MHERST - Here's a tip for any team playing the University of Massachusetts in the near future: Don't let junior guard Charlton Clarke out of your sight. Stick to him like caramel on a candy apple. Deny him the ball. And whatever happens, do not let him square up for a 3-point shot.
Otherwise, you might suffer a similar fate as St. Joseph's did yesterday. The Hawks led UMass by 7 with less than five minutes left when Clarke went to work. He hit three 3-pointers over the final 4:38, including a left-wing trey with 2.5 seconds left that sent the game into overtime.
Ajmal Basit contributed 7 points off the bench.
Lari Ketner had a career-high 34 points for UMass, which improved to 20-7 overall, marking the seventh time in eight seasons it has won at least 20 games. The Minutemen improved to 12-2 in the Atlantic 10 and maintained their one-game lead in the A-10 East Division.
Rashid Bey had a team-high 29 points for St. Joseph's (9-15, 2-12), which shot 68 percent from the floor in the second half.
This was the second consecutive game that Clarke, who finished with 15 points, has staged such heroics. Wednesday night against Rhode Island he drained a trey with 1.4 seconds left to force overtime, then sank three free throws with 6.4 seconds left in OT to force a second overtime. Over the last two games, he has attempted 20 treys, hitting eight.
Against URI, the Minutemen never took control in the extra sessions and lost.
Clarke's 3-pointer made up for an errant pass to Mike Babul with UMass trailing, 75-72, with 18.6 seconds left in regulation.
But St. Joseph's forward Duval Simmonds, who has been bothered all season with a right shoulder injury, missed two free throws with 8.7 seconds left, setting up Clarke's tying trey.
Charlton Clarke's intensity helped him score the key baskets.
''As soon as I caught it, I heard [UMass coach Bruiser Flint] say, `Shoot,' and I shot it. Some drop, some don't. Luckily, the one that's supposed to drop dropped.''
Needless to say, St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli didn't have the same sentiment. ''When his 3-pointer went in, I thought, `You [expletive],''' said Martelli, who added that he wasn't on television ''so I can say anything I want.'' When told the postgame press conference might be on radio, Martelli said, ''Well, it's FM, right? If Howard Stern is allowed on the radio, I can say [expletive] if I want.''
The coach added, however, that Clarke is a serious candidate for A-10 player of the year. ''You have a guy who is mentally tough,'' he said. ''If you look around in college basketball, those kind of guys are few and far between.''
Flint echoed Martelli's praise for Clarke. ''The kid has come up with some big plays the last couple of games,'' he said. ''I told the guys with the Rhody game, I thought we did a great job of executing the things we wanted at the end of the game. We didn't do that tonight. But Charlton came up with the big play.''
Clarke's dramatics overshadowed Ketner's scoring effort, a Mullins Center record. UMass guard Monty Mack offset a 2-for-11 shooting performance with 11 assists. But it all probably would have gone for naught had it not been for Clarke's heroics, and instead of gaining their 20th win, the Minutemen would have faced more questions about why they again played poorly against an inferior foe.
''We're just trying to execute at the end, and run what we're supposed to run, and if it drops, it drops,'' said Clarke. ''We've been doing a great job of executing down the line but we can't keep doing this. We can't.''
MHERST, Mass. -- There was a wide grin, a glowing look of contentment behind the sweat on the face of Rashid Bey with 8.7 seconds showing on the Mullins Center clock yesterday as his teammate, Duval Simmonds, went to the free-throw line.
And why not?
Bey, the brilliant St. Joseph's point guard, and the other Hawks thought they were about to celebrate a little well-deserved deliverance from an otherwise frustrating, gut-wrenching basketball season.
The Hawks could always have looked back to this haunted year and told themselves, "We'll always have Massachusetts."
All Simmonds had to do was stretch St. Joe's 75-72 lead by draining a free throw or two.
Ah, but nothing's been that simple for coach Phil Martelli and his keep-coming-back-for-more Hawks.
Moments before Simmonds went to the free-throw line, he aggravated a mildly dislocated right shoulder that he has courageously fought through all season. During a time-out, he was grimacing in pain as Martelli barked out instructions.
So he missed both free throws, and Charlton Clarke sent the game into overtime with a 25-foot three-point basket with two seconds left, and, well, need we continue? Yes, 18th-ranked UMass (20-7 overall, 12-2 Atlantic Ten), scrambling to recapture its supremacy in the Atlantic Ten Conference, survived with an 82-79 overtime victory against St. Joe's (9-15, 2-12) as Lari Ketner scored a career-high 34 points.
In perhaps the Hawks' finest overall performance of the season, Bey scored 29 points, handed out 10 assists, made three steals and turned over the ball twice in 42 entertaining minutes. His final steal, when he swatted away a pass by UMass' Jonathan DePina that landed in the hands of Simmonds, seemed to be enough to do it.
"I thought the game was won," Bey said. "Man, the game was over. But like all year, we've found just about every way to lose. But that's the craziest one yet."
Neither free throw by Simmonds, who shot 7 for 9 from the field for 16 points, was close. Afterward, his red eyes revealing the impact of this loss, Simmonds said his shoulder came out of place during a collision with the Minutemen's Tyrone Weeks.
"I guess I was thinking about it at the foul line too much," Simmonds said of his shoulder. "But I should have still hit the shots. The shoulder is no excuse. I gave up this game in regulation and again in overtime with a turnover. It's my fault."
Martelli had little choice if he wanted to substitute for Simmonds, a 6-foot-8 senior who's made some clutch plays for the Hawks. Two of his starters -- Rob Haskins and Frank Wilkins -- had fouled out. Four guys on his bench are walk-ons.
"I was aware of Duval's injury, but I had nowhere else to go," said Martelli, who appeared distraught after the loss. "Still, that was a win. We gave that one away. I'm not afraid to say we outplayed them for 45 minutes. But I guess they believe in that 'Refuse to Lose' hype or something."
|Audio clip: St. Joe's built up an 11-point lead on miscues by the Minutemen.|
On one basket, the 5-11 Bey put in a finger roll over the 6-10 Ketner.
But the recent emergence of Ketner, a junior from Roman Catholic High, is the main reason why the Minutemen hold a slim lead over Temple for first place in the East Division.
|Audio clip: Lari Ketner had his way with the Hawk defense.|
"Lari scored 34 and he should have," added UMass coach James "Bruiser" Flint, a former St. Joe's point guard. "We could have gotten the ball to him the whole game because they had no one big enough or tall enough to cover him."
"That's the best I've ever seen him play," Bey said of Ketner.
Of course, there would be one final tug at the Hawks' hearts before the torturous loss was official. Freshman guard Erick Woods' three-point attempt from the corner at the final buzzer rimmed around and out.
hank God for Charlton Clarke.
For the second game in a row, Clarke hit a three-pointer with time running out to force overtime, snatching another chance from the jaws of a feisty St. Joseph's. But unlike Wednesday's Rhode Island game, UMass (20-7, 12-2 Atlantic 10) didn't let this one get away. Tyrone Weeks made his last shot in the Mullins Center a memorable one by draining a 15-footer with eight seconds left, and Massachusetts snuck out with an 82-79 win Saturday.
Clarke followed up last week, when he was tabbed with an A-10 Player of the Week selection, with an even better week, and saved the Minutemen from what appeared to be a certain loss. Both Flint and St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli agreed that the Hawks (9-15, 2-12) outplayed the Minutemen, but in a season in which wins have been few and far between for the Hawks, yesterday's loss may have been the toughest for St. Joe's to swallow.
"A loss is a loss, but that was a win," Martelli said. "We just gave it away. We played better than [UMass] for 45 minutes... [but] they get a lot of credit for believing in that 'Refuse to Lose' stuff."
With 8.7 seconds left in regulation, it looked as though St. Joe's had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Atlantic 10 this season. UMass was down 75-72, and a Jonathan DePina pass was knocked away. UMass was forced to foul, and Hawk forward Duval Simmonds went to the line with the chance to put to make it a two-possession game. Flint buried his face in his hands, and people started leaving thinking Massachusetts had suffered what would have been one of its most disappointing loss of the season.
|Audio clip: The call of Charlton Clarke's game-saver.|
Video clip: Highlight from SportsCenter.
Clips courtesey of ESPN.
UMass then held the Hawks scoreless for the last two minutes in overtime, and junior center Lari Ketner scored six of his 34 points in the extra frame.
Clarke ended the day with 15 points, and is averaging 17 points a game over UMass' last six contests.
Mike Babul had reason to celebrate, scoring 10 points in the UMass win.
St. Joe's put the Minutemen in their sticky predicament by shooting 68 percent in the second half. The Hawks opened the half with a 24-8 run that turned a 33-28 halftime deficit into a 52-41 lead. Relying almost exclusively on Ketner, who at one point scored 14 straight points, UMass spent the remainder of the half chipping away at the lead. The Minutemen went to a full-court press to rattle the Hawks, and Clarke eventually tied the game at 67 with a three at the 2:40 mark.
According to Flint, Ketner's big day was because the Hawks had nobody to match up with the 6-foot-10 center, who set a career high with his 34 points.
Monty Mack gave UMass the lead with a three with 1:08 left in regulation, before four free throws from Harold Rasul gave the Hawks a 75-72 lead.
Martelli, known as one of the more colorful coaches in college basketball, wasn't thinking about religion during those final seconds, even though he coaches a school that travels with its own priest. He said he thought, "You [expletive]!" when he saw Clarke's game-tying three drop. But he had nice things to say about Clarke's game, saying an argument could be made for Clarke as the A-10 Player of the Year.
"Clarke is mentally tough, and in college basketball players like that are few and far between. He's improved every day since he's been here," Martelli said.
omplain as much as you want about the Massachusetts men's basketball team's narrow overtime defeat of St. Joseph's Saturday, 82-79.
But the fact remains that UMass (20-7, 12-2 Atlantic 10) - which reached the elusive 20-win mark, almost assuring itself a spot in the field of 64 come March - is learning the valuable lessons of success just when it needs it most, heading into tournament season.
Last week, junior Charlton Clarke hit the two biggest shots of his career in two games over three days.
Wednesday against Rhode Island, Clarke knocked down a three-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. And Saturday he matched the feat against the Hawks.
Not that we're counting, but he also swished three free throws in the final seconds of the URI game's first overtime to keep the Minutemen's comeback hopes alive.
Anyway you look at it, this is the team leader, the guy you give the ball to when the game is on the line, an intrinsic member of all championship teams.
St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli, who led his team to an A-10 championship and Sweet Sixteen appearance last season, knows the value of a proven leader in March.
"He [Clarke] hits the big shots. But you have a guy here who is mentally tough," he said. "If you look across the country, they are few and far between."
Though Clarke is getting his due recognition now following his heroic efforts last week, the truth is that he's been a UMass leader and among the top players in the A-10 all season.
He's scored in double-figures 16 times, including a career- high 24-point effort against Rhode Island. Against the other top teams in the league and nation, he's been just as good.
But Clarke has saved his best for the stretch run. In the Minutemen's last seven games, Clarke - once considered a versatile guard and inconsistent shooter - has scored in double-figures all seven times and is averaging almost 18 points a game.
Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint attributed the improved play to Clarke's disciplined work ethic.
"He's putting the time in," Flint said. "He's shooting before and after practice and on the weekends. That's why he's become a better shooter."
However, the Minutemen may be resting their tournament hopes on the effectiveness of their big men, Lari Ketner and Tyrone Weeks.
If Ketner's dominating play the past few weeks is any sign of the future, then UMass should be confident. Ketner has scored in double-figures in each of the last five games, and over the last seven, the Philadelphia-product is averaging nearly 20 points and seven rebounds.
This includes outbursts of 33 points against Dayton (Feb. 1) and 34 points - a career high - Saturday against St. Joe's.
Tyrone Weeks, who scored nine points in his final career home game Saturday, provides the veteran leadership for UMass.
|Audio clip: Tyrone Weeks hit the clutch shot, scoring his last Mullins Center points in the process.|
The last real link to the 1996 Final Four team, Weeks knows what it takes to win big ball games and has made it his trademark to be the work horse and to sacrifice his body for the team.
MHERST (FEB. 23) - After hitting shots to keep the University of Massachusetts in the game twice in Wednesday night's loss to Rhode Island, Charlton Clarke still had some heroics left in him on Saturday. With the Minutemen trailing St. Joseph's by three with two seconds left, Clarke buried a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime, where the Minutemen prevailed, 82-79, at the Mullins Center.
Tyrone Weeks and Lari Ketner celebrate the dramatic 82-79 OT win.
The win proved critical in the Atlantic 10 East race. Entering the weekend the Minutemen (20-7, 12-2) led both Rhode Island and Temple by one game. Rhode Island lost to Dayton 71-62, which means if UMass beats either St. Bonaventure (Wednesday) or Temple (Sunday) in its final two games, the Minutemen are guaranteed a bye in the first round of the A-10 Tournament.
Sunday the Owls defeated George Washington, 56-49, however, so the Minutemen need to win both games to capture the regular season title.
The Hawk defense was all over Ketner, but he still scored a career-high 34 points.
St. Joe's could have won the game in regulation. Trailing 73-72, Clarke threw a pass behind Mike Babul out of bounds with less than 20 seconds left. Babul was forced to foul Harold Rasul to stop the clock. Rasul hit both free throws to extend St. Joe's lead to 75-72. On UMass' ensuing possession, Bey stole the ball from Jonathan DePina and fed Duval Simmonds, who was fouled by Clarke with 8.7 seconds left. Simmonds had aggravated a shoulder injury early in the game, but had to play as two Hawk big men had fouled out.
Even one free throw would have pushed the Hawks to a two-possession game, but Simmonds missed both, setting up Clarke's game-tying three.
Bey took the lead back with a long two-pointer with 2:45 remaining in OT to make it 79-77, but that proved to be St. Joe's last basket. A free throw and a basket inside by Ketner put UMass ahead 80-79 with 1:20 left. Hounded by UMass defenders, Rasul missed at the other end and Ketner grabbed the rebound with 40 seconds left. The Hawks hoped their defense would hold and set up a last shot for their offense. UMass swung the ball around the perimeter as the shot clock ticked down. Monty Mack finally fed the ball to senior Tyrone Weeks who sank a long two from just inside the top of the key to ice the win and put the finishing touches on his career at the Mullins Center.
St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli was inconsolable after the game.
"We accept no pats on the back," he said. "It wasn't good enough. A loss is a loss. We gave that away. I thought we played better than them for 45 minutes, but we gave it away."
UMass coach Bruiser Flint wasn't thrilled with his team's performance, but he was pleased with more than just the final score.
"These games are helpful come tournament time," Flint said. "Because we know if we're down, we're not out."
Besides Ketner's 34 points, Clarke added 15. Mack struggled to a 2-for-11 shooting day, but helped the Minutemen with a career-high 11 assists.
The Hawks (9-15, 2-12) were led by 29 points and 10 assists from Bey, while Simmonds had 16.
MHERST (FEB. 23) - When he put the shot in the air, fans in the Mullins Center held their breath, wondering whether Charlton Clarke could possibly bury a game-saving shot twice in four days.
The answer proved to be a resounding yes. As St. Joseph's players and fans watched in horror, Clarke's 3-pointer from right in front of the University of Massachusetts bench with two seconds left splashed cleanly through the basket to tie the game 75-75 and force overtime.
Clarke's shot came just three days after a game against Rhode Island in which he hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime and then hit three free throws to force double overtime. The Minutemen lost to URI, but Saturday they walked off their home floor smiling. Clarke's ever-present toothsome grin was even wider than usual.
When he was a kid, watching NBA games on TV at his Bronx home, Clarke would envision games like these, holding the ball late in the game with the outcome resting on his shoulders.
"Charlton Clarke, with the ball last second..." he'd say, playing the role of both star player and TV announcer.
Charlton Clarke isn't afraid to have the game ride on his shots.
Clarke can do a lot more than visualize himself as the hero. He needs only to turn on the TV or press the play button on a VCR, as his shot was the game's featured highlight on both local and national sports reports.
Those same reports might have fit the 6-foot-3-inch guard for goat horns had he missed, due to a critical error he made. With 18.6 seconds left and the Minutemen trailing 73-72, Clarke carried the ball up court, as the Minutemen had a chance to hold the ball for the last shot and a chance to win the game in regulation. But Clarke took his eyes off Mike Babul before passing it to him and threw the ball behind him to give St. Joe's the possession.
As the Minutemen ran down the floor to set up on defense, Clarke vowed to redeem himself.
"As soon as I turned it over, I promised them to get this one back," Clarke said.
Clarke's heroics earned him his second straight Atlantic 10 Player of the Week Award and strengthen his growing support to be named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli has been promoting Clarke for the honor over the past few weeks, which is impressive because Martelli knew so little about Clarke early in the season that he referred to him as Carlton Carter before the teams' first meeting.
But when Clarke's shot ended the Hawks' hopes of an upset, Martelli called Clarke something else.
"When he hit that shot, I said, 'you (expletive deleted),' " said Martelli, who used one of the seven words radio shows don't permit. But Martelli was more complimentary afterward.
"In Clarke you have a guy that is mentally tough. If you look around college basketball, those guys are few and far between."
Clarke wouldn't have had a chance to display that toughness had Duval Simmonds hit even one of two free throws with 8.7 seconds left. As he stood at the line watching Simmonds shoot, Clarke said he chanted to himself: "Come'on, miss it. Miss it."
Simmonds missed both, holding the deficit to three. Clarke said he knew the ball was coming to him and relished the chance to help save the game for his team.
"That's what I live for, that's what I wanted. He missed and I came down and hit the shot," Clarke said. "Late in the game, the pressure is on your back. I love it."
|James "Bruiser" Flint praises Tyrone Weeks' effort both on and off the court.||58k|
|Monty Mack: picture-perfect basketball.||14k|
|Chris Kirkland takes one for the team.||13k|
|Mike Babul gets close and puts it down.||11k|
|Mack to Ajmal Basit for the easy deuce.||19k|
|Weeks hits the shot and gets the whistle.||9k|
|"Lari Ketner just cannot be stopped right now."||9k|
|Mack hits a late-game 3.||15k|
|Bruiser's post-game comments.||28k|
|All sounds in .WAV format. Sounds courtesey of ESPN.|
|St. Joseph's Hawks||79||OT|
|Massachusetts Minutemen (#18)||82|
|at the Mullins Center|
ST JOSEPHS PA (79) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Simmonds 39 7-9 0-2 2-4 0 5 16 Haskins 28 3-5 1-2 0-4 0 5 8 Rasul 40 3-6 4-4 2-6 1 4 10 Bey 42 10-15 7-10 0-1 10 2 29 Wilkins 29 1-4 6-6 3-5 0 5 9 Brown 31 2-6 0-0 0-4 1 1 5 Woods 5 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Ikenokwalu 11 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 225 27-47 18-24 7-24 12 22 79 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.574, FT-.750. 3-Point Goals: 7-11, .636 (Simmonds 2-3, Haskins 1-2, Bey 2-3, Wilkins 1-1, Brown 1-1, Woods 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 1 (Haskins). Turnovers: 18 (Simmonds 4, Haskins 3, Rasul 3, Wilkins 3, Bey 2, Brown 2). Steals: 7 (Bey 3, Brown, Rasul, Simmonds, Wilkins). MASSACHUSETTS (82) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Babul 35 4-5 2-5 2-4 4 3 10 Weeks 38 4-6 1-1 2-6 0 3 9 Ketner 36 11-18 12-16 2-7 2 3 34 Clarke 44 5-12 1-2 0-0 2 4 15 Mack 41 2-11 0-0 0-1 11 3 5 Depina 11 0-1 0-0 1-1 2 2 0 Kirkland 8 0-1 2-2 0-0 0 3 2 Basit 12 3-6 1-1 0-2 0 1 7 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 225 29-60 19-27 7-21 21 22 82 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.483, FT-.704. 3-Point Goals: 5-16, .313 (Clarke 4-8, Mack 1-8). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 12 (Clarke 3, Kirkland 3, Depina 2, Babul, Ketner, Mack, Weeks). Steals: 6 (Weeks 3, Babul, Clarke, Mack). _______________________________________ St Josephs Pa 28 47 4 - 79 Massachusetts 33 42 7 - 82 _______________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 9,493. Officials: Gary Bova, Keith Herring, Fran Connolly.