he University of Massachusetts men's basketball team left Las Vegas Saturday night the way most visitors there wish they could: as a winner.
Sophomore guard Monty Mack scored 21 points to lead four players in double figures as the Minutemen topped Colorado 79-68 Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center.
The game was part of the Las Vegas Shootout, a one-night tournament that crowned no winner and featured two former assistant coaches to John Calipari, who built UMass into a Final Four team before leaving last year for the New Jersey Nets.
Calipari's first assistant to get a head-coaching job, Bill Bayno, saw his UNLV team fall to Syracuse 71-64 in the nightcap. However, Bruiser Flint's Minutemen continued their winning ways despite heavy foul trouble.
UMass, now 6-3, has two more games before the calendar year ends. The first is the "U Game" against No. 12 UConn at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hartford Civic Center. After a short Christmas break, the Minutemen head to Cleveland to play Cincinnati on Dec. 27 in the Rock and Roll Shootout.
Wins in both games likely would propel the team into the national rankings.
To reach the Top 25, one of the positive trends the Minutemen would like to see continue is the strong play of Ajmal Basit off the bench. The 6-9 sophomore from Brooklyn made 5 of 7 shots from the field and 5 of 8 free throws en route to a 15-point, seven rebound evening.
Basit played 27 minutes before fouling out. The Minutemen's big men were plagued by fouls as Tyrone Weeks and Lari Ketner each finished with four. The Buffaloes ended up with a huge rebounding edge over UMass, 41-28.
Fortunately, the Minutemen's shooting was on target. From the field, the team made 28 of 52 shots, a sizzling 54 percent. From the free throw line, the Minutemen made 20 of 25 attempts (80 percent), paced by Charlton Clarke's 8-9 outing from the stripe.
Ketner finished with 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting. The junior center also blocked two shots to lead the team.
Charlton Clarke drives past Colorado's Dwight Jones.
Getting a win over Colorado likely would have been much harder had another team from Massachusetts not acquired the services of the Buffaloes top player earlier in the year. The Boston Celtics drafted Chauncy Billups, who declared for the NBA draft after his junior year and helped lead a team that usually finished near the bottom of the Big Eight/Big 12 league standings to an NCAA tournament win over Indiana.
Colorado (4-4) pulled as close as eight points late with the Minutemen, led by guard Marlon Hughes' 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including four 3-pointers Center Charlie Melvin added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
UMass now has won two straight since taking a 73-71 loss to Kansas, now the No. 2 ranked team in the nation.
AS VEGAS - Colorado didn't see the dazzling lights in its first visit to glitzy Las Vegas.
But the Buffaloes sure ran into a lot of good basketball players.
Colorado didn't have enough answers for Massachusetts' size and talent Saturday night and dropped a 79-68 decision to the Minutemen in the first game of the one-day Las Vegas Shootout. Nevada-Las Vegas played No. 25 Syracuse in the second game.
The Buffs, outweighed by a total of 105 pounds along the front line, made a game of it with grit, determination and just plain smart basketball. Against Colorado's pressure defense, the Minutemen were forced to become 40-minute men.
"Colorado is a scrappy team,'' Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint said.
But in the end, the Minutemen simply had two many weapons, too many match-up advantages, too many players.
And much better shooting.
Colorado somehow won the rebounding battle 41-28, including an amazing 22-7 edge on the offensive glass. The Buffaloes took six more shots but made six fewer. CU shot 37.9 percent from the field for the game; Massachusetts hit 53.8 percent.
That, CU coach Ricardo Patton said, is why Colorado now stands 4-4 and Massachusetts improved to 6-3.
"Until we gain some consistency with our shooting, we're going to have some long nights,'' Patton said. "This isn't brain surgery. It's just basketball. No matter how well you're playing defense, you still have to knock down some shots.''
The Buffs once again played almost as if there was lid on the basket. Colorado still hasn't shot better than 44 percent for a game this season.
CU trailed by just 41-35 at halftime but then went five minutes into the second half before making a field goal. Kenny Price, CU's best outside shooter, led the Buffs with 10 first-half points. He registered five fouls and zero points in the second half.
"I think we've got shooters,'' said CU senior guard Marlon Hughes, who recorded a career-best 24 points. "But sometimes young guys get caught up in the game and start shooting off balance. That's just them not playing enough games at this level.''
Lari Ketner went 8-15 from the floor.
"They have a lot of guys who can score,'' Melvin said. "It's more difficult to stop a team when you can't just focus on one or two players.''
Colorado led only once in the game, 3-2. But Massachusetts, which almost upset Kansas (73-71) Dec. 10 in Lawrence, couldn't put the Buffs away. "Colorado is very active on the boards and went right to the glass,'' said Ketner, a 6-foot-10 junior. "We knew we had to play them as if they were a Kansas or Connecticut.''
That's quite a compliment. But it didn't make CU players feel any better.
"We're always fighting, but right now it feels pretty bad,'' Hughes said. "We're working hard and not seeing any success.''
Colorado hosts the University of Denver on Monday night, then has a week off before playing Centenary Dec. 29 in Boulder.
"Our guys have maintained good spirit, and they work extremely hard,'' Patton said. "But I believe the guys are still trying to find themselves. If you get 22 offensive rebounds, you have to convert some of those.''
ruiser Flint tossed out a cliche to sophomore guard Monty Mack on Saturday night.
"Coach told me just to take what they were giving me," Mack said.
So he took everything.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore pumped in a career-high 21 points -- 14 in the opening half -- as Massachusetts knocked off Colorado 79-68 in the first half of the Las Vegas Shootout at the Thomas & Mack Center. "They trapped a lot on defense and gave me some good looks," said Mack, who was 6 of 8 in the first half and made all three of his 3-point attempts. "I'm getting more and more confident with my outside shooting. My confidence is very high."
The Minutemen upped their record to 6-3. Colorado fell to 4-4.
"It was the type of game we expected," Flint said. "They scrapped on both ends and made us work. We got sloppy at times, but I was glad we were able to take care of the ball. We had a season-low in turnovers (12), which was a good sign considering how they scrapped and scrambled."
Flint, who coached with UNLV coach Bill Bayno at UMass for seven years under former Minutemen coach John Calipari, said his team was unaffected by the distraction of traveling far from home during the holiday season.
"It's a game we have on our schedule that we have to play," Flint said. "I think it turned out to be a very positive experience for all of us. We had a good time out here."
UMass took a 23-11 lead at the 10:37 mark of the first half, but the Buffaloes closed to within 41-35 at the half.
"Some players think the game is over when you get a big lead," Flint said. "I told Monty that this isn't high school. You have to play a full game. He's working on that."
Mack said he responded to his coach's message.
"I've got to remember to keep focused," Mack said. "We were in there against a team that plays a full game at both ends."
UMass led by as many as 16 -- 68-52 -- in the second half, on a pair of free throws by Ajmal Basit at the 5:42 mark. But Colorado closed to within 69-62 with a 9-1 run capped by a Charlie Melvin free throw with 2:45 to go. The Buffaloes were again down by seven on a pair of free throws by Ronnie DeGray with 1:05 to go, but could pull no closer.
"They were tough and we had a tough time putting them away," said Mack, who added three assists and a pair of steals in 32 minutes. "We expected them to be physical, and they were."
|The Las Vegas Shootout|
at the Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas NV
COLORADO (68) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Price 29 4-9 0-0 1-3 2 5 10 Degray 33 2-13 4-6 7-11 1 4 8 Melvin 34 5-12 6-10 7-11 0 3 16 Hughes 26 8-13 4-5 1-2 1 0 24 Jones 20 0-3 0-0 1-3 1 3 0 Frier 14 1-2 1-2 0-1 1 2 3 Smith 20 2-5 0-2 1-2 1 1 4 Renfroe 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Mosley 14 0-1 2-5 1-2 1 1 2 Thomas 8 0-0 1-2 0-0 0 2 1 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-58 18-32 19-35 8 21 68 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.379, FT-.563. 3-Point Goals: 6-10, .600 (Price 2-3, Hughes 4-7). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 1 (Degray). Turnovers: 15 (Hughes 7, Price 4, Mosley 2, Melvin, Smith). Steals: 4 (Hughes 2, Jones, Price). MASSACHUSETTS (79) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Babul 34 1-3 2-2 0-1 2 2 4 Weeks 23 3-7 2-2 1-5 1 4 8 Ketner 30 8-15 1-2 1-5 0 4 17 Clarke 36 2-5 8-9 0-1 4 3 12 Mack 32 9-14 0-0 0-2 3 4 21 Depina 12 0-1 2-2 0-2 2 1 2 Kirkland 6 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 1 0 Basit 27 5-7 5-8 3-7 0 5 15 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 28-52 20-25 5-24 12 24 79 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.538, FT-.800. 3-Point Goals: 3-5, .600 (Clarke 0-1, Mack 3-4). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 4 (Ketner 2, Basit 2). Turnovers: 10 (Mack 4, Babul, Basit, Clarke, Depina, Ketner, Weeks). Steals: 9 (Babul 2, Ketner 2, Mack 2, Clarke, Depina, Weeks). __________________________________ Colorado 35 33 - 68 Massachusetts 41 38 - 79 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 5,000. Officials: Ferrell, Tom O'neill, Steven Pyatt.