HILADELPHIA - Massachusetts won five Atlantic-10 titles in a row until last season, when St. Joseph's took the crown. The Hawks, who reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, were 10-1 at Alumni Field House during last season's storybook campaign, and had gone 18-3 there in coach Phil Martelli's three seasons.
So how did the Minutemen, coming off losses to Connecticut and Cincinnati, open their conference season yesterday before a raucous Alumni sellout crowd of 3,200?
With a 72-66 decision over St. Joseph's, of course, but it wasn't easy.
The Minutemen (7-5, 1-0) were ahead by 12 points early in the second half, but the Hawks (4-4, 0-1) charged back, getting within 44-42 on a Harold Rasul 8-footer with 13:15 remaining. But UMass scored 8 points in a row during a 10-2 run and got it back up to 14 points, 58-44, on two foul shots by Charlton Clarke with 7:25 left. The Minutemen also played sturdy defense, St. Joseph's missing seven of eight field goal attempts late, to secure the victory.
Sophomore guard Monty Mack was impressive, scoring a career-high 22 points. He was 8 for 15 from the floor, including 5 of 6 on 3-pointers. He had 18 points the first half, going 7 of 10 from the field and 4 of 5 on trifectas.
``I wanted to play the way coach wanted me to,'' Mack said. ``I just tried to run the floor and come off screens and penetrate and kick.''
UMass, connecting on 44.8 percent of its shots (26 of 58), had four players in double figures. Clarke added 12 points, with Tyrone Weeks and Lari Ketner each adding 10, mostly from the inside. Weeks, a senior, also pulled in eight rebounds. He has 701 for his career, becoming the 14th UMass player to reach that figure.
In addition, UMass only had five turnovers, a season low.
UMass' man-to-man defense kept St. Joseph's missing. The Hawks hit on just 42 percent (21 of 50) of their shots, with Rob Haskin leading four players in double figures with 19 points.
``One of the big things we do is guard you so you're not able to come down and score,'' said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. ``We'll hold you down. We play a good half-court defense. We played the D. That's what [St. Joseph's coach] Phil Martelli and I were discussing during the morning, that we stay in your face. ``I thought we played at the level we talked about during the week, of stopping the unforced turnovers, getting the stupid fouls, and not rebounding [both teams had 36, UMass scoring 10 points off nine offensive rebounds in the first half]. We were keeping teams in games, so we worked our butts off.''
One of the best defensive jobs was by UMass freshman Jonathan DePina on senior All-American candidate Rashid Bey, who was wearing a facemask because of a broken nose. Bey was a miserable 6 for 16 from the field (2 for 10 on 3-pointers) while handing out a mere four assists. ``DePina did a great job and I thought Bey was one of the best in the league last year and he's one of the best two or three this season,'' Flint said.
UMass grabbed an 18-17 lead on a 3-pointer by Mack with 7:55 remaining in the first half. The Minutemen got it to 26-19 on a tap-in by Mike Babul with 4:30 remaining. They held a 37-27 halftime lead.
In the second half, St. Joseph's made a run, getting 2 off a Bey jumper at 15:19, then a Haskins 3-pointer out of the corner at 14:41, then a Bey jumper from the key at 14:05, followed by the jumper by Rasul that got it within 2.
Then St. Joseph's stopped scoring. ``That's the way we shoot, in the middle 40s,'' Martelli said. ``We're not a great shooting team. I wasn't only concerned about their defense, but by not scoring 70-75 points, our shooting percentage was fine but we didn't take enough shots.''
``I wasn't concerned that they got it to 2 points,'' Flint said. ``If I felt that way my team would have felt that way.''
HILADELPHIA-- It was good to be home.
Six members of the UMass basketball delegation have ties to the city of Philadelphia or the state of Pennsylvania, but that did not stop the Minutemen (7-5, 1-0 Atlantic 10) from beating host St. Joseph's (4-4, 0-1), 72-66, in the first Atlantic-10 game for both teams yesterday.
UMass coach Bruiser Flint is a St. Joseph's alum (as is assistant Geoff Arnold) and before yesterday's victory had not beaten his alma mater in two tries. Needless to say this was a big win.
"This win is special to me because it is my first win at home as a head coach," said Flint, whose team lost to the Hawks last season, 72-68, at the Mullins Center and, 78-63, here.
"It's not just winning at home (that is special)," said UMass senior captain Tyrone Weeks. "It's getting a win for the team. We executed well, went out and played hard, and got the win."
Both Weeks and Larri Ketner are natives of the city of brotherly love, but they were heckled mercilessly by the hometown folk. Despite the taunting, the formidable inside tandem combined for 20 points and 13 rebounds and a number of bruises St. Joe's big men are feeling this morning.
Despite the contributions from the native sons, the Minutemen were led by sophmore guard Monty Mack, who hit a career-high 5 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 22 points. Mack scored 18 points in the first half, 8 in a personal barrage just before halftime.
On the strength of a Mack trey ending the first half, the Minutemen began the second frame with a 37-27 advantage, but the Hawks forged a rally that brought them within 2 points at 44-42. From that point, spurred by Ketner and Weeks, the Minutemen went on a 14-2 run making the score 58-44.
"The thing I have somewhat of a disappointment in," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said, "is that (in this league) you have to take your game up a notch, physically and mentally, and we didn't do that."
UMass missed a slew of free throws down the stretch. The Hawks capitalized and made a late charge of their own.
St. Joe's center Harold Rasul had 10 points in the second half (11 in the game) and was a catalyst in the late run. Tim Brow drew the Hawks within 6 points with a jumper to make the score 69-63 with less than two minutes left. But excluding a desperation trey by Robert Haskins (team-high 19 points), the Minutemen denied St. Joseph's a good look at the basket the rest of the way.
Rashid Bey, St. Joe's leading scorer (17.1 ppg), hit his average with 17 points, but was just 6 of 16 from the floor and was held in check by the swarming and physical UMass defense.
"We knew they played chest-to-chest defense," Martelli said. "You know when you play UMass they are going to guard you well."
With Ketner in foul trouble in the first half (no points in 5 minutes), sophomore Ajmal Basit came of the bench to score 8 points and pull down 7 rebounds in 19 minutes.
t wasn't the 18 points that Monty Mack scored in the first half. It wasn't even the 14-2 run by Massachusetts in the second half.
The Minutemen beat the St. Joseph's Hawks, 72-66, yesterday at the Fieldhouse mostly because reserve guard Jonathan DePina bothered Rashid Bey even more than Bey's plastic face shield did.
Known for their intensity more than anything this season, the Minutemen once again displayed a smothering defense and opportunistic offensive rebounding to win the Atlantic Ten Conference opener for both teams.
The victory also was the first for Massachusetts coach James "Bruiser" Flint against his old team at the Fieldhouse. Flint, in his second year as head coach at UMass, graduated from St. Joe's in 1987.
For the Hawks, the game was an all-too-clear example of what happens when they allow teams to dictate the pace and nature of the game. Bey, wearing a clear shield to protect the nose he broke last Sunday against the University of Texas-El Paso, scored 17 points.
But the senior guard, whom Flint called one of the top two or three players in the conference, was unable to generate the scoring chances the Hawks needed. And without points on the boards, the Hawks (4-4 overall, 0-1 Atlantic Ten) were simply too small to control the game by outrebounding the Minutemen (7-5, 1-0).
"We need to get to 70 or 72 points to win the game," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "In the first half, where this game was really kind of established, they get that 10-point sprint. They had nine offensive rebounds, on which they had 10 points."
Looking to use its greater inside size early in the game, Massachusetts tried unsuccessfully to force everything to the hoop. Instead of working the ball around the perimeter, as they would later in the game, the Minutemen pushed everything to the paint, and St. Joe's led, 17-13, 11 minutes into the game.
Forward Rob Haskins, playing despite a severely upset stomach, had the hot hand in the first half for the Hawks. Guard Erick Woods threw in two buckets early in the game, and Haskins, who led St. Joe's with 19 points, wound up with seven points in the first 20 minutes.
But DePina stuck to Bey like a shadow, and the St. Joe's scorer netted just two field goals and two free throws in the first half. After the game, Bey conceded that his injury, which forced him to skip practice all week, left him without the usual explosiveness that marks his game.
"That, more than anything else, changed the tempo of the game," Martelli said of DePina's defense. "We're not a great shooting team, so we have to try to play a certain pace."
Said Bey, who was bothered when perspiration dripped off his shield and into his eyes, "They were stepping up into the passing lanes and not giving up anything easy."
Meantime, the Minutemen lost center Lari Ketner to a pair of fouls just five minutes into the game. But Mack, a sophomore guard, picked up the slack by hitting 7 of 10 field goals and 4 of 5 free throws to help Massachusetts to a 37-27 halftime lead.
The Minutemen, who turned their four-point deficit into a 24-17 lead with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first half, also used their ability to rebound their own missed shots to keep the Hawks down.
"I talked to Phil this morning," Flint said. "He said, 'I'll tell you what scares me: You play good defense.' My thing to these guys was: Stay in their faces. They're a good team if they get open."
The Hawks proved Flint was right in the second half. Using a 15-6 run to open the second half, St. Joe's closed the gap to 44-42 on a jump shot by center Harold Rasul with 13:22 to play.
But the Minutemen, with the 6-foot-10 Ketner back in the game and racking up points and assists, went off on their own 14-2 run to take a 58-46 lead with 6:16 to play.
The Hawks crept closer as the clock wound down, but Massachusetts made enough of its free throws when St. Joe's was forced to foul late in the game, and Martelli suffered his first loss in 14 afternoon games.
"You've got to take your game up another little notch emotionally, mentally and physically," Martelli said of playing against conference rivals. "And I think there were periods of time where we really didn't do that."
HILADELPHIA (JAN. 5) - With 13:16 remining in Saturday's Atlantic 10 season opener between the University of Massachusetts and St. Joseph's, the Minutemen made a statement.
With the Hawk fans cheering at a deafening level, UMass watched a lead that had been 11 points just over two minutes before evaporate to two, prompting coach Bruiser Flint to call timeout.
Beginning with a two-handed dunk by center Lari Ketner after the short break, the Minutemen answered St. Joe's run with a 14-2 run of their own. UMass never led by less than six the rest of the way as the Minutemen upended the defending league champion Hawks, 72-66.
Most of the Minutemen were smiling as they left the floor, but no one was happier than Flint.
"This was special, because this is my first time winning back home as a head coach," said Flint, who graduated from St. Joe's in 1987. "It feels good. We worked our butts off all week, so it was nice to get some results. This was a good win for us because they are the defending conference champs."
Coming off a blowout loss to Connecticut and a heartbreaker against Cincinnati in overtime, the win went a long way toward improving the Minutemen's spirits.
"I think our confidence is back," said senior forward Tyrone Weeks. "I think we got a little down on ourselves in the two losses."
Sophomore guard Monty Mack led the Minutemen (7-5, 1-0 A-10) with a career high 22 points, including 18 in the first half to help stake UMass to a 37-27 advantage at intermission. The halftime lead was even more impressive because it was done with little help from Ketner. After winning the opeing tipoff, St. Joe's double-down defense rendered Ketner invisible. When he picked up two quick fouls with less than five minutes gone in the contest and UMass leading by one, Flint sat down the junior big man in favor of Ajmal Basit. Basit remained in the game until halftime, contributing six points and six rebounds.
"At halftime coach told us to pound it inside to put them away that way," Tyrone Weeks said.
Ketner responded in the second half, showing emotion that has been absent from his game since UMass faced Kansas. He finished with 10 points.
With a lack of a presence inside, St. Joseph's needed to control the perimeter on both offense and defense, but Mack's shooting kept that from occurring. Despite being guarded by St. Joe's star guard, Rashid Bey, the sophomore was impressive from behind the arc. He hit 4-of-5 threes in the first half and 5-of-6 for the game.
His offense came at crucial times as well. His 3-pointer from the right side of the key gave UMass the lead for good at 18-17 with 8:02 remaining. It seemed that each time the Hawks knifed into the UMass lead, Mack answered with a big shot. His bomb with one second left in the first half gave UMass a 37-27 lead.
Jonathan DePina also turned in an impressive effort. He spent almost all of his 19 minutes of action guarding Bey. DePina's quickness and tight defense took Bey out of his game. Bey scored 17 points, but most of them came while being guarded by either Mack or Charlton Clarke. Bey had five points during St. Joe's 9-0 comeback run, but when DePina reentered the game after the timeout, the run ended and Bey struggled.
Charlton Clarke splits the defense on his way to the hoop
"He's their main player and he takes most of their shots," DePina said. "I just try to keep him in front of me." DePina finished with four points and five fouls, and drew praise from Flint.
"I thought he did a great job,"Flint said. "There are a lot of guys like Rashid Bey in the league. Shawna Rogers (George Washington) and Tyson Wheeler (Rhode Island) are like that, so we're going to need Jonatan to play defense like that. If he can do that against Rashid Bey, he can do that against anybody.
"I thought we did a good job overall on defense," Flint continued. "We stayed in their faces and didn't let them pop out and get open threes."
St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli offered his perspective on UMass' strategy.
"What UMass did, which was a good idea, they tried to force us to make somebody other than Rashid initiate our offense."
The Minutemen don't have long to rest. The team returns to action Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Fordham in New York City.
HILADELPHIA (JAN. 5) -Before the season, University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Bruiser Flint joked about freshman guard Jonathan DePina's tendency to look to pass to his former South Boston High School teammate Monty Mack.
"Jonathan needs to learn that Monty is not our first offensive option, Lari Ketner is," Flint said.
Well, the UMass coach might want to rethink that philosophy. While Ketner has slumped recently, Mack, a sophomore shooting guard, has become the Minutemen's most dangerous scoring threat. He led the Minutemen with 22 points in Saturday's win over St. Joseph's at Alumni Fieldhouse. The total was not only a career-high for him, it also equalled the highest individual output by any Minuteman this season, matching Charlton Clarke's showing against Kansas.
Mack now has led UMass in scoring in four of the last five games and has averaged more than 17 points per game over that time. In just his first collegiate season, Mack has scored in double digits in nine of UMass' 12 games and has been the team's leading scorer or second leading scorer in eight of those games.
Despite his excellent offensive showing, Mack isn't satisfied with his overall play.
"I think I need to work on my defense," he said. "My offense is going to be there, but I need to learn how to shut my players down. That's just something I'm going to work on."
AFTER BREAKING HIS nose in a previous game, Hawks star guard Rashid Bey was wearing a clear face shield to protect his face from further damage. If Saturday's game was any indication, he might want to keep it for the remainder of the season. He had to take it off briefly late in the first half. Without it, he missed all three shots he took. With it, he scored 17 points.
MAGIC NUMBERS?: UMass has won the last 74 games in which it has led by 10 or more points. A 3-pointer by Mack gave the Minutemen the double-digit advantage at 32-22 just before halftime ... Tyrone Weeks' eight rebounds gave him 700 boards for his career, making him 14th on UMass' all-time list. Lou Roe is the career leader with 1,070... The Minutemen are 7-0 when holding teams under 70 points. UMass is 0-5 when its opponent clears the 70-point mark.
UMASS IS 2-0 against Catholic schools this season (St. Joseph's and Boston College). The Minutemen will get a chance to add to that streak Tuesday against Fordham.
HILADELPHIA (JAN. 5) - Make no mistake about it, this was a big one. The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's victory over St. Joseph's Saturday has implications that reach beyond a victory in conference play. The Minutemen may or may not have known that as they walked off the floor smiling.
Coming off an embarrassing loss to Connecticut and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Cincinnati, it would have been easy for the Minutemen to lose heart. Against the Huskies, they were blown out. Against the Bearcats, they ended up losing a game they thought was in the bag. Neither result was one to inspire confidence.
Leading by as many as 12 early in the second half against St. Joseph's , UMass missed shots and committed turnovers that allowed the Hawks to climb back within two. Alumni Fieldhouse was rocking as the fans sensed UMass was coming apart.
It didn't happen. The ingredient that too often had been missing from the Minutemen was an answer to an opponent's run. UMass had been unable to recapture the momentum when the tide turned against it. Players looked for others to step forward instead of doing it themselves.
Not this time. Coming out of the timeout, UMass was poised. Lari Ketner quieted the crowd with a two-handed dunk. Fifth year-senior Tyrone Weeks followed with a layup on a pretty pass from Ketner underneath. Charlton Clarke sank a running jumper. Coach Bruiser Flint had begged his veterans to step forward all season. They finally listened.
Consider, too, the benefits that beating a team from Philadelphia has on UMass' recruiting efforts. Year in and year out, the Minutemen try to out-recruit St. Joe's and its Philly neighbors for players from the City of Brotherly Love. The fact that UMass regularly defeated the Big 5's finest played a significant role in landing current Minutemen Weeks and Ketner. A potential future Minuteman could have been sitting in the Hawk Hill stands Saturday, disguised as a wide-eyed 12-year-old.
The victory was far from perfect. St. Joe's tallest player is 6-feet-9-inches. Among the Hawk ranks there are no rebounders, no true big guys. UMass has three, Ketner, Weeks and Ajmal Basit. So the fact that both teams collected 36 rebounds isn't exactly a source of pride for UMass. Ketner's line of zero points, one rebound and two fouls in five minutes in the first half didn't have the NBA scouts drooling, either.
But there was a bright spot in Ketner's performance. In the second half, he showed emotion that hasn't been seen in his game since Kansas.
There are plenty of tangible benefits in the win as well. The Atlantic 10 is loaded. In addition to the Minutemen and the Hawks, four teams, George Washington, Temple, Xavier and Rhode Island will make legitimate runs toward the NCAA Tournament. Even some A-10 teams that are NCAA longshots can make life difficult on the front runners.
There aren't many easy nights on the conference docket, especially on the road. Just ask Xavier, which has spent time in the Top 15, and Saturday was upset by St. Bonaventure. Good teams will lose at Hawk Hill this year. It may not hold the same prestige as winning at George Washington or winning at the Apollo at Temple, but for the Minuteman to grab a win there at this stage of the season is a solid step. If UMass is still on the bubble when the NCAA Tournament committee sits around the table in Overland Park, Kansas. on a March afternoon, this win will be classified as a good win, i.e., a win over a good team on the road.
It could, of course, all come crashing down Tuesday. A loss to Fordham Tuesday on the road would undo most of the positives created by this win, but for now, the Minutemen are 1-0 in conference play. And they are smiling.
|St. Joseph's Hawks||66|
MASSACHUSETTS (72) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Babul 29 2-4 2-4 2-5 3 3 6 Weeks 31 3-7 4-6 1-8 1 4 10 Ketner 25 4-7 2-3 2-5 3 4 10 Clarke 37 4-15 4-6 2-3 5 3 12 Mack 34 8-15 1-2 0-3 1 0 22 Depina 19 1-1 2-4 0-0 3 5 4 Kirkland 6 0-1 0-0 0-2 0 0 0 Basit 19 4-8 0-1 4-7 0 2 8 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 26-58 15-26 11-33 16 21 72 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.448, FT-.577. 3-Point Goals: 5-8, .625 (Clarke 0-2, Mack 5-6). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 1 (Basit). Turnovers: 5 (Basit 2, Ketner 2, Weeks). Steals: 7 (Babul 3, Depina 2, Clarke, Mack). ST JOSEPHS PA (66) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Simmonds 33 3-8 0-0 3-4 4 5 6 Haskins 36 5-9 6-6 1-8 0 2 19 Rasul 36 2-6 7-9 2-6 1 2 11 Bey 40 6-16 3-4 0-3 4 1 17 Woods 27 4-5 2-2 0-3 1 4 10 Brown 15 0-2 0-0 0-3 0 3 0 Wilkins 13 1-4 1-4 2-2 0 4 3 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-50 19-25 8-29 10 21 66 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.420, FT-.760. 3-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (Simmonds 0-1, Haskins 3-4, Bey 2-10, Brown 0-2). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 1 (Haskins). Turnovers: 10 (Bey 6, Woods 2, Rasul, Wilkins). Steals: 3 (Simmonds 2, Rasul). __________________________________ Massachusetts 37 35 - 72 St Josephs Pa 27 39 - 66 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 3,200. Officials: Larry Lembo, John Moreau, Tom Scott.