MHERST - The coach gave his team a 15-minute tongue lashing during practice because one of his players had been quoted as saying the team plays to the level of its competition.
Bruiser Flint probably said enough then to motivate the University of Massachusetts for last night's contest against Atlantic 10 foe St. Bonaventure, which had lost 19 straight to the Minutemen. But for good measure, he brought up the Bonnies' victories over Xavier (ranked 13th) two weeks ago and Rhode Island (ranked 20th) Saturday.
''I could tell by our practice they knew,'' said Flint. ''Our practice on Sunday was a little more enthusiastic.''
The enthusiasm carried over to last night, as UMass overcome occasional sloppiness and poor second-half shooting to register a hard-fought 62-50 victory before 7,363 at Mullins Center.
Bouncier and more aggressive than usual at the start of the contest, the Minutemen jumped to a 13-point first-half lead, then later used an 8-2 surge to put the game away after St. Bonaventure cut the lead to 2.
The enthusiasm sometimes led to overzealousness, which made for a few ill-advised passes and shots. But it also helped hold St. Bonaventure to 35 percent shooting from the floor and keyed the Minutemen's control of the boards (37 rebounds to St. Bonaventure's 29). UMass center Lari Ketner made up for a 3-of-8 performance from the floor by grabbing a season-high 12 boards and tying his career high in blocks with 5.
When the Bonnies beat URI, said Flint, ''I was happy, because I knew the guys would look at that and say, `St. Bonaventure, you'd better come and play against these guys.'
''The big thing was rebounding and dominating inside. They're one of few teams in the league that match up against us on the baseline, and as long as we win that battle, we have a chance to win.''
Monty Mack takes it in strong.
UMass reserve forward Chris Kirkland had 11 points and a pair of steals for UMass (12-5, 5-0), which claimed its season-high sixth consecutive win and remained the only unbeaten team in the Atlantic 10.
St. Bonaventure, arguably one of the most improved teams in the Northeast, dropped to 11-7, 2-4.
After trailing by as many as 13 in the first half, St. Bonaventure got within 33-29 with 16:57 remaining. Then after a UMass turnover, St. Bonaventure center Caswell Cyrus hit a turnaround jumper over Ketner to cut the lead to 2 with 16:05 left.
The Minutemen then put together their best surge of the night. Ketner, who had been 0 for 3 from the floor, scored 6 points in the 8-2 run, which gave UMass a 41-33 lead with 13:26 remaining.
St. Bonaventure got within 5 with 8:40 left, but the Minutemen surged again. Kirkland had 7 points in a 13-4 run to give UMass a 57-43 advantage.
''Give UMass credit: They did a good job of defending and took us out of our timing,'' said St. Bonaventure coach Jim Baron. ''Plus, they made some shots tonight.''
The win is UMass's second in an important four-game stretch before a Jan. 29 contest against URI. To get his team motivated for Thursday night's opponent, Davidson, Flint already is bringing up its win over Mississippi, an NCAA tourney team last year.
Probably won't have the same impact as St. Bonaventure-URI, though.
MHERST -- It was a Winn-win situation for the University of Massachusetts last night.
St. Bonaventure, fresh off its upset of No. 20 URI, had to face UMass without its starting sophomore point guard Tim Winn (14.8 ppg), who sustained a severely sprained ankle in that game on Saturday.
With Winn on the sidelines, the Minutemen beat the Bonnies, 62-50, before 7,363 fans at the Mullins Center.
The win was the 20th in a row for UMass over St. Bonaventure and stretched the Minutemen's win streak against everyone to six. UMass is 12-5 overall and 5-0 atop the Atlantic 10's Eastern Division.
St. Bonaventure, which had already beaten two ranked teams in Xavier (No. 13) and URI, fell to 11-7 overall and 2-4 in the A-10 East.
Monty Mack, who continued with his shooting problems, hitting 4 of 15, led UMass with 13 points.
Chris Kirkland came off the bench to score a career-high 11, including nine straight late in the game when the Minutemen pulled away.
Tyrone Weeks scored 10 points while Lari Ketner, shut out in the first half, had six points and 12 rebounds.
Rashaan Palmer led the Bonnies with 19 points while Dave Capers had 10.
UMass, which was a bit lethargic in its win over undermanned Fordham on Saturday, got out of the gate fast, jumping to an 11-2 lead by hitting four of its first five shots.
The Minutemen got their lead up to 13 points at 22-9 with 7:19 left in first half.
However, the Bonnies, who struggled throughout the first 20 minutes, including a five-minute drought without a field goal, closed the half with a 12-6 run.
Swingman Palmer, a 6-foot-5 senior, scored six of his 13 first half points in that stretch as St. Bonaventure checked out of the half down by just seven at 28-21.
The Bonnies continued their resurgence early in the second half as Isaac King and James Singleton keyed an 11-5 run that pulled St. Bonaventure to within 33-31.
Ketner then caught fire with a pair of nifty hook shots sandwiched around a dunk off a rebound as the Minutemen eased back out to a 41-33 lead with 12 minutes left.
Kirkland came off the bench and provided a spark down the stretch as he did last Thursday against UNC-Charlotte.
Kirkland, the 6-foot-6 sophomore from Pittsburgh, first made a diving save along the sidelines to keep the ball alive. He then capped off that same play by putting home an alley-oop dunk off a feed from Jonathan DePina. He had his own personal run of nine straight points for his team that moved the Minutemen from a 48-41 lead into a 57-43 with three minutes to play. And that was the ball game.
Bonnies coach Jim Barron felt the loss of his team's point guard Winn.
"It was a bit of a factor, we had only four assists tonight," said Barron. "We need to distribute the ball and get it inside and that's what we were able to do Saturday against URI. Without Winn we weren't able to do that tonight. But you have to give UMass credit. They played real good defense and shot the ball well enough to win.
MINUTE NOTES -- The last time St. Bonaventure beat UMass was on Jan. 8, 1989, 74-70, in Olean. The last time the Bonnies beat the Minutemen in Amherst was Jan. 29, 1987, 43-39. ... Last year after the first 16 games, UMass was 7-9 and 2-2 in the A-10 before going on to win 12 of its last 15 games to earn a berth in the NCAA.
MHERST (Jan. 20) - The St. Bonaventure game plan from the opening tip was to keep University of Massachusetts center Lari Ketner from dominating on offense. The Bonnies bottled up the paint with three and sometimes four defenders to keep the ball out of Ketner's hands.
Charlton Clarke draws contact on the drive.
Coming out of a television timeout with 15:42 remaining in the game, UMass led just 33-31. Freshman guard Jonathan DePina fed Ketner in the low post. Ketner used a nice drop step move to draw Bonnie center Caswell Cyrus out of position, allowing Ketner to bury a hook short to extend the UMass lead to four. The shot brought the Mullins crowd of 7,363 to life and started a 8-2 run that put UMass ahead 41-33. The Bonnies never got closer than five the rest of the way. Ketner had all six of his points during that run, converting a layup inside and a put-back dunk as well.
While Ketner's scoring numbers were down, he still played a vital role in the Minuteman victory. He hauled down a season-high 12 rebounds and rejected five shots as well as holding Cyrus to just nine points.
"I thought Lari did a great job defensively against Cyrus," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. "He did the things we needed him to do to win. He did a great job rebounding and a great job defensively."
Tyrone Weeks rises above three defenders.
Rashaan Palmer led the Bonnies with 19 points, but 13 of those came in the first half. Sophomore guard David Capers chipped in 10.
The Bonnies entered the game with wins over No. 13 Xavier and No. 20 Rhode Island on their resume, but the Minutemen kept the string of slain giants from continuing.
Despite their sometimes sloppy play, UMass was pleased with the overall outcome.
"That's a good team," Flint said. "That's not the St. Bonaventure of three years ago.They beat two ranked teams. I haven't beaten any ranked teams. They played well and we won by 12. We beat a good team tonight."
"We might not play perfect, but they're a good team," Weeks said. "You have to be happy with a win."
St. Bonaventure coach Jim Baron wasn't disappointed by his team's showing.
"I don't think this is a step back. You have to give UMass credit. They did some things inside, they hit their free throws and they rebounded the basketball. They are a good basketball team," he said.
Led by Weeks, who had all 10 of his points prior to intermission, the Minutemen opened a lead as large as 22-9 late in the half, but Bonnies rallied.
Palmer led the way with 13 first-half points to pull the visitors to within 28-21 at intermission.
UMass returns to action Thursday, traveling to North Carolina for a 7:30 p.m. game against Davidson.
MHERST (Jan. 20) - When he heard the result of Saturday's St. Bonaventure-Rhode Island game, University of Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint was pleased and not only because the Bonnies win over the upset Rams left his club as the lone undefeated team in conference play.
"I was happy because I knew then that our guys would know that St. Bonaventure would come and play," he said. "I told people that St. Bonaventure was going to be good."
The Bonnies beat then No. 13 Xavier earlier in the year, but the URI upset was more impressive because the Bonnies did it without sophomore point guard Tim Winn, who is sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Winn is expected to be back in the lineup when UMass and St. Bonaventure meet again on Feb. 25 in Olean, N.Y., a game Flint predicts will be much tougher.
"If you've never been up to Brown Heaven, you don't know what a tough place it is to play," he said. "Not only is it tough to get to, but they go crazy up there."
"He warned us," Chris Kirkland said. "Don't take these guys lightly they're a very good team."
Having now seen Xavier, Rhode Island and UMass, St. Bonaventure coach Jim Baron expects good things from the Minutemen down the road.
"I don't like to compare, but I think UMass is right in the thick of the league," he said. "They have good inside presence and they have athleticism along the perimeter."
* * *
THE MINUTEMEN appear to be inching closer to national recognition. After receiving no points in the USA Tuesday/ESPN Coaches Poll last week, the Minutemen earned five this week. Their total points in the Associated Press Poll also jumped, from four a week ago to 10.
MHERST - As the ball skidded toward the University of Massachusetts bench, Chris Kirkland dove and saved it from going out of bounds to keep the Minuteman possession alive Monday night in what would become UMass' 20th straight win over St. Bonaventure.
The Minutemen led by nine and looked to have the victory well in hand, but Kirkland wasn't taking any chances. After getting up, his teammates got the ball back to him and he drove to the basket and laid in two of his career high 11 points to extend the UMass lead.
"He played well," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. "He's playing with reckless abandon, diving on the floor and coming up with loose balls. I'm happy with him because he's doing a good job."
This was the latest in a growing number of strong performances from the 6-6 small forward from Stox Rox, Pa., and the fact that it came against the Bonnies was significant. A year ago against the Bonnies, Flint, feeling dissatisfied with the play of his small forwards, instituted the three-guard set.
While the move may have saved the team's season, it effectivly ruined Kirkland's personal campaign. Behind Winston Smith and Mike Babul, he was already the third string wing forward on a team that didn't have many minutes available for that position. He didn't see action in 12 of the team's final 18 games and when he did play it was in garbage time. If a ball was rolling toward the Minuteman bench, he wouldn't be the one diving for it, but the one that the ball was rolling toward. At times he wondered if he would ever become a regular.
"I definitely was discouraged, but a lot of the older guys, like Carmelo (Travieso) and Tyrone (Weeks) told me not to worry about it and that my chance was going to come. When it comes make the best of it," he said.
Weeks' and Travieso's prediction proved accurate. While newcomers Jonathan DePina and Monty Mack have played well, their stamina and consistency are not at a level that could allow Flint to stay with the three guard offense full time. In addition, Smith was felled by a season-ending injury early on paving the way for more playing time for Kirkland.
During the Minutemen's current campaign, Kirkland has taken Weeks' and Travieso's advice and made the most of it. As the most athletically gifted member of the Minutemen, he has made good use of both his leaping ability and his quickness. His enormous wingspan has helped him to become a strong defender, and caused some UMass fans to nickname him the Condor. Whether its diving on the floor for loose balls or performing aerial jumping jacks to deny an inbounds passs Kirkland has remained active, often providing the Minutemen with a spark.
Kirkland has split time at thesmall forward spot with Mike Babul. The duo is proud to have returned their position to place of importance.
"Mike and I are kind of battling at the three man and we want to show that we can play instead of the three-guard offense," Kirkland said.
Stox Rox High School coach Ed Goetz once called Kirkland, "the hardest worker I ever coached." That work ethic earned him more minutes and with those minutes came more confidence. His defense has been particularly noteworthy as he held Bonnie top gun Rashaan Palmer to just six second-half points.
"I feel a lot more a part of the team. I'm playing a little bit more. I'm feeling more confident. Things are coming along," Kirkland said. "Once you build a little bit of confidence, you want to play more, you want to do more things. I get more confident as the year goes along. As you play, confidence comes."
That confidence has spread to his offensive game as well, which appears to be expanding. Opponents have struggled stop Kirkland when he's driving the baseline and he's shown the ability to knock down the open mid-range jumper as well. Kirkland's career scoring high came just one game after Babul posted his personal best of 13 points against Fordham.
"Having Chris and Mike scoring, lessens the pressure on everybody, the big men and the guards," said Mack. "Not too many teams are looking for them to score. But as long as they keep playing the way they are, teams are going to start to respect them and have to defend them."
"It helps a lot," agreed Weeks. "A lot of teams sit back in the lane in me and Lari's lap. If our small forwards can score, teams will have to play them - we'll be a better team."
Despite his new success, Kirkland's approach has remained the same.
"I don't know how much I'll play, but when I get my chance, I'll just have to go out and play hard," he said.
MHERST -- The smile was back on Bruiser Flint's face.
Two days after Flint's University of Massachusetts basketball team scored a sluggish victory over Fordham on Saturday, the Minutemen came out and played a much better 40 minutes and beat St. Bonaventure 60-52 last night at the Mullins Center.
The Minutemen played more of the stifling defense they've become known for, holding the Bonnies to 35 percent shooting from the floor. UMass had jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first half and led 28-21 at intermission. After watching their lead drop to 2 points early in the second half, the Minutemen outscored the Bonnies by 10 points in the final 12 minutes of the game to win going away.
"You have to be happy with the win," said Tyrone Weeks, who scored 10 first-half points for UMass. "We may not have played perfect, but we won."
It was a good win for UMass, because the Bonnies were coming to town off an upset win over then 20th-ranked Rhode Island. Earlier this month, the Bonnies had knocked off then No. 14 Xavier.
"That's not the St. Bonaventure of old," said Flint. "I haven't beaten a ranked team this year. They beat two ranked teams."
Mack, Kirkland impressive
The Minutemen were paced by 13 points from Monty Mack and 11 off the bench from sophomore forward Chris Kirkland, who netted his career high.
It was a coming-out party of sorts for Kirkland, the 6-foot-6 forward from Pittsburgh. His career-high point total was six, and the 26 minutes he played was also a career best. Kirkland was forced into the UMass lineup because starting small forward Mike Babul, who helped key Saturday's win over Fordham, found himself saddled with foul trouble. Babul picked up his third foul 11 seconds into the second half.
" want me to be more aggressive, go to the basket and get fouled," Kirkland said after the game.
Kirkland held Bonaventure's top scorer Rashaan Palmer to six points in the second half. Palmer led the Bonnies with 19 points.
"He's going out there now and playing with wreckless abandon," said Flint of Kirkland. "The kid is a good athlete -- I'm happy for him."
The Minutemen, who never trailed in the game, jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead, and when Mack completed a three-point play, that extended the margin to 22-9 with 7:19 left.
The Bonnies trimmed that lead to 28-21 at halftime, and kept the momentum going in the second half. UMass saw its lead cut to 33-31 with 16:03 left in the game when Caswell Cyrus scored from the right baseline. Thanks to television, a time out was called, which helped the Minutemen regroup.
" just told us we have to be more aggressive, get some rebounds and grab some loose balls," said Mack.
Lari Ketner started a two-minute, 8-2 burst, with a jump hook from the right block. Kirkland and Ketner hit consecutive hoops off Bonaventure turnovers, Ketner's coming on a jam. After Palmer scored on a rebound, Ketner put in a shot at the other end to complete the spurt.
The Minutemen saw their lead drop to five points at 44-39 with 8:36 remaining in the game. Ajmal Basit's two free throws and Jonathan DePina's slash to the iron put UMass up 48-39, and the Bonnies were done.
"They did a real good job defensively. They took us out of our timing and they made some shots tonight," Bonaventure coach Jim Baron said of the Minutemen.
With the victory, UMass improves to 12-5 and 5-0 in the Atlantic 10. The Bonnies are 11-7 and 2-4 in the conference. UMass has the only unblemished conference record, and Flint was asked what he thought about that.
"Alright," he said with a laugh. "We have these capabilities. If we come and play hard, there's not a team on our schedule we can't beat."
FREE THROWS: Weeks pulled down four rebounds tonight, giving him 752 career boards and moving him past Al Skinner (749) into 13th place on the alltime list.
Ketner's 12 rebounds tied a season high and his five blocked shots tied a career-high.
This was the last time area hoop fans will see the Minutemen at the Mullins Center until February. UMass will play at Davidson Thursday, at Virginia Tech on Saturday and at Providence against Rhode Island a week from this Thursday. The next home game at the Mullins Center will be Sunday, Feb. 1, against Dayton.
Among the Berkshire County faces in the crowd last night: Mayor Gerald Doyle, restaurateur Bob "Smitty" Smith, local chiropractor Steve Tosk, state representative Christopher Hodgkins and Lanesboro American Legion baseball coach Mike Geary.
|St. Bonaventure Bonnies||50|
|at the Mullins Center|
ST BONAVENTURE (50) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Palmer 35 6-12 7-9 1-3 0 3 19 Durham 26 1-4 0-0 2-4 0 4 2 Cyrus 38 4-11 1-2 1-3 0 2 9 King 21 2-6 1-2 0-1 0 1 6 Singleton 38 2-9 0-0 1-6 4 3 4 Capers 25 2-5 5-8 3-5 0 1 10 Van Paassen 13 0-1 0-0 1-1 0 3 0 Lumsdon 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 17-48 14-21 9-23 4 17 50 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.354, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals: 2-6, .333 (King 1-3, Capers 1-3). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 4 (Cyrus 3, Capers). Turnovers: 14 (Durham 5, Cyrus 2, Lumsdon 2, Palmer 2, Capers, Singleton, Van Paassen). Steals: 8 (Palmer 3, Singleton 3, Capers, Cyrus). MASSACHUSETTS (62) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Babul 14 1-3 2-2 1-3 0 3 4 Weeks 33 4-7 2-2 1-4 1 3 10 Ketner 33 3-8 0-4 7-12 1 2 6 Clarke 26 3-8 0-0 0-0 3 4 7 Mack 37 4-15 4-5 1-6 1 3 13 Depina 16 3-6 0-0 0-1 3 3 6 Kirkland 26 3-7 5-6 3-3 1 1 11 Basit 15 1-1 3-4 1-2 1 0 5 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-55 16-23 14-31 11 19 62 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.400, FT-.696. 3-Point Goals: 2-11, .182 (Weeks 0-1, Clarke 1-3, Mack 1-7). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 8 (Ketner 5, Basit 2, Babul). Turnovers: 15 (Clarke 4, Mack 4, Weeks 3, Depina 2, Babul, Ketner). Steals: 9 (Weeks 4, Kirkland 2, Mack 2, Clarke). __________________________________ St Bonaventure 21 29 - 50 Massachusetts 28 34 - 62 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 7,363. Officials: Jim Burr, John Cahill, Joe Demayo.