|
WYOMING (72) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Coleman 40 5-11 1-1 5-14 0 4 13 Allen 14 1-3 5-6 1-1 0 5 7 Haslam 31 3-5 1-4 3-6 3 4 7 Whitehead 38 5-15 13-14 1-4 4 4 25 Sawyer 10 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 5 0 Ragin 29 4-5 1-2 3-6 0 4 10 Roberts 31 3-13 4-5 0-3 0 2 10 French 7 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-54 25-32 13-34 7 29 72 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.389, FT-.781. 3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Coleman 2-3, Whitehead 2-9, Ragin 1-1, Roberts 0-4, French 0-1). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 2 (Coleman 2). Turnovers: 17 (Whitehead 6, Coleman 5, Sawyer 3, Allen, French, Roberts). Steals: 2 (Haslam, Whitehead). MASSACHUSETTS (90) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Babul 19 1-3 1-1 3-4 1 5 3 Basit 20 4-5 3-6 3-4 0 2 11 Ketner 24 7-13 1-6 2-4 1 4 15 Padilla 28 7-10 2-2 0-4 8 4 18 Travieso 24 6-13 0-0 1-3 5 5 14 Clarke 27 5-11 12-16 1-1 4 2 22 Burns 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Maclay 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Smith 20 0-4 1-2 1-1 0 0 1 Kirkland 19 1-1 0-0 1-5 0 0 2 Norville 17 1-1 2-4 2-3 0 4 4 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 32-61 22-37 14-29 19 26 90 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.525, FT-.595. 3-Point Goals: 4-9, .444 (Padilla 2-4, Travieso 2-4, Clarke 0-1). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 9 (Ketner 4, Babul 2, Norville 2, Basit). Turnovers: 5 (Padilla 3, Ketner, Smith). Steals: 10 (Padilla 5, Clarke 2, Babul, Basit, Kirkland). __________________________________ Wyoming 39 33 - 72 Massachusetts 36 54 - 90 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 9,493. Officials: Mark Distaola, Tom Corbin, Rich San Fillipo.