MHERST - An old cattlemen's belief holds that you never want a herd to stampede because it's tough to stop once it gets going. In the case of the Thundering Herd of Marshall University, the University of Massachusetts got lucky.
Marshall bolted from the gates and was ready to run all the way home to West Virginia with a stunning come-from-behind victory in the final six minutes, nine seconds, but UMass managed to cut the Herd off at the pass and hold on for a 61-59 victory Saturday in front of a new Mullins Center-record low 7,107 fans. Tuesday against the College of Charleston, only 7,536 fans showed up.
Saturday's game was a tale of two halves. The 4-2 Minutemen rolled to a 35-15 halftime lead, almost breaking another record set Tuesday for fewest points in a half (14) by an opponent. In the second half, however, especially in the final 6:09, UMass did a complete turnaround, nearly blowing a 19-point advantage.
"We just didn't put them away," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. "Our guys thought they'd lay down and Marshall didn't. We got it to 19 (54-35 with 6:09 remaining) and thought it was over."
Jon DePina went scoreless in 10 minutes of action.
The turnovers were caused by the Herd's pressuring defense and by basic Minutemen mistakes. With the score 54-40, Lari Ketner was called for traveling. Then Tyrone Weeks had a pass intercepted and Mike Babul was also called for steps.
The lead fluctuated between 7 and 10 points until there was under a minute left in the game. UMass' Charlton Clarke made two free throws to make it 61-54, but those would be the final points UMass would score. A VonDale Morton putback brought Marshall to within five, 61-56, and then, when Clarke threw the ball out of bounds, Marshall's Morton hit a three-pointer with 39.9 seconds remaining to pull the Herd to within two, 61-59.
That's when the most bizarre play of the game occurred. First-year UMass sophomore Monty Mack forgot that there was a time difference between the 35-second clock and game clock and dribbled out the 35 seconds for a shot-clock violation.
"He's not an experienced point guard and those are the things that will kill you," Flint said. "We don't have a true-blue point guard."
That left 3.6 seconds remaining in the game. Young took the inbounds pass and frantically dribbled down court with Weeks and Clarke blanketing him. Young tried to get the ball to Morton, but Weeks deflected it back to Young, who couldn't get off a shot before the horn sounded.
"We just ran out of time," said Marshall coach Greg White. "With another 30 seconds this game could have gone either way. I'm proud of our guys."
White should have been proud. After shooting a paltry 22 percent (5-for-23) from the field in the first half, Marshall shot 46 percent from the field (13-for-28), 93 percent from the line (14-for-15), out-rebounded the Minutemen 17-11 and forced six more turnovers.
"Last year we'd have lost that type of game, no question," Flint said. "We just didn't put them away, which has been a problem for us. I don't know what the deal is, but we'll figure it out."
The Minutemen had better figure it out quickly. They head to second-ranked Kansas for a Wednesday matchup at the famed Allen Fieldhouse.
Charlton Clarke wasn't pleased with the effort he saw from his teammates.
In the first half, UMass rolled to a 10-0 lead and didn't allow a bucket until Young hit a fall-away jumper in the lane with 14:37 remaining in the first half. The Herd scored just one point over the next five minutes, while the Minutemen cruised. The emphatic slamming of the door seemed to come when Mack perfectly lofted an alley-oop pass to Ketner, who promptly sent it through the rim harder than a jackhammer pounding into cement, as UMass had its first 20-point lead (23-3) of the season with 9:02 left in the half.
"I've been around college basketball for 20 years and that's the most physical basketball team I've ever seen," White said. "In the first half they physically dominated us. I got on our team pretty hard (at halftime) because I felt we weren't competing."
Ketner improved his shooting from Tuesday (9-for-22) by making 7 of 11 shots from the field against the smaller Herd for a team-high 17 points, most of them short jump-hooks or fadeaways. He also had game-highs for rebounds (10) and blocked shots (four). Weeks, despite being relatively quiet for most of the game, scored 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the floor.
Young paced the Herd with 19 points.
MHERST - The streak continued- barely. Following a thrilling 61-59 win over Marshall Saturday, the University of Massachusetts ran its record to 71-0 in games in which it has held a lead of 10 points or higher since the start of the 1994-95 season. The 4-2 Minutemen had a lead of 22 (four times in the first half and once in the second, 37-15 at the 19:38 mark the last one) before escaping with the two-point win.
UMass also ran its overall mark to 49-6 in the Mullins Center and 16-1 vs. non-conference opponents at the Mullins. UMass' only loss since the Mullins Center opened in 1993 was a 102-81 thrashing by Fresno State last year.
The Minutemen now have won their last three games. That didn't happen last season until Jan. 21.
FANS GOT A little nervous with 1:42 remaining until halftime and UMass holding a 35-13 lead. Junior center Lari Ketner fell hard on his left elbow. Although he was in obvious pain, Ketner stayed in the game. He finished with 17 points and played 32 minutes.
"It's still in quite a bit of pain," Ketner said following the game.
He's not expected to miss anytime.
FRESHMAN RONELL BLIZZARD can't say the same. He has been struggling with knee and foot problems all season and for the first time all year sat on the bench in street clothes. There have been rumors that he might redshirt, but coach Bruiser Flint has said that such a decision would be up to Blizzard and his doctors.
SENIOR FORWARD TYRONE Weeks played his 100th game for the Minutemen. Although he had 12 points and has perfected his foul-line jump shot, Flint wasn't happy that his lone senior had only four rebounds and didn't seem to be pulling players together like a leader should.
"I didn't necessarily need him to step up in terms of numbers," Flint said. "I needed him to huddle us and tell guys, 'let's get it going and let's finish this off,' and I don't think I got that."
Weeks should crack the top 10 all-time career games played. Rafer Giles is at No. 10 with 115 games while Dana Dingle is No. 1 with 137.
DESPITE BEING OUT-REBOUNDED 17-11 in the second half, UMass still out-rebounded the Herd for the game, 33-30, to maintain its dominance on the glass. UMass has out-rebounded all six of its opponents and holds a +10.5 rebounding margin.
MHERST - You figure that at some point the offensive consistency will come around. Or at least it should. If it does, Massachusetts could become a formidable team again, one capable of being mentioned among the top teams in college basketball. Until then, the Minutemen might be forced to rely on their steadily improving defense to overcome the offensive woes - and that could backfire if they do so too often.
It almost backfired yesterday in UMass' 61-59 win over Marshall, which became the second UMass opponent in as many games to score just 2 points over the first 10 minutes of the game, then almost overcame a 22-point deficit, in part because the Minutemen could not generate enough consistency to put the Thundering Herd away.
UMass forward Tyrone Weeks deflected a pass by guard Travis Young just seconds before the final buzzer to disrupt Marshall's final possession and seal the win for the Minutemen, who were fortunate Marshall was out of timeouts and could not set up a final play. Young got the ball back after the deflection but did not get the last shot off in time.
The play came after UMass turned the ball over with 3.6 seconds left, as rookie guard Monty Mack, who apparently mistook the shot clock for the game clock, dribbled away from the basket as the former expired. The Minutemen improved to 4-2, while Marshall fell to 2-2.
''In the old days, they used to allow you to practice after a game like this, but you can't do that now,'' said UMass coach Bruiser Flint, whose team meets No. 2 Kansas Wednesday. Asked what his team would have worked on if he could have had a practice after yesterday's near debacle, Flint rendered a cold stare and uttered, ''Conditioning.''
Lari Ketner and company rolled in the first half.
But in the second half, Marshall's backcourt pressure began to have an effect. That factor, and a few unforced errors, denied UMass once again of convincing victory: Rather than adding to their 35-15 halftime lead, the Minutemen scored just 8 points over the first 10 minutes of the second half and had just one field goal over the last 6:08.
The UMass defense kept Marshall in check early in the second half, but the Herd outscored the Minutemen, 24-7, over that last 6:08, pulling within 61-59 with 40 seconds left on a 3-point basket by VonDale Morton. ''We didn't come back to the ball. We weren't strong with the ball in traps and we had guys rattled,'' said UMass guard Charlton Clarke. ''That affected us down the stretch.''
But a win is a win, and Flint said the team is improved from last season, when it would have lost such a game. He added UMass can use the game to prove a point he's been making for quite some time: Finish strongly.
Clarke said it appears the message has hit home. ''After this, we've got Kansas, Colorado, Connecticut, and Cincinnati,'' he said. ''We've got to learn to play for 40 minutes. If you don't, you lose by 20.''
MHERST -- Sometimes, it might be better to look at the glass as half full.
"I'm just happy that we got a win," University of Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint said after his Minutemen built an early 21-2 lead, then had to eke out a 61-59 win over Marshall University yesterday at the Mullins Center.
"Last year, we'd have lost that one without question," he added. "But we pulled it out."
What Flint and his staff still have to solve is what happened to the Minutemen's resolve and intensity after UMass built up a 35-15 halftime lead and led by 22 points early in the second half.
Bruiser desperately tries to get the Minutemen to think.
The Minutemen were outscored 24-7 over the final six minutes of the game, and could have lost, but Marshall freshman guard Travis Young missed a three pointer from just inside halfcourt at the buzzer. The Minutemen committed 11 of their 18 turnovers in the second half, keyed by a high-pressure Marshall defense.
UMass, now 4-2, was led by 6-foot-11 center Lari Ketner's 17 points and 10 rebounds. Tyrone Weeks added 12 points. Young led all scorers with 19 points.
Off to a great start
The opening 20 minutes was the best half of the year for the Minutemen. They scored the game's first 10 points, went on a 21-2 run over the first 10 minutes and rolled into halftime with a 20-point lead.
How easy was the first half? UMass reserve center Ajmal Basit completed a three-point play after he went up for a dunk, lost the handle on the ball, was fouled by Vince Carafelli and watched the ball arc its way through the hoop.
"I got on our team pretty good at halftime," said Marshall coach Greg White. "I felt like we weren't competing."
The Thundering Herd (2-2) competed like mad in the second half. Marshall cut a few points off the UMass lead in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
UMass still led 54-35 on a Basit jam with 6:05 left. The Minutemen got only one more field goal the rest of the way, Ketner's rebound hoop with 2:19 to go. Marshall's full-court pressure defense forced five turnovers in the final four minutes
Wright hit a three pointer with 1:55 left, cutting the UMass lead to seven points. The Herd kept chipping away, with VonDale Morton rebounding a Wright miss with a minute left, making it 61-56. UMass' Charlton Clarke was forced out of bounds with 54 seconds left, turning the ball over and Morton ripped a trey with 39 ticks to go, cutting UMass' lead to 61-59.
Minuteman sophomore guard Monty Mack, apparently thinking he could run out the clock, was called for a 35-second clock violation with 3.6 seconds left. That gave Marshall one last shot. Wright had a pass deflect off of Weeks' hands back to him, and the long bomb at the buzzer fell short.
"We told [Mack] to hold the ball and we were going to run a certain play," Flint explained. "He thought there was less than 21 seconds, he thought the shot clock and the game clock were the same. He tried to run it out. When you don't have an experienced point guard, those kind of things kill you."
TIP-INS: Yesterday's game marked the beginning of a busy 24 hours for the Mullins Center bull gang. Immediately after the conclusion of the UMass-Marshall game, they got to work preparing for an 8 p.m. hockey game featuring UMass and Northeastern. The workers will have to put the hoop floor back down in time for this afternoon's 2 p.m. women's game between UMass (featuring Nicky Vallieres of Adams) and Holy Cross (featuring Anna Kinne of Housatonic).
Limited tickets remain for next Sunday's Commonwealth Classic game against Boston College at the FleetCenter and for the game with Connecticut on Dec. 23 at the Hartford Civic Center. Call 545-0810 for information.
f ever a team deserved to win, the Marshall Thundering Herd did Saturday afternoon.
The Massachusetts men's basketball team blew a 20-point halftime lead, and with 3.6 seconds left Marshall had a chance to at least send the game into overtime after a Monty Mack shot clock violation.
Freshman point guard Travis Young's desperation runner came up short as did the Herd, 61-59, in front of a listless 7,107 at the William D. Mullins Center.
Marshall (2-2) was held to 15 points (5-of-23 from the floor) in the first half by a swarming and energetic UMass defense, but scored 44 points in the second frame to rally from a 35-15 halftime deficit.
"In the old days, you'd come back and practice after a game like this," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint of his team's performance in the second half. "They [the NCAA] don't let you do things like that anymore. Some people can get away with it; I can't.
"We just didn't put them away," he said. "The intensity wasn't there. They thought [Marshall] was going to lay down, and they didn't."
After an Ajmal Basit dunk gave the Minutemen (4-2) a 54-35 lead with 6:08 left, the Herd went on a scoring stampede.
Led by VonDale Morton's nine points (seven in the final 1:49), Marshall went on a 24-7 run to close out the game. Morton's only points of the game came in that run. Young had six points in the rally and led the Herd with a game- high 19 points.
"They came up with the balls at the end, and they made big shots at the end," Flint said of Marshall's late run.
With 40 seconds to go, Morton drained a 3-pointer to make the score 61-59. Charlton Clarke broke the Marshall pressure and held for a final shot to make it a two- possession game.
Clarke swung the ball to Mack, who Flint said thought the shot and game clocks were in sync. Mack tried to run out the clock but instead turned the ball over and gave Marshall one last chance.
With no timeouts, Young pushed the ball up the floor and tried to pass off to the wing. Tyrone Weeks tipped the pass back to Young, whose shot grazed the bottom of the rim.
"I just wanted to try to push the ball up and get a good look," Young said. "It just didn't work out that way."
"We had never really been in that situation, because of our youth," Marshall coach Greg White said. "But, we got the ball in, we got it to the scrimmage area and we got a shot. We just missed it."
Had it not been for a little luck on the Minutemen's side, the Thundering Herd could have used those 3.6 seconds to run the clock out themselves.
Basit grabbed an offensive rebound with 5:09 left in the first half and, among three Marshall defenders, threw up a wild shot that somehow fell in. Basit was fouled on the "shot" and converted the three-point play - the difference between a 61-59 win and a 59-58 loss.
Basit - playing with a minor sprain in his right knee - had 10 points and three rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. He accounted for all but one point from the Minuteman reserves. Chris Kirkland was 1-of-2 from the foul line in 16 minutes.
Junior center Lari Ketner, who scored half the Minutemen's points in the second half (13), finished the game with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to lead UMass.
Weeks chipped in 12 points and a season-low four rebounds for the Minutemen, whose post presence continues to dominate. UMass scored 43 points in the paint and held Marshall to 22.
"I've been in college basketball for 20 years and that's the most physical basketball team I've ever seen and had to play against," White said. "They're tremendous around the basket; they're just so big and strong."
"In the first half they just physically dominated us," he said.
UMass didn't allow the Herd to score until 5:25 into the game when Young hit a jumper. Marshall went another 4:36 without scoring again, and at one point, UMass was up, 30- 8.
In the first 10 minutes of each of UMass' two home games, the Minutemen have allowed a total of four points. Two of those points came on a fast-break dunk.
hen Marshall's freshman point guard Travis Young was a kid, he and his friends all knew about the UMass basketball program.
To Young, UMass isn't just another basketball school. It's "UMass"- accent on the U - and the way the Massachusetts men's basketball team played in the first half reminded Young of the UMass he envisioned before facing them.
What team the Minutemen reminded Young of in the second half is anyone's guess.
The developing saga of the 1997-98 edition of the Minutemen took an interesting turn in the second half of Saturday's 61-59 win over Marshall at the William D. Mullins Center. After a first half as good as possible for this time in the season, UMass took its 35-15 halftime lead out to the floor thinking the Thundering Herd would lay down and let the Minutemen cruise to the easy win.
Marshall didn't lay down. In fact, they almost went out and beat UMass. Keep in mind this comes four days before the Minutemen saddle up to quite possibly the toughest assignment in college basketball - No. 2 Kansas, at Allen Fieldhouse, Wednesday night.
Marshall spent the last 6:08 Saturday outscoring UMass 24-7, and after Monty Mack misjudged the time on the shot clock in UMass' last possession, the Thundering Herd was left with 3.6 seconds to possibly beat the toughest team on their schedule on the road, after being down 23-3 at its lowest point.
But Young's desperation shot fell by the wayside, and UMass survived. And while the band played the school alma mater "When Twilight Shadows Deepen," like they always do, and a polite crowd of 7,107 cheered its skeptical approval, the UMass basketball team left the floor without the swagger of a team that had just won its third straight game.
Bruiser Flint has been concerned about the team's inability to put teams away, fears that intensified following Saturday's second-half collapse.
"We just didn't put them away," Flint said. "It's like I've been saying all season. They thought Marshall was going to come out and lay down, but they didn't. Our intensity level dropped and they got back into it. It started to balloon, and all of a sudden [they're right back in it]."
Maybe the most disappointing thing about the collapse was that it came on the heels of the best 20 minutes of basketball UMass has played this year. The Minutemen dominated every phase of the game in the first half, pressuring Marshall with a suffocating defense that completely clamped down any offensive flow the Thundering Herd had. For the second game in a row, UMass made an opponent look like it had never played basketball in the first half. Much of that defensive presence can be attributed to the play of junior center Lari Ketner and senior forward Tyrone Weeks, whom Marshall coach Greg Wright called one of the best, if not the best, post combination in the country.
"They are the most physical team I've seen in my 20 years of coaching," Wright said. "And they play off that physicality. No one in the MAC is as tough around the basket like UMass."
The problem for UMass right now is the backcourt. They're young, very young - leaving junior Charlton Clarke playing point guard. But Flint has said time and time again Clarke isn't a point guard, which leaves UMass without experience at either the one or two spot. Mack's gaffe at the end, which could have cost the Minutemen the game, happened because UMass didn't have an experienced point guard for that situation, Flint said. With three guards in their first year of college ball, Flint knows he has to let them grow up on the battlefield, because he has no choice.
But UMass did pull it out Saturday, its third straight win. At 4-2, the Minutemen are well ahead of last year's pace after six games. The Minutemen were 2-4 at this point in 1996, after losing to Fresno St. 102-81 at home.
"Last year we would have lost this game," Flint said. "But this taught us a lesson. When you get a big lead, you have to put teams away. Like I've said, it's going to be ugly sometimes until guys get comfortable. But this is my team, and I know what we have to work with. I think we'll be okay."
There are things Flint knows his team has to learn, especially his young backcourt. But he said after the game like Saturdays in the "old days," coaches would send teams right back out on the court for an impromptu practice. But given the wish, Flint said he wouldn't work on breaking a press, shooting free throws or any of that. He'd be working on one thing, he said.
Conditioning. Good old-fashioned laps.
And if this were the old days, Flint might have had his team running laps all the way to Kansas.
|Marshall Thundering Herd||59|
|at the Mullins Center|
MARSHALL (59) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp King 36 2-9 4-4 1-2 1 3 9 Dobbs 15 0-4 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 McKelvey 26 0-5 2-3 3-8 0 3 2 Young 37 6-13 4-5 1-2 1 2 19 Wright 18 1-3 0-0 0-3 0 2 2 Burgess 19 3-5 0-0 1-1 1 2 7 Gray 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Jett 5 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Morton 18 3-7 2-2 3-4 0 2 9 Carafelli 23 3-5 5-6 4-5 1 4 11 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 18-51 17-20 13-25 4 19 59 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.353, FT-.850. 3-Point Goals: 6-15, .400 (King 1-4, Dobbs 0-2, Young 3-6, Burgess 1-2, Morton 1-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 1 (McKelvey). Turnovers: 17 (Young 5, Gray 2, McKelvey 2, Wright 2, Burgess, Carafelli, Dobbs, Jett, King). Steals: 5 (Morton 3, McKelvey, Young). MASSACHUSETTS (61) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Babul 30 1-6 2-2 3-6 3 2 4 Weeks 24 6-8 0-0 2-4 0 4 12 Ketner 32 7-11 3-5 2-10 1 2 17 Clarke 32 2-8 3-4 0-1 2 1 8 Mack 35 3-8 3-3 1-2 5 3 9 DePina 10 0-0 0-0 0-2 0 4 0 Cruz 3 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 0 Kirkland 16 0-2 1-2 1-4 3 0 1 Basit 18 3-5 4-5 2-3 0 2 10 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-49 16-21 11-33 15 18 61 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.449, FT-.762. 3-Point Goals: 1-6, .167 (Babul 0-1, Clarke 1-3, Mack 0-2). Team rebounds: None. Blocked shots: 5 (Ketner 4, Kirkland). Turnovers: 18 (Ketner 4, Mack 3, Babul 2, Clarke 2, Cruz 2, DePina 2, Weeks 2, Kirkland). Steals: 7 (Mack 3, Basit, Clarke, DePina, Weeks). __________________________________ Marshall 15 44 - 59 Massachusetts 35 26 - 61 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 7,107. Officials: Tom Corbin, John LaRocca, Glen Horner.