fter allowing No. 16 Fresno State to score 102 points in the William D. Mullins Center Tuesday night, the Massachusetts men's basketball team held Drexel (4-2) to fewer than 50 in last night's 69-48 win.
The rebound falls just out of Edgar Padilla's reach.
Meanwhile, the Dragons were on fire scorching UMass with a 14-4 lead 8:26 into the first frame. Drexel held UMass to just two points in the first eight minutes of play.
For the Dragons, forward Jeff Myers knocked in 12 points to lead the squad, while guard Bryant Coursey added 11 of his own.
"We just weren't aggressive," Massachusetts coach James "Bruiser" Flint said, "They double teamed us, we didn't react well and took some bad shots. Drexel made some baskets on us." With 2:42 remaining in the half, the Minutemen attacked Drexel with an 18-2 run which was capped off by a Carmelo Travieso jumper to give UMass its first lead of the game 20-18.
After Tuesday's loss, Massachusetts coach James "Bruiser" Flint said tonight he would be looking for players that could come out and play with intensity. He found such a player in junior Inus Norville (five rebounds, two points, one block) who pounded the glass, dove for lose balls, and knocked down one of his most memorable buckets with 1:41 to go in the first.
After missing a second-chance shot, Norville drove the lane and while falling out of bounds tossed back a no-look, over the shoulder ball off the glass putting UMass back 24-21. "I'll tell you one person who came in and turned the tempo of the game around, that was Inus Norville," Flint said. "He got a couple blocks, he got some rebounds and he got us going when we were down early."
Another emotional leader for the Minutemen came from freshman forward Ajmal Basit. While Basit's enthusiasm got him in a little hot water when he drew a technical foul just over three minutes into the game, he led UMass in board crashing, pulling down 11 rebounds. In the final seconds of the half, sophomore Charlton Clarke drove the lane for two on a set play from Padilla sending the Minutemen into the locker room with a 27-21 advantage. This was the first time UMass held the lead at the half since its win over Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. UMass lit it up in the second half, opening it up with a 15-0 run after Drexel's Jeff Myers knocked down a 3-pointer 15 seconds in.
Padilla, who has struggled with shooting outside the arc making just three of his last 25, knocked down a pair of three-balls in 35 seconds. The second came when Travieso penetrated inside, dishing it in mid-air to Padilla who sunk the trey, giving UMass a 42-24 lead. With 11:24 remaining in the game, Padilla went down and suffered a contusion to his lower leg when a Drexel player fell on him under the basket.
From then on the Dragons could not narrow the lead any closer then 10 as the Minutemen coasted on to win.
Once again, despite the fact that Tyrone Weeks is still benched with an ankle injury, it was UMass' impressive inside game that propelled them to victory, out-scoring Drexel 40-27 in the paint. With slashing penetration, Clarke led the squad with 17 points, while Ketner knocked down 13 points of his own.
"That's all I ask from my team, play hard and play with some intensity," Flint said. "If we do, we have an opportunity to win. That's all we want to do right now. We're young, we're inexperienced but we can make up for that by playing hard and playing with intensity. The other stuff comes with experience and playing together."
On Saturday, UMass travels south to face No. 2 Wake Forest.
MHERST -- Masterpiece Theater it wasn't. But any kind of win is a good win at the University of Massachusetts these days. And the Minutemen will gladly take Thursday night's 69-48 victory over Drexel, thank you very much.
"Any time you win you have some satisfaction," said head coach Bruiser Flint. "But we still have a long, long, long way to go."
The 3-4 Minutemen overcame a positively comatose start (four points in the first 10 minutes) with an aggressive display of defense and rebounding. Though there was only one stretch of fluidity on the offensive end -- a golden oldie of two and one-half minutes at the beginning of the second half -- UMass did summon a level of effort that had Flint looking ahead.
"We're young and we're very inexperienced," Flint said, "but you can make up for that by playing with a lot of intensity."
UMass was led by Charlton Clarke, who slashed his way to the hoop for a game-high 17 points. Lari Ketner had 13 points and five blocks in a foul-shortened 23-minute outing. Carmelo Travieso threw in 11.
For Drexel, which was limited to a paltry 27-percent shooting, Jeff Myers paced the scoring with 12 points.
"If there was ever a time for a Drexel University to beat UMass, tonight was the night," said a disappointed Dragon coach Bill Herrion. "We let a great chance slip through our fingers."
In the early going there were a couple of surprises in store for the Mullins Center faithful. First was an arena that was little more than half filled at tipoff. Last year's hottest ticket in town has clearly become expendable in the wake of recent struggles. By late in the first half the crowd had filled to somewhere in the 7,500-8,000 range, though the announced attendance was 9,493 (capacity). UMass officials say that all tickets were sold.
The second surprise was the benching of Edgar Padilla. The senior guard had started 58 consecutive games (discounting senior night contests and one game where he was injured). Clarke started in Padilla's place. "He didn't start because the coach didn't want him to start," said Flint. "But I thought he played very well."
Most surprising of all was the 14-2 start that Drexel laid on the Minutemen. Suddenly the gruesome prospect of a 2-5 record heading into Saturday's game at No. 2 Wake Forest was dangled before the Minutemen, some of whom were playing in the Final Four just eight and one-half months earlier.
UMass fought back to take a 27-21 halftme lead with a decent surge before the break. And after Drexel opened the second half with a 3-pointer by Myers, the Minutemen busted things open with their finest two and one-half minutes of basketball this year. One gorgeous play typified the stretch: a thunderous block by Ketner leading to an aggressive penetrating drive by Padilla, who then hooked the ball back to Travieso behind the arc for a 3-pointer. Padilla (9 points, 8 assists, just one turnover) also hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the stretch, briefly high-stepping downcourt afterward in a rare display of joy from the most intense, self-critical of Minutemen.
That, though, was short-lived. With 11:24 left and UMass up by 17, Padilla went down in an awkward heap. He limped off the court, tried to play again minutes later but left in obvious pain. The injury was termed a contusion to his lower leg.
After Padilla went down, Drexel pulled within nine, but could get no closer. The Dragons fall to 3-2 on the season.
The Minutemen now turn their attention to Saturday night's game at Wake Forest.
|at the Mullins Center|
1st 2nd TOTAL Drexel 21 27 48 Massachusetts 27 42 69