MHERST - What do you get when you cross two Atlantic 10 teams with a combined record of 18-24, both mired in a season-long struggle for consistency?
Picture a rocky horror show.
Or consider the view of St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, whose Hawks lost to the University of Massachusetts, 59-58, yesterday despite the fact that UMass shot a season-worst 36 percent from the floor, and 44 percent from the line in the second half.
St. Joseph's N'aim Crenshaw hits a Minuteman wall.
It was a contest typical of how both teams have fared this season, which meant a soporific crowd of 6,255 witnessed solid pressure defense and an occasional clutch play, but, for the most part, poor shooting from lackluster offenses. There were 13 ties and 13 lead changes - numbers that usually reflect a pulsating affair - with neither team leading by more than 6 points.
The game's best drama came on the last two possessions, when UMass (10-12, 6-4) separated itself from its counterpart just enough for victory. Junior guard Monty Mack (18 points) hit a driving bank shot with 13 seconds left for the game's final points, then Chris Kirkland (8 points, 2 blocks) rejected an attempt by St. Joseph's forward Andre Howard as time expired.
''I think we all started scrambling, Ajmal [Basit] went over to the guy taking the shot, and I just went over and helped him,'' said Kirkland, who also sank two free throws with 51.1 seconds left to help UMass to its first sweep of an opponent.
''Any time you shoot 36 percent from the floor and 58 percent from the line and win, what can you say?'' said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. The third-year coach improved his career record to 50-37, tying Jack Leaman as the second-fastest coach in school history to reach 50 wins (behind Matt Zunic, 1959-62).
The victory also tied UMass with Rhode Island for second place in the Atlantic 10 East Division with six league games each to play.
''Hey, we're still in second place,'' said Flint. ''We still have a chance. I keep telling the players, `What do we have to lose?' We have everything to gain at this point if some guys just come out and do their jobs.''
Damian Reid had 17 points to lead St. Joseph's (9-13, 3-7), which shot 35 percent from the floor, 44 percent from the line in the first half, and had 14 turnovers.
It was the Hawks' sixth consecutive defeat, and another close call at the Mullins Center that ended in a loss. Martelli was among several in the Hawks camp who insisted that Howard was fouled on the final play. ''He got fouled. There was a foul and no call,'' said Martelli, whose team lost to UMass in overtime last season and during the 1995-96 season.
UMass players denied there was a foul, but Flint wasn't so quick to second that motion. ''There might have been, but hey, don't you think it was about time I got a call in my own house?'' said Flint, who was whistled with a controversial technical foul for being out of the coaches' box last week against Fordham.
Despite the game's ugliness, Flint was pleased with the win considering that the Minutemen are banged up. Starting senior guard Charlton Clarke (7 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) has opted to play the rest of the season after an X-ray on his right foot Friday showed a stress fracture in his fourth metatarsal.
Clarke's options were to sit out two weeks and come back at the end of the month or play with the pain and sit out practices. He chose the latter despite being told by physicians he might incur further damage. ''It's going to bother me now because the game is over,'' said Clarke. ''During the game I didn't feel it - or I acted like I didn't feel it.''
MHERST - Two years ago, when both of these teams still were the class of the Atlantic 10 Conference, a collision would have produced a loud bang.
But yesterday's sound, coming as it did from a confrontation between two 9-12 teams, was much more like a squish.
No one had to elaborate on this for St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli following his Hawks' 59-58 loss to UMass yesterday.
``A game that ugly will send people back to watching the impeachment trial,'' said Martelli, no stranger to close, ugly defeats in the Mullins Center.
As such, yesterday's game came packaged with the requisite late, controversial decision.
The Minutemen had their final one-point lead - courtesy of a Monty Mack running banker with 14 seconds left - when St. Joseph's Andre Howard drove the baseline down the other end. Chris Kirkland swung across the lane to block Howard in heavy traffic, though Martelli felt his forward was fouled.
``He got fouled and there was no call,'' Martelli said.
Martelli's charge had the UMass side jumping to its own defense perhaps a bit too quickly.
Kirkland, Mack, Charlton Clarke and Ajmal Basit later threw their arms up in simultaneous protest.
``A clean block, a clean block,'' Clarke said with mock solemnity.
UMass coach Bruiser Flint even smiled.
``A foul? It might have been,'' said Flint. ``But don't you think it was time that I got a call in my own house?''
These days, the same thinking applies to a win for these Minutemen, now 10-12 and, of more importance, 6-4 and tied for second place in the A-10's East Division with Rhode Island.
Yesterday's win was a matter of survival.
``The crazy thing about it is that we're still in second place and we still have a chance,'' said Flint. ``I don't know why not all of these guys don't see that. But it's like I tell them - we have everything to gain from this point on. Go out there and play like you have never played before.''
In that respect, qualification for an NIT invitation - which requires a minimum of a .500 record - is the most realistic postseason opportunity that this team has left.
For the moment, this is the new mission - a drive to reach .500.
With that in mind, Clarke played yesterday despite a broken bone (the fourth metatarsal) in his left foot. Kirkland made it through on a sore left ankle.
And Mack (18 points) had just enough to make a difference as the only Minuteman in double figures.
Uninspired offense on both sides, including a six-point, six-rebound, five-foul stinker from UMass center Lari Ketner, had the lead changing hands four times in the last 1:04. It started when Hawks center Damian Reid hit two free throws for a 56-55 edge.
Kirkland took it back with two free throws with 51 seconds left, Howard answered by chasing down a loose ball and laying it in with 33 seconds left, then Flint called the final play for Mack on the left side of the floor.
Everyone knew where this one was going.
``There wasn't any other option - I just told (Mack) to get open,'' said Flint, voicing a belief that was heartily seconded by Mack.
Said Clarke, ``Monty told me to move to the other side, because he was taking this one over.''
The result was a 10-foot line drive that banked in like a hard pool shot off the backboard.
``Yeah, at 45 degrees,'' Mack said triumphantly.
he first 38 minutes may have been boring, but the final two were unforgettable.
For the second straight year, the Massachusetts men's basketball team dodged defeat at the William D. Mullins Center against a pesky St. Joseph's squad yesterday. And thanks to the late-game heroics of UMass (10-12, 6-4 A-10) forward Chris Kirkland, who blocked a potential game- winning lay-up for the Hawks (9-13, 3-7 A-10) with three seconds left, the Minutemen escaped with a 59-58 victory and a tie for second place in the East division of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
In a battle which produced five lead changes in the final two minutes, it seemed as though UMass was on the brink of defeat in the waning moments. With 31 seconds remaining in the contest, St. Joe's grabbed a one-point lead, 58-57, after Hawk forward Andre Howard (nine points) put back an offensive rebound.
After a time-out, Minuteman guard Monty Mack fumbled the ball at the top of the key, recovered, and slashed to the hoop. While drawing an array of defenders, Mack pulled up for a 12-foot jumper, and somehow managed to bank in a line-drive, 45-degree angle, game-winning shot with 13 ticks left... but the dramatics did not end there.
St. Joseph's, trailing by one point, elected not to call time- out, and quickly moved the ball down the floor. With time running down, the Hawks looked to Howard again. The junior forward sliced through a confused UMass defense and was alone under the basket, poised to sink a buzzer-beating shot. But suddenly Kirkland came from nowhere and tipped the Howard try away from the hoop and into the hands of Ajmal Basit, who held onto the ball for dear life as time expired.
"Chris came up with a big block at the end of the game because the kid was wide open going into the lane," Minuteman team captain Charlton Clarke said of Kirkland's game-saving effort. "There were two big plays. Monty shouldn't get all of the credit."
After watching a number of contests slip away in the final moments this season, UMass coach Bruiser Flint couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief at game's end.
"I'm going to be old and gray before my time," Flint said. "I'm just glad that one went my way this time. We pulled it out, we gutted it out. We did the things we wanted to do at the end of the game."
Despite a low-scoring opening half (six points), Mack finished with a game-high 18 points. As the offensive crutch for the Minutemen, Mack was the one player Flint would even consider choosing to take the final shot.
"I said to him, get open, you better get open and get the ball. I told him that we didn't need a three [pointer], just take it to the basket and get fouled," Flint said of Mack.
Ajmal Basit contributed well with 9 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.
"I'm just happy to be playing," Basit said. "I haven't had a chance to get a lot of minutes consecutively in games. Some games I play a lot. Some, I don't. I'm just happy that we won and I contributed something."
After two sub-par outings against Texas and Rhode Island, Clarke regained a bit of his old form yesterday, netting seven points despite the pain of an ailing foot - an injury that the doctors believed would keep him out of the line-up. Instead of watching, Clarke played through the pain with the hope that he could light a fire under his team, which needs its captain during the final stretch of the season.
"I just told him that the decision was his," Flint said of Clarke's playing status. "The doctors here told him what they thought would be best for him. And I told him that I was in total agreement with them, but he wanted to play."
UMass next plays Wednesday night at the Mullins Center, where it hopes to avenge an earlier loss to St. Bonaventure.
unishing the William D. Mullins Center crowd for something they collectively did a long time ago, the referees officiating the Massachusetts men's basketball team's afternoon contest with St. Joseph's decided to subject the onlookers to the ancient Chinese "foul torture".
This brutally effective technique involves the referees blowing the whistles each and every time a team makes its way down the court, so that the fans being disciplined are forced to sit motionless in the arena for as many as six completely uneventful hours.
At least, that's how National Geographic might have described the matchup.
In a game decided by foul shots, the Minutemen managed to win the game while shooting only .538 from the free- throw line. With nine shots from the charity stripe in the first half, the Hawks could connect only four times, but the real test would come in the second period.
With important players such as UMass frontcourt members Lari Ketner and Ajmal Basit, and SJU hoopsters Robert Haskins and Damian Reid in foul trouble for the final portion of the game, both teams were playing tentatively nearly the entire second half. The Hawks matched the Minuteman statistic of having five players recording three or more fouls. Ketner seemed the most affected by the officials' eagerness.
"With Lari, that freaks him out," UMass Coach Bruiser Flint said. "From that point on, he's like pretty much done. He's like, 'I can't touch anybody,' and then he gets frustrated."
With 6:32 remaining in the game, both squads were in the double bonus. 22 whistles were blown against Massachusetts in the contest, while 20 went against the Hawks.
As time began to run out in the second half, free throws regularly determined the lead. When Ketner fouled out with 1:04 to go, two shots from the line by Reid put SJU up, 56- 55. St. Joe's forward Andre Howard was then called for a foul on Minuteman Chris Kirkland, for which the UMass player was given two shots to retake the lead, 57-56.
Overall, foul shots accounted for 20 points for the Hawks and 14 for Massachusetts. Offensively, neither team could find a significant rhythm with the game being stopped nearly every set-up. SJU shot an abysmal .353 from the field, with UMass firing only a slightly more accurately .362.
Players and coaches from both teams were not only incensed by the number of calls, but also for the number of non-calls, as many participants believed that obvious fouls were missed in the wake of very "touchy" ones.
Even the final defensive stand for UMass, which saw Howard taking the ball to the hoop down 59-58 with time expiring, was debated fiercely when nothing was called as Kirkland made a block on the would-be game-winning shot.
"He got fouled," SJU Coach Phil Martelli said of Howard's effort. "There was a foul and no call."
"Clean block," Kirkland, Basit, and guard Charlton Clarke argued in unison in regards to the debated play.
"People say [the referees] missed some calls in our favor, but I think it was pretty fair," Basit added. "They missed some calls for us and they missed some calls for them. I think they officiated the game pretty well."
Flint believed that although the final few seconds were questionable, the referees did nothing to help the Minuteman cause.
"It might have been [a foul]," Flint said. "Don't you think it's about time I got a call in my own house? I felt bad for [Martelli], but hey, there were some calls out there today in the game that were just like... you know, I am at home. If I breathe on the guy and I'm at St. Joe's I expect them to call that, but not when I'm in the Mullins."
Concluded Martelli: "A game that ugly will send people to watching the impeachment trial again."
Seth Koenig is a Collegian columnist.
MHERST, Mass. - Each league has games with cachet. In the Atlantic 10, St. Joseph's-Massachusetts has been one of those games.
When UMass was No. 1 much of the 1995-96 season, the Hawks twice took them to overtime. UMass' Marcus Camby won the first game. Referee Thom Corbin won the second for UMass.
When St. Joe's went to the 1997 Sweet 16, a win at UMass in early January got them started and a wildly emotional win on Hawk Hill at the end of February made it real.
Last season, the Hawks needed to make only one free throw in the final seconds to win at UMass. Duval Simmonds missed two. Charlton Clarke hit a trey at the buzzer and UMass won in overtime.
The A-10, in its wisdom, put yesterday afternoon's game at Mullins Center on its network. Made sense at the time.
When they threw the ball up, however, UMass and St. Joe's had combined to lose nine of 10. They had identical 9-12 records. Nobody was expecting an epic.
First team to 60 was a lock. Neither got there.
St. Joe's, however, thinks it should have gotten there. What would a game at Mullins be without a controversial finish?
There were a zillion lead changes, four in the final 64 seconds. There were 10 ties. The biggest lead was six.
It came down, as it usually does with these two, to the final play.
Monty Mack had given UMass a 59-58 lead on a runner with 13 seconds left. Disdaining a timeout, the Hawks attacked. The ball came loose and popped to Andre Howard. He attacked the basket. UMass attacked him.
Shot up. Some contact. Chris Kirkland blocks it. No call. Game over.
UMass 59, St. Joe's 58.
"He got fouled," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "There was a foul and no call."
It was a viewpoint call.
"Clean block, clean block," UMass' Clarke said.
The block did look clean. There was the matter of contact before the shot and the block.
"The ref didn't call it," Kirkland said. "It felt good after the horn went off."
Ajmal Basit was on Howard and, if there was contact, he was the one.
"It came down to the last play basically," Howard said. "We had a nice drive to the basket at the end. The ref didn't want to make the call. We lose the game."
Was he fouled?
"Oh, no question," Howard said. "There were a few bumps. I think it was recognizable enough in order to make a call. He didn't make the call so we can't do anything about it now."
For St. Joe's, it was a familiar story - just worse than usual. The Hawks (9-13, 3-7 Atlantic 10) have lost six straight and 13 straight on the A-10 road. They've been in all the losses. They're still losses.
A pretty game it was not, but the Minutemen won in the end.
The teams attempted 109 shots and missed 70. They took 23 treys and missed 18. They attempted 54 foul shots and missed 20.
"A game that ugly will send people watching the impeachment trial again," Martelli said. "Now, we've upped it. We played 39 minutes and 40 seconds. We didn't play the last 20 well enough to win."
Freshman center Damian Reid (17 points, 13 rebounds) and freshman point guard Larry Jennings (13 points) were the offense for the Hawks - until Howard scored six of his nine points in the final three minutes. Twice, he hit jumpers (one short, one long) to get St. Joe's within a point. Then, he dropped in a follow layup with 33 seconds left to give the Hawks a 58-57 lead.
UMass called timeout and Flint set up a play for Mack (18 points). He came flying across the lane and Tim Brown jumped him on a switch. Mack bobbled the pass, got control and headed for the hoop. His off-glass runner, behind Brown and over N'aim Crenshaw, set the stage for finish. And a very long bus ride home for St. Joe's which has to deal with Temple tomorrow night at the Fieldhouse.
"I don't think I've ever felt so bad in my life," said Reid, in a morose locker room. "I don't even know what to say . . . I missed a box out that gave Ketner (six points, 2-for-8) a tip that put them up by two. I take the blame for this one."
He needn't have. Reid and Jennings will win their share before they're through.
Coach Bruiser Flint, 33 going on 53, is now 50-37 at UMass. Before this season, the Minutemen had been 55-8 at Mullins. This season, they are 6-5 there.
"I'm just glad one went in my favor this time," Flint said of the finish. "You shoot 36 percent from the field and 58 from the foul line and win a game. What can you say?"
You can say you'll take it and move on. UMass (10-12, 6-4) is actually alive for a bye in the A-10 Tournament. St. Joe's is just alive.
"I have to pick them back up, dust them off, get them to fight again tomorrow in practice and see how we go Tuesday night," Martelli said. "If we had a lesser group of people, then it would be hard. But I have faith in the people. And I hope that the aches and the pains that go with this are remembered for a long time here. Because it will turn again. It will turn again."
MHERST - There was no doubt who would take the last shot, only how he would take it.
Monty Mack hit the big shots when the Minutemen needed them.
It almost didn't. Mack briefly bobbled the ball before regaining control on the left side, then drove and banked in the winning shot as UMass (10-12) rose into a second-place Atlantic-10 East Division tie with Rhode Island at 6-4.
Finishing at least second means a bye in the first round of the conference tournament, making the road to the A-10 tourney title (and automatic NCAA tournament berth) somewhat easier. And for a team in desperate search of good news, that was good enough for now.
"We're not out of it," point guard Charlton Clarke claimed after the win before 6,255 fans. "We're in second place. The season is definitely not over yet."
Even UMass coach Bruiser Flint admits that falls into the amazing-but-true category.
"The crazy thing is that as bad as we've been, we've still got a shot,' Flint said. "I don't know why we don't always see it, but what have we got to lose?"
Mack scored 18 points, all but four in the second half, and there was no question who was expected to take the big shot with St. Joseph's (9-13, 3-7) leading 58-57 and trying to avoid its sixth straight loss.
"Monty told us in the huddle (during a timeout with 29 seconds left) that he was taking this one, that we should just go to the sideline," Clarke said.
Since Lari Ketner had fouled out with 1:04 left, Flint said there was no other option.
"I told Monty to get open, that we didn't need a 3-pointer but to take it to the basket," Flint said.
After Mack's basket, Chris Kirkland blocked St. Joseph's forward Andre Howard's shot from the left baseline, saving the game as time expired.
UMass swept its two-game series with St. Joseph's, holding the Hawks to 35.3-percent shooting. Freshman center Damian Reid's 17 points and 13 rebounds led St. Joseph's, while UMass shot 36.2 percent but committed only two of its 10 turnovers in the second half.
Kirkland swished two free throws with 51 seconds left to give UMass a 57-56 lead. But Howard - who scored six of his nine points in the final three minutes - restored the St. Joe's lead with an offensive put-back with 33 seconds to go.
"I think it was the prayer I said before those free throws that helped," said Kirkland, a 55-percent foul shooter. "But we always talk about staying together and being like family, and I think the last two minutes showed that."
The bench helped, too. Ajmal Basit had nine points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes.
"I just hope to keep playing," said Basit, who had averaged 8.4 minutes per game in his last eight. "I haven't had the chance to get a lot of consecutive minutes, so I just want to keep it going."
While Basit delivered inside, guard Jonathan DePina - whose game seems to be coming together - came in to play strong defense on Larry Jennings, who finished with 13 points after causing problems for Clarke, who is playing out the season with a stress fracture in his right foot.
St. Joseph's led 30-28 at halftime, but Mack came alive in the second half, when neither team led by more than three in the final 14 minutes.
"They played Monty more man-to-man in the second half, and he took the ball to the basket and didn't just settle for the 3," Flint said. "Then at the end, we got the ball in the hands of the guy we wanted to make the shot for us."
"If there was daylight, I'd go for it," said Mack, who shot 7 for 16 and also grabbed seven rebounds. "Charlton did a great job penetrating and getting me good shots."
Mike Babul tied his career high with three blocks as UMass won for only the second time in its last six. The Minutemen, now 6-5 at home, have five regular-season games left, starting with St. Bonaventure Wednesday at home.
MHERST - Without even realizing it, University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Bruiser Flint came up with one of the year's great quotes yesterday.
Playing with fearlessness, he figured, was the only way his floundering team could rescue this Excedrin headache of a season.
"I told them just to go out and play like you've never played before," said Flint, not stopping to realize that sometimes, it looks precisely like they haven't.
Even yesterday's 59-58 victory over St. Joseph's fell a bit short of giving to basketball what Mozart gave to music. The teams combined for 39-for-109 shooting, giving something for Phil Martelli, The Human Quote Machine, to talk about.
"A game that ugly will send people back to watching the impeachment trial again," the St. Joseph's coach said, momentarily forgetting UMass fans have been clamoring for another impeachment, this one involving his friend Flint.
But win, and the world smiles with you, at least once the world gets the courage to open its eyes and peek. Without sounding like a sourpuss, Martelli claimed UMass had caught a break in the final seconds yesterday.
Lari Ketner was again plagued with foul trouble and poor shooting.
There didn't appear to be any other fouls during the last sequence, either. UMass guard Charlton Clarke announced "clean block!" and that settled that.
Flint, understandably, wasn't about to call the referees back to reconsider their decision. This is a coach who has openly wondered why his is the only team in the country that can't seem to get a call at home.
"A foul? Might have been," Flint said. "But don't you think I can get a call in my own house?"
When you think about it, there's no way to defend the practice of the home team getting key calls in its favor. If the officials are doing it on purpose, they're called a slanted, almost crooked game. The calls are supposed to be based on what happens, not where.
Yet everybody who follows basketball knows it doesn't work that way. When Monty Mack drove inside for the winning bucket yesterday, he did so knowing the home team is more likely to get a foul call at the end - though the risk is there that no call will be made either way, unless an arm is severed from the body.
The argument is that referees don't want to decide games by making last-second, borderline calls. It's a stupid argument, because by not calling a foul they'd have called earlier, they're deciding it just as much.
But home-team calls are a tradition, albeit a logically indefensible tradition, not unlike the Electoral College. It's probably the biggest reason the home team has won 38 of 59 Atlantic 10 games.
Flint has never understood why his team seems to be the exception. To the world of officiating, he's been tempted to wonder if UMass is the A-10 version of the Washington Generals, who always played the role of visitors.
He'd complain about it more, but that would only make it worse. But no UMass apologies were necessary yesterday, either.
Kirkland didn't foul Howard, and there was no clear evidence of any other fouling taking place in those last few seconds, if that's what Martelli was thinking.
Besides, Flint is still recovering from that technical foul against Fordham in the final 40 seconds two weeks ago. At home.
"I feel bad for the guy, but . . .," Flint said of Martelli. He is beyond expecting the referees to give his team a break with the game on the line. Without saying as much, he must only have been happy that at least this time, in his house, they didn't take one away.
MHERST - The choice was to either sit for two weeks and return in late February, or play through the pain.
Charlton Clarke was not interested in sitting out at a time he thinks his team will need him. And so the University of Massachusetts senior point guard, who found from X-rays Friday that he'd suffered a stress fracture of the fourth metatarsal bone in his right foot, played 38 minutes in yesterday's 59-58 win over St. Joseph's at Mullins Center.
"It's going to bother me after the game, but during the game, I try to act like it's not," said Clarke, who shot 3 for 12 with seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. "The way I see it, I may only have about seven games left. I didn't want to jump off the ship."
It has been a tough season for Clarke, who was benched in the second half against Texas and has hit only five of 33 shots in his last four games. But he has reclaimed his spot as the team's undisputed point guard, and if UMass is to make a late-season run, the 6-foot-3 guard plans to be a part of it.
Clarke will play but not practice. UMass coach Bruiser Flint said Clarke made the decision after consulting with family members and with Gary DeCesare, his coach at St. Raymond's High School in the Bronx, N.Y. Flint acknowledged that were this not Clarke's final season, his decision might have been different.
"He does get out of practice," Flint said. "I think he likes that."
Without Clarke at practice, Flint hopes backup point guard Jonathan DePina will benefit from added responsibility. DePina's 18-minute stint yesterday came mostly in a three-guard lineup.
"You can play that against St. Joseph's, because they play three guards, too," the coach said.
Chris Kirkland didn't have a stellar offensive game, but his defense saved the day.
St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said if an Atlantic 10 team could always shoot 75 percent from the foul line, that team would win almost every time out.
"I think the league is very athletic, but the skill level is not that high," Martelli said after his team had shot 20 of 30 from the line. UMass went 14 for 24, including 7 for 16 after halftime.
"When you shoot 36 percent from the floor and 58 percent from the line and still win, what can you say?" said Flint, agreeing that it wasn't a pretty victory. "In the second half, if we'd made some free throws we could have stretched (the lead) out, but we didn't."
Lari Ketner fouled out after 22 minutes (six points, six rebounds) and had three fouls called while trying to block shots.
"When that happens, he freaks out and thinks he can't touch anybody," said Flint, who also thinks Ketner (2 for 8 yesterday) is constantly hacked at the offensive end.
"We've also been getting on him for shooting sideways and not squaring up," said Flint, who thinks Ketner's biggest problem is looking to pass too quickly. "But I'm happy he's at least starting to throw the ball up at the basket again. There were times he'd be three feet from the basket and try to get within one foot, and I told him even if he's being double-teamed, just jump around them and shoot."
Backup forward Winston Smith (three minutes, one rebound) made his first appearance since the last UMass-St. Joseph's game Jan. 20. He'd seen no action in the last five.
MHERST - In the last minute of the game with the outcome still hanging in the balance, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's two most reliable players came through in the clutch to help the Minutemen escape with a 59-58 win over Atlantic 10 rival St. Joseph's in front of 6,255 Sunday at the Mullins Center.
Chris Kirkland had shot a meager 55 percent from the free-throw line this season, when he stepped to the line for Minutemen, who trailed 56-55 with 51 seconds left in the game. But Kirkland sank both to put UMass ahead 57-56.
The lead was short-lived however, as Andre Howard laid back in the miss of a N'aim Crenshaw shot back in to give the Hawks a 58-57 advantage with 32 ticks left on the clock. UMass hurried the ball up court and called time-out with 28.7 seconds left.
Minuteman coach Bruiser Flint had simple instructions for Monty Mack in the huddle.
"Get open," Flint said. "We don't need a three. Go to the basket, score or get fouled."
Mack took option No. 1. After almost turning the ball over on a sloppy dribble, he regained the handle and drove the baseline. Two Hawks moved over to help, but Mack lofted a shot off the backboard through the hoop to give UMass a 59-58 lead with 13 seconds left.
"We got the ball in the hands of the person we think can make the big basket for us at the end of the game and he made it," Flint said.
St. Joe's rushed the ball up the court and after Crenshaw was cut off trying to drive to the hoop, he kicked it over to Howard on the wing. Howard slashed toward the hole and lofted up what he hoped would be the game-winner, but Kirkland bounded from the other side and sprung up to swat the ball away as time ran out. As he landed he pumped his fists in celebration.
St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli didn't share his glee.
"There was a foul, no call," Martelli said.
The UMass players disagreed.
"Clean block, clean block," said a chorus of Kirkland, Mack, Ajmal Basit and Charlton Clarke when told of Martelli's assertions in their postgame interview session.
Flint didn't care if it was right or not.
"Don't you think it's time I get a call in my own house?" Flint said.
Chris Kirkland appears frightened by the Hawk D.
"We pulled it out. We gutted it out," Flint said. "We did the things we wanted to do at the end of the game. We executed. If you shoot 36 percent and 58 (percent) from the foul line, you don't usually win those games, but we won this one tonight."
The victory moves UMass into a tie with Rhode Island, which lost to Temple Saturday, in the Atlantic 10 East. The Minutemen and Rams face off Saturday in Providence. UMass will next be in action Wednesday when it takes on St. Bonaventure at home.
"We're in second place in the conference," Clarke said. "We're not out of it. We have to keep it going. They all have to mean something. The season is definitely not over for us."
"We're still in second place," Flint said. "I keep telling guys, as bad as we've been, we still have a chance. We have everything to gain from this point on. We have to go out and keep playing that way. We have nothing to lose."
Mack led the Minutemen in both scoring and rebounding with 18 points (16 in the second half) and seven rebounds.
"I just tried to be aggressive (in the second half)," Mack said. "If I had daylight, I was going to take it. Charlton gave me some good looks. Everybody was out there playing together."
Basit matched Mack's team-high seven boards to go along with nine points in a foul-plagued 17 minutes. The referee's whistle hampered Lari Ketner as well. The senior center scored six points and grabbed six boards before fouling out with just over a minute left.
Damien Reid led the Hawks (9-13, 3-7 A-10) with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but struggled offensively after intermission with just six points.
In an overall unattractive basketball game, St. Joe's was the lesser of two uglies early. Led by Reid, the Hawks built the game's biggest lead at 13-7 just over nine minutes into the game.
A late 6-1 run capped by a lay-in by Basit gave UMass it's first lead of the game at 21-20, but the Hawks outscored the Minutemen 10-7 to close out the half with a 30-28 lead.
The Minutemen picked up both offensively and defensively in the second half. Foul shooting kept St. Joe's in the game in the second half. After Larry Jennings' jumper put the Hawks ahead 37-33 with 14:52 left, St. Joe's didn't score another field goal until Howard sank a turn-around jump shot with 2:53 left in the game. The Hawks made 13 of 16 free throws during that stretch.
MHERST - There are six games left in the regular season for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team and it is safe to say that senior point guard Charlton Clarke is going to be in pain for all of them.
Clarke is suffering from a stress fracture in the fourth metatarsal of his right foot, the same foot that kept him out of 14 games as a freshman. The decision to remain in the line-up was left to him.
"Ron (Laham) the trainer and the doctors told him what they thought would be best for him and I told him that I'm in total agreement with them," Flint said.
Clarke admitted that playing could worsen the injury.
"The way I see it, we're a team. I don't want to jump off the ship now," said Clarke, who won't participate in practice for at least the next two weeks. "We have six games left to end the season and end my career. I'm just going to go out and play it like nothing was wrong with me."
He was able to manage the pain during the game.
"It's going to bother me now because the game is over," he said. "During the game I didn't feel it. Just got to keep playing. I did the things I was supposed to do. I ran my team and kept everybody in it, physically and emotionally."
Clarke didn't snap out of his scoring slump entirely, but at least ended the drought. He missed all nine shots he took against Rhode Island on Thursday and the first four yesterday, before burying a 3-pointer.
He finished with three assists and one turnover to go with his seven points that gave him 986 for his career. Clarke is on pace to become the 33rd Minutemen to score over 1,000 career points.
* * *
Chris Kirkland continued to be hampered by minor ailments and they continued to show through in his play.
A nagging ankle injury put his status in doubt before the game, but he started and played well, including the game-saving block at the end.
Kirkland's roommate, Rafael Cruz, did miss the game however, suffering from a stomach flu.
* * *
St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli appears to be on track to regain his title as the Atlantic 10's undisputed quip king.
Upon entering his press conference after Sunday's game he said:
"Watching games like this will send people to watching the impeachment trial again."
|St. Joseph's Hawks||58|
|at the Mullins Center|
ST JOSEPHS PA (58) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Howard 27 4-12 1-2 1-4 2 3 9 Haskins 29 1-8 2-2 2-6 0 5 4 Reid 33 6-9 5-10 5-13 0 3 17 Crenshaw 33 1-7 1-2 0-2 2 0 4 Jennings 31 4-7 5-7 0-2 1 3 13 Brown 17 1-2 0-0 0-2 1 1 3 Wilkins 14 0-3 2-2 1-1 2 1 2 Woods 9 0-2 0-0 0-0 2 1 0 Sazanov 7 1-1 4-5 1-1 0 3 6 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 18-51 20-30 10-31 10 20 58 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.353, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals: 2-10, .200 (Haskins 0-3, Crenshaw 1-3, Jennings 0-2, Brown 1-1, Wilkins 0-1). Team rebounds: 10. Blocked shots: 3 (Crenshaw 2, Reid). Turnovers: 14 (Howard 3, Reid 3, Haskins 2, Jennings 2, Crenshaw, Sazanov, Wilkins). Steals: 7 (Jennings 3, Howard, Reid, Sazanov, Wilkins). MASSACHUSETTS (59) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Kirkland 25 3-8 2-2 2-4 0 3 8 Babul 27 2-6 0-0 1-3 1 1 4 Ketner 22 2-8 2-4 2-6 2 5 6 Clarke 38 3-12 0-0 1-5 3 2 7 M Mack 39 7-16 2-4 2-7 2 3 18 Depina 18 1-3 0-0 0-0 2 1 2 Smith 3 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Rhymer 11 1-1 3-6 4-4 0 3 5 Basit 17 2-4 5-8 4-7 0 4 9 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-58 14-24 16-37 10 22 59 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.362, FT-.583. 3-Point Goals: 3-13, .231 (Babul 0-1, Clarke 1-6, M Mack 2-6). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 9 (Babul 3, Kirkland 3, Ketner, Rhymer, Basit). Turnovers: 10 (Depina 2, Ketner 2, Babul, Basit, Clarke, Kirkland, M Mack, Rhymer). Steals: 3 (Clarke 2, Rhymer). __________________________________ St Josephs Pa 30 28 - 58 Massachusetts 28 31 - 59 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 6,255. Officials: Tom Clark, Bryan Kersey, Frank Scagliotta.