Coverage from:
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
The Springfield Union-News
The Springfield Union-News -- notebook
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe -- column
The Boston Herald
The Boston Herald -- column
The Boston Herald -- Al Skinner spotlight

Mack, Minutemen blitz BC
By Bill Doyle, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette Staff, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER -- If the Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce needs someone to sing the virtues of Worcester, the chamber ought to contact the UMass basketball team.

The Minutemen certainly love it here.

UMass ran its record at the Worcester Centrum to 8-0 last night with a 75-45 blowout of Boston College in the Commonwealth Classic before 7,172 fans.

Of course, the Minutemen probably would have beaten BC no matter where the two teams played. BC, which starts two freshmen and a sophomore and no seniors, is expected to finish last in the Big East this year.

The Minutemen didn't play here last year, but UMass coach Bruiser Flint, given a two-year contract extension this week through the 2001-2002 season, said he wants to return to Worcester on an annual basis.

"We need to play them all here," Flint joked.

The Minutemen snapped their first four-game losing streak since February of 1990 despite senior center Lari Ketner sitting out a one-game suspension for violating a unspecified team rule.

Audio clip: Listen to some of Bruiser's post-game comments.
31k WAV
Courtesey: WHMP
"The most difficult part of being a coach is letting an 18- and 21-year-old control your destiny," Flint said. "You don't know what they're going to do day-to-day.

"I don't care who you are, if you don't do what you're supposed to do, you sit down."

Monty Mack made up for Ketner's absence by pouring in five 3-pointers and 21 points to help extend BC's losing streak to four games. UMass improved to 2-4 while BC fell to 2-6. UMass has beaten BC the last five times they've met.

Chris Kirkland, a cousin of All-Pro linebacker Levon Kirkland of the Pittsburgh Steelers, took advantage of Ketner's absence to make his first start as a Minuteman. The 6-foot-6 junior had career highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Backup center Kitwana Rhymer had career highs of 7 points and 10 boards.

"Lari wasn't playing so I knew I had to come out and play hard and play tough defense," Kirkland said.

Freshman center Brian Ross was the only Eagle to score in double figures He had 12 points and a team-high 8 rebounds.

Flint emptied his bench in the second half and the subs added to the lead. An Anthony Oates dunk capped a 12-0 surge that gave UMass its largest lead, 67-33, with five minutes to go. Eleven Minutemen scored.

BC coach Al Skinner, the former longtime coach at Rhode Island, fell to 2-20 against his alma mater, including 11 consecutive losses.

"You can never anticipate a game like this," Skinner said. "Obviously, the first half put us in a big hole. That's the inexperience we have. Not having anyone to go to to give us a lift makes us really struggle."

Ketner, the Minutemen's second-leading scorer (11.8) and rebounding (5.8), has been a disappointment for much of the season. Supposedly an All-America candidate, Ketner last night finished with the same number of rebounds (0) as he had in a two-point loss at Charleston two weeks ago. Flint was so upset with Ketner's performance at Charleston, he didn't start him the following game at Marshall. Last night, Ketner watched from the bench in a gray sweat suit.

Flint thought UMass matched up better against BC without Ketner, but that's not going to be the case against most teams.

Mack had as many points in the first half (18) as BC did. The Minutemen limited the Eagles to 8 of 32 shooting (25 percent) in grabbing a 37-18 halftime bulge.

Both teams shot poorly early, UMass sinking only 3 of its first 12 shots, BC just 2 of its initial dozen. But then the young Eagles got hit with the Mack attack. Mack, who missed his first four shots, hit a baseline jumper, then back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 10-0 run that put UMass on top, 16-4, midway through the half. The 6-foot-3 junior guard closed the half with two more treys.

"I just kept shooting the ball," Mack said. "You're going to make some and you're going to miss some."

UMass shot 51.7 percent (30 of 58) while holding BC to 23.7 percent (14 of 59). The Eagles had nearly as many shots blocked (9) as made (14).

Last night's victory was UMass' first in three games against Big East competition. The Minutemen had lost to St. John's and No. 1 UConn. They'll visit another Big East team, Villanova, Tuesday night in their next game.

"We haven't turned the corner yet, we're 2-4," Flint said. "You turn the corner when you're 5-4. We'll see how far we've come in our next couple of games."

Boston College is off for a week until it hosts Holy Cross Saturday.

UMass buries Eagles, 75-45
By Corey Peter Goodman, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER - The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team isn't unfamiliar with early season slumps.

During the past three seasons, the Minutemen have stumbled before rising to the competitive level the program demands. For the second time in three years, though, Boston College has helped UMass get back on the right track.

Despite playing without Lari Ketner, who sat out for violating team rules, the Minutemen broke a four-game losing streak by using a tremendous size advantage over the hapless Eagles. The Minutemen cruised to victory, 75-45, before 7,172 at the Worcester Centrum, winning their fourth straight Commonwealth Classic.

During the second Classic in 1996, UMass upset BC, 90-78, and went on to win nine of ten games to get into the NCAA tournament.

Ketner was pulled from the lineup before the game for reasons coach Bruiser Flint would not specify. "He broke team rules. I'm not going to go into it," Flint said.

The 6-foot-10 center appeared to break out of an early season slump on Wednesday against Connecticut after 15 points and six rebounds.

Instead, Ketner was left to cheer his teammates from the end of the UMass bench in gray sweatpants and a gray sweatshirt.

Rafael Cruz splits the defense.
He had plenty to cheer about.

Chris Kirkland and Kitwana Rhymer filled the size void adequately in his absence, as both posted career-highs in rebounds and points against a young and undersized BC frontcourt.

Kirkland, who started at power forward in place of Ajmal Basit, who moved to center, had 11 rebounds and 14 assists. Rhymer added 10 rebounds and seven points.

"I was satisfied just to know that I could come off the bench and help the team," Rhymer said.

The play of Kirkland and Rhymer had Flint smiling after the game.

"Chris was terrific. But I think he can play that way every game," Flint said. "Kit did everything. He blocked shots and rebounded."

"I told those guys before the game, 'We've got to step up. We're a man down,' " Flint said.

For the first time this season, the Minutemen translated its size advantage into a considerable rebounding margin, 48-32. UMass outworked the Eagles on the defensive boards, 31-13.

Eleven different players had at least one rebound for UMass, except for walk-on Darryl Denson who played two minutes with four points.

In its best defensive effort of the season, UMass (2-4) held the Eagles to just 24 percent shooting and blocked a season-high nine shots.

After watching his team struggle through the first month of the season, Flint was not surprised at the intensity level.

"We had to win the way we won tonight," Flint said. "It was important for us to come out and play hard."

It took four minutes for UMass to get rolling in the opening half. Not surprising, BC's zone defense forced the guards into low-percentage shots outside the paint, where UMass enjoyed the obvious edge.

But after misfiring on three long attempts, Monty Mack ran off eight points in a 1:44 stretch to put UMass ahead for good, 16-4.

BC's Michael Cotton gets a little crazy trying to strip the ball from Mike Babul.
"I just kept shooting the ball," Mack said. "I took the shots they gave me."

The Eagles never adjusted to Mack, who scored 18 points in 11 minutes to close out the half. Mack finished with a game-high 21 points, including five three-pointers.

On offense, the Eagles were just as ineffective. Clinton Sims, the Eagles' top scorer, was held to one field goal and four points by a host of defenders, starting with Mike Babul.

In fact, BC didn't reach the double-digit point mark until Kenny Walls hit a deep three with 3:13 to play until halftime.

"I think our offense dictated our defense," said BC coach Al Skinner, who started two freshmen and two sophomores against UMass.

"Not having someone to go to ...we really struggled with that," Skinner said.

After building a sizable 37-18 lead by halftime, the Minutemen latched down on defense in the second half, and limited the Eagles to just six field goals.

With a 34-point advantage to work with midway through the second half, Flint turned to his bench for minutes.

Minutemen rip Eagles
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News Staff, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER - With all the talk of the University of Massachusetts I-AA football team's success, maybe Boston College should find out whether the Eagles can find a I-AA league in men's basketball.

Fortunately for victory-starved UMass, BC can still be found in the big time, albeit with a team that isn't suited for it. UMass made the most of its chance to build some momentum, snapping a four-game losing streak with last night's 75-45 victory at the Centrum, a night that saw Lari Ketner sit down and Kitwana Rhymer step up.

Monty Mack had the hot hand for the Minutemen.
With Ketner suspended one game for an undisclosed violation of team rules, 6-foot-10 sophomore Rhymer supported Monty Mack's jump-shooting clinic quite nicely. Mack scored 21 points (18 before halftime) while Rhymer had seven points and 10 rebounds in the game before a pro-UMass crowd of 7,172.

Rhymer came off the bench as UMass started a low-post tandem of Ajmal Basit and Chris Kirkland. The 6-6 Kirkland, a junior who is better known for his work at small forward, looked fine in his role as power forward with a career-high 14 points and 11 rebounds.

"I think we're coming around," said Kirkland, mindful of his team's strong showing in Wednesday night's 59-54 loss to UConn. "But there are a lot of little things like lane violations and talking on defensive switches, that we have to work on."

UMass (2-4) is 4-0 against BC since the series resumed as the Commonwealth Classic in 1995, and leads the all-time series 16-15. The Eagles are so depleted that Mack's 18 first-half points matched BC's entire output.

What's more, every first-half BC point was scored by a freshman in the 37-18 first half. The Eagles (2-6) have endured administrative turmoil in recent years, causing transfers and other defections that have produced a talent drain that could fill the Great Basin.

UMass was hungry enough to seize the opportunity, leading 16-4 after 11 minutes as BC couldn't cover Mack, who at one point scored 10 straight Minuteman points.

Rhymer, who sat out for academic rules last year, had played only nine minutes before last night. His first college basket was a first-half layup that gave UMass a 20-7 lead.

"It was satisfying, coming off the bench to help the team," Rhymer said. "I'd never been in a game like UConn, and playing a little in a game like that helped build up my confidence a lot."

Mack snapped out of a two-game shooting slump. He had missed 19 of 26 shots in losses to Marshall and UConn, which had given UMass its first two-game losing streak since 1990.

"I just kept shooting the ball," said Mack, who hit 8 of 14 shots.

The Minutemen travel to Villanova Tuesday before opening a four-game homestand over the holidays.

UMass held BC to 23.7 percent shooting. Freshman center Brian Ross led the Eagles with 12 points.

Kirkland found out he was starting just minutes before the opening tip, and scored 10 points with six rebounds in the first half. A 42 percent foul shooter entering the game, he was not just the only player on either team to go to the line in the first half, he made all four free throws.

"Moving from the 3 (small forward) to 4 (power forward) is hard because you go up against Ajmal Basit and (Rhymer) in practice," Kirkland said. "But whenever you win, there's reason to smile."

Central High School graduate Darryl Denson brought the crowd to life at the end, hitting consecutive jumpers for his first four college points.

UMass outrebounded BC 48-32, the first time the Minutemen had won the board battle since their opening win over Niagara. They shot 51.7 percent.

Rules violation benches Ketner
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News Staff, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER - Lari Ketner's turbulent senior season took another downturn last night at the Centrum.

The University of Massachusetts center was suspended for one game after an undisclosed violation of team rules. Ketner sat our last night's men's basketball game against Boston College while power forward Ajmal Basit moved to center and 6-foot-6 Chris Kirkland, who has been coming off the bench, started at small forward.

UMass coach Bruiser Flint had been satisfied with the 6-10 Ketner's play in the past two games. Following a loss at College of Charleston in which Ketner scored five points with no rebounds, Flint didn't start him against Marshall, but Ketner had 10 points with seven rebounds in 20 minutes before fouling out. He also picked up a technical foul after collecting his fifth foul, which came during Marshall's 11-0 sequence that put the game away.

Ketner also fouled against UConn Wednesday, but his 15-point, six-rebound, three-assist effort was praised by both Flint and UConn coach Jim Calhoun.

Ketner has been considered a high first-round NBA draft prospect, possibly even a lottery pick, but his inconsistent play had raised questions about whether his stock was dropping, even before last night's suspension.

Against Boston College's smaller lineup, Kirkland was expected to see more playing time, anyway, because of his perimeter defense. Ronell Blizzard, a 6-8 redshirt freshman, was an early substitution for the same reason, and also for his scoring.

FIRED UP: Unrelated to the Ketner incident were questions raised about the flamboyance shown by some UMass players in Wednesday's game against UConn.

Flint is considered conservative in his feelings about celebrations after baskets and other forms of on-court expression. But he sensed it was time to give his players some slack as the early-season frustration grew.

"I told the guys to have some fun out there, because that's what this is all about," Flint said. "People want guys to play with emotion, but what kind of emotion do they want. You're darned if you do and darned if you don't."

RHYMER REASON: Flint likes the progress of 6-10 sophomore Kitwana Rhymer, who seems to have moved ahead of Anthony Oates among the low-post reserves. The coach said that was not necessarily a long-term plan, however.

"The UConn game was a quicker game, and I think Kit is a little better than Anthony in that situation," Flint said. Rhymer, who was also a fairly early substitution last night, sat out for academic reasons last year and Oates was in junior college, so both 6-10 low-post players are in their respective first seasons.

HAIR-RAISING: Junior forward Mike Babul didn't have his head shaved with his teammates before the UConn game because he had left the team for a death in the family at the time of the shearing. The Minutemen have let him off the hook, though.

"I don't think Mike would look too good as a baldie," Flint said. Senior guard Charlton Clarke has very closely cropped hair, but falls just short of the shaved-head category, too.

BIG ON BC: Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo, a Northampton native and Springfield College graduate, says the talent-poor Eagles will take their lumps and recover.

"This will be a tough basketball season, and we know that," DeFilippo said. "But this too shall pass. And we'll rebuild."

A classic rout by UMass of Eagles
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER - There was no need to look up at the scoreboard in the second half. All you needed to do was scan the University of Massachusetts bench each of the five times UMass was signaled for a lane violation as Boston College took its free throws. UMass coach Bruiser Flint, usually a bundle of gyrations on the sideline, remained composed, serene, like a model posing for an art class.

It was a great example of energy conservation. Why go through wasted motions when your team is ahead by 34 points with 5:02 left and the opposition shows no signs whatsoever of threatening?

Last night's Commonwealth Classic was an oxymoron: UMass, playing without second-leading scorer Lari Ketner (suspended one game for team rules violations) jumped to a 19-point halftime lead, then blew the game open in the second half for a 75-45 victory over intrastate rival Boston College before 7,172 last night at the Centrum Centre.

The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for UMass (2-4), while BC (2-6) lost its fourth straight. It was the fourth win in four Commonwealth Classics for the Minutemen.

UMass junior reserve small forward Chris Kirkland made the best of his first collegiate start, posting career highs in points (14) and rebounds (11) while playing at power forward.

''I found out I was starting right before we went out [onto the court for pregame],'' said Kirkland, who entered the contest averaging 2.6 points and 2.6 boards. ''Without Lari out there, I knew I had to go out, play hard, and help out on defense.''

UMass starting power forward Ajmal Basit moved to the center position and had just 2 points and two rebounds but he stabilized the interior by rejecting three shots and altering several others. Backup center Kitwana Rymer was more productive, posting career highs in points (7), rebounds (10), and blocks (2).

UMass leading scorer Monty Mack had 21 points and hit 5 of 10 3-point attempts to help the Minutemen pull away from a close, however awful, game in the first 10 minutes.

UMass took advantage of its height by outrebounding its opponent, 48-32. The Minutemen are one of the tallest teams in college basketball, yet last night marked only the second time they have outrebounded an opponent.

''This was big for us to win like this; if we would have won by 6 points, I don't know if we would have the same feeling,'' said Flint. ''We were having fun out there. If the game had been close, we would have said, `Here we go again.' Instead they walk away feeling good about themselves.''

As for BC, the woes continue. The Eagles shot just 24 percent from the floor. The BC freshmen were the only Eagles who scored in the first half. The Eagles didn't reach double figures until Kenny Walls drained a trey with 3:13 in the first half to cut the UMass lead to 24-12.

''We did some things out on the floor we don't normally do and we haven't done in practice,'' said BC first-year coach Al Skinner, who added that some of his players took final exams earlier in the day and may have been drained emotionally for the game.

''For whatever reason, some frustration set in, we got anxious and got impatient. We took some bad shots and our lack of offense began to dictate our defense. We had some mental breakdowns on the defensive end.''

Eagles still awaiting takeoff
Skinner says his team's effort just didn't fly vs. UMass
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/14/1998

WORCESTER - Al Skinner is too much of a realist to kid himself. And he is too honest to be glib with the press. In his second year as Boston College coach, he knows he could not have found anything positive to point out about the Eagles' 75-45 loss to Massachusetts Saturday night without the help of an archaeologist.

What's more, he knows such a humiliating defeat could happen again this season. It could happen a few times.

Skinner, whose team dropped to 2-6 with the loss, knew what he was walking into this season. He would coach a team with only one returning starter, Kenny Harley, who averaged just 4.5 points last season, and a host of others who combined for a total of 5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game.

He would ask that group, and BC's inexperienced freshmen, to assume major roles long before they were ready or capable.

And he knew at times the results would be disastrous.

When Skinner was told that his freshmen were the only BC players to score in the first half of Saturday night's contest, he was neither encouraged by their effort nor discouraged by his upperclassmen.

''I think that's a little misleading because the upperclassmen who have returned, it's not like they were big contributors last year,'' said Skinner. ''Mike Cotton, he's a junior who sat out last year. It may even happen again, so it doesn't surprise me. It just shows that we're just a very young team.''

Skinner, who has been quite candid about his team's woes, said he was most disappointed by his team's effort Saturday night; a group that often relies heavily on effort to keep games close wasn't ready to play.

It was one of the reasons UMass (2-4) recorded its second-largest margin of victory under third-year coach Bruiser Flint, and its largest since a 31-point blowout of George Washington last year. All this despite the fact that the Minutemen played without 6-foot-10-inch widebody Lari Ketner, who was suspended for the game for violating team rules.

''I don't think we really represented ourselves well on the mental side,'' said Skinner. ''We have to make sure we execute a little bit better on that side. I thought we could get some other opportunities [with Ketner out]. But in order to do that, we have to play smart, and we didn't do that.''

Meanwhile, UMass, which has had its share of struggles this season, was elated. After four consecutive losses, including three against teams it expected to beat, it got no surprises - just a lopsided victory most everyone anticipated.

''This was a big game for our guys, not only to win but to win with the margin we did,'' said Flint, whose team outrebounded the Eagles, 48-32, marking only the second time this season UMass has won the battle of the boards. ''We'll get guys to relax now and feel good about themselves. We needed this game, we needed this game big.''

Both teams have three games before the new year. The Minutemen travel to Villanova tomorrow night to play a team Flint says is taller than UMass - one that has six players 6-8 or taller.

''The only good thing about it is [Villanova center] Rafal Bigus was Lari's biggest rival in Philly when they were in high school, and [Villanova forward] Malik Allen was [UMass forward] Ajmal Basit's biggest rival in high school. So you've got some interesting challenges out there,'' said Flint.

BC has the week off and hosts Holy Cross Saturday. Skinner said his unit deserves the week off, for its struggles on the court against UMass may have had something to do with the fact that several Eagles took final exams Saturday morning and the team didn't arrive at the Centrum until a few moments before tip-off.

''Guys were up studying last night, they took exams Saturday morning, and they just weren't into it,'' he said. ''That may have played part of it, in terms of our preparation, and maybe it's something we need to avoid in the future.''

BC crushed in Commonwealth Classic
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald Staff, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER - Boston College coach Al Skinner has had no choice but to tie his team's future to young players.

There are going to be hard lessons along the way. But last night's 75-45 loss to UMass in the Commonwealth Classic - a game in which the undersized Eagles were beaten to almost every available rebound - had to be particularly hard to stomach.

For there was UMass center Lari Ketner, a player who is off to the worst start of just about any All-America candidate in memory, sitting in his sweats on the end of the UMass bench for the entire game.

Ketner was suspended for one game after breaking what UMass officials would only call a team rule. Not that it seemed to bother the big guy, who appeared to accept his benching in a fairly leisurely, even good-naturned manner.

And while Ketner joked with his fellow benchmates, UMass' replacement big men tore down the glass.

Toss in a brilliant 21-point performance from Monty Mack, 18 in the first half, and it was a horrible mismatch.

Mack ended 8-for-14 from the field and 5-for-10 from 3-point territory. Backing him up was Chris Kirkland with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Eagles (2-6) may have been willing, but even with Ketner out they were far too undersized to match up with UMass (2-4).

As a result, Minutemen such as Kirkland, Ronell Blizzard and Kitwana Rhymer all had major impact inside against a BC front line that claimed 6-foot-8 freshman Brian Ross as its biggest player.

Even worse was BC's continued inability to track Mack, who circled into the left corner for his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 14:15 left for a 47-28 UMass lead.

It would get worse. Michael Cotton hit a pair of free throws for his seventh and eighth points of the half, only for the Minutemen to answer with an 8-0 run for a 55-30 lead with 11:20 left.

BC briefly interrupted with a Jonathan Beerbohm drive - the first point by a player who was in a BC uniform last year - and a Clinton Sims free throw before the Minutemen ran off another 12 points. They now led, 67-33, with 5:02 left.

Bad shooting was at a premium on both sides early, before Mack found his stroke nine minutes into the game. The teams combined for 12 points in that stretch.

And when Mack drained his first jumper, it was the second basket in what extended to a 10-0 run. From there, thanks to short UMass bursts broken by the occasional BC basket, this run extended to 14-3, 18-5, 22-8 and, by the half, 31-14 for a 37-17 UMass lead.

Mack missed his first four shots then buried seven of his next eight, including four 3-pointers for an 18-point first half.

BC's problem was best illustrated by Mack's final shot of the half. He swung to the right corner, took the ball and, with the nearest Eagles approximately 5 feet away, swished the trey as the clock sounded.

UMass shot 52 percent from the field in the first half, compared to BC's 25 percent.

At this point, the Minutemen could have understandably uttered, ``Lari who?''

Save for forward Brian Ross, who scrapped to six first half points, and fellow freshman Kenny Walls, who included a trey in his seven-point effort, the Eagles were completely overmatched.

Overall, all 17 of BC's first half points were scored by freshmen.

Even Daryll Denson, a walk-on UMass guard, was scoring and diving into the press table.

Rivalry hits skids
By Michael Gee, The Boston Herald Staff, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER - FOR SALE, RENT, OR LEASE: One college basketball rivalry. Loaded with accessories, but needs major engine work. A handyfan's special. Call athletic departments at Boston College and UMass. Please!

Only three years ago the UMass-BC game was the shiniest item in the New England sports showroom. Two NCAA tournament-bound teams staged a thriller at the FleetCenter that remains the best event in that building's history.

Anyone at the Centrum for UMass' 75-45 victory last night (7,172 anyones, to be exact) could be forgiven for thinking those glory days were in another century. Once, the Commonwealth Classic had the whole town talking. Still does, except folks talked about what else they were going to do besides watch it.

A rivalry needs a screaming sellout crowd, which the Classic organizers helped deep-six through the promotional double-whammy of high ticket prices (cheapest was $22) and free TV. But most of all, a rivalry needs rivals. As the final score indicates, the torpor in the Centrum existed because this season these two schools had no business playing each other.

``This too, shall pass,'' BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo said at halftime, when the Eagles trailed, 37-18.

In the spirit of the holidays, we shall draw a merciful veil across this year's BC team. The Eagles are 2-7 and they may remain stuck on that left number for awhile. BC hustles, and several of its many freshman are not without talent, but the most casual glance at the Eagle lineup shows they aren't much taller than the men sitting at the press table. Unless Bill Walton is broadcasting your games, that ain't good.

``They scrap,'' UMass coach Bruiser Flint said diplomatically.

But Flint also said: ``We needed to win, and we needed to win the way we won, too. If we'd won by six, I don't think we'd have the same feeling.''

The Minutemen's easy triumph leaves them a less than stellar 2-4. Clobbering BC was a small step toward redeeming a group self-esteem badly battered by a four-game losing streak.

UMass began the season ranked in the Top 25, and junior forward Chris Kirkland (14 points, 11 rebounds) still cites the team's goals as ``making the (NCAA) tournament and doing something when we get there.''

The Minutemen may have the raw talent to justify their dreams. They smothered BC's offense, and guard Monty Mack almost laughed his way to a 21-point game.

All was not perfect in the UMass universe, however. Senior center Lari Ketner spent the game in a sweatsuit on the bench, suspended for violating team rules.

Ketner is supposed to be the Minutemen's star attraction, an NBA quality big man, but he's begun the season in a trance. Then in a game in which Ketner could get 25 points and 15 boards merely by tying his shoelaces correctly, he gets suspended. Senior year is when collegians are supposed to decide on a career, not wreck their economic future.

``Anybody knows the toughest part of coaching is letting 18 to 21-year-old kids control your destiny,'' Flint said.

One wonders what the future holds for UMass. Flint is true to the John Calipari commitment to play anyone anywhere if the check's good, and the schedule is littered with teams that can't be physically dominated (Kansas, Villanova, Temple, Rhode Island, etc.). The Minutemen won by 30, but don't ask me how good they are. Insufficient data.

There's no wonder at all about what the future holds for BC. It will be a long winter indeed. If the Republicans really want Clinton to suffer, they should have him trade jobs with Al Skinner until March.

That's nobody's fault. College teams go in cycles in the best of times, and BC is starting at ground below zero, digging out from the radioactive rubble left by the program's implosion two years back.

Until the Eagles regain their feet, and UMass resumes beating Top 25 teams, the Commonwealth will remain a Classic up on blocks in the front yard, waiting for an overhaul.

Good seats are still available for the 1999 edition.

Blowout burns Skinner
By Mike Shalin, The Boston Herald, 12/13/1998

WORCESTER - Al Skinner had specific plans following last night's debacle at the Centrum.

``I plan on taking them all home tonight, stringing them up and whipping the (expletive deleted) out of them,'' the Boston College coach said after the 75-45 blowout loss to UMass, his alma mater.

On a less violent - and more serious - note, Skinner said he'd see his kids again at practice today.

``We'll see how they respond to it,'' he said. ``If it's a kick in the pants that they're going to need, that's what I'll give them. If they come back and are willing to bounce back and try to get better, then that's fine.

``But we have to establish a certain level of play and mentally we have to do a better job. That's the thing I'm most disappointed about, is that I just thought that we just had some big-time breakdowns. That had nothing to do with our physical effort, it had more to do with our recognition on both ends.''

BC was outplayed from the start, making just 14 field goals. Only freshman Brian Ross (12 points, eight rebounds) played every second he was on the floor. Freshmen Clinton Sims and Kenny Walls, who had been leading the offense, combined to shoot 4-for-19.

Afterward, Skinner acknowledged Ross, but wouldn't talk about him, because, ``team-wise, we really stunk.'' Asked if he saw anything he really liked, he said, ``The thing that was positive tonight was the game being over.''

He was at a loss for why this would happen in the eighth game of the year - why the players would be so out of it. He speculated it might have had something to do with some of the players taking exams yesterday, before the team boarded a bus for the drive to the game. He allowed for the physical differences between the teams - even with UMass big man Lari Ketner suspended for the game. He couldn't, however, live with the mental breakdowns.

Last night's loss dropped the Eagles to 2-6 - the first such start since Bob Cousy's first BC team in 1963. Next up on Saturday is Holy Cross and what could be this team's final win of this very difficult season.

Skinner knows things will be tough, but he feels effort is the one thing he has to be able to count on.

``There's certain things that you can live with,'' he said. ``I can understand poor shooting nights, I can understand some mistakes - but as I told them, I really don't understand (last night) and I'm not going to understand. They're going to have to come up to the place where I want them to be so I'm not going to take the time to be understanding of this type of situation.

``We understand that some night we are going to struggle, but for us not to be a little better mentally prepared, I guess I'm disappointed.''

Massachusetts Minutemen 75
Boston College Eagles 45
The Commonwealth Classic, at the Worcester Centrum

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Babul           20   2-4   0-0   3-4  0  0    5
Basit           15   1-2   0-0   1-2  0  3    2
Kirkland        25   5-8   4-4  4-11  3  2   14
Clarke          31  4-11   0-0   1-2  3  1    9
M Mack          29  8-14   0-0   0-3  0  0   21
Oates            8   1-2   0-1   1-1  0  2    2
Depina          15   0-0   0-1   1-1  5  2    0
Denson           2   2-2   0-0   0-0  0  0    4
Cruz            10   0-2   2-4   0-2  1  2    2
Smith           16   1-4   1-1   0-2  2  2    3
Blizzard        12   3-5   0-0   1-6  0  2    6
Rhymer          17   3-4   1-2  5-10  0  0    7
TOTALS         200 30-58  8-13 17-44 14 16   75

Percentages: FG-.517, FT-.615. 3-Point Goals:
7-23, .304 (Babul 1-1, Clarke 1-8, M Mack 5-10,
Cruz 0-1, Smith 0-1, Blizzard 0-2). Team
rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 9 (Basit 3, Clarke 2,
Rhymer 2, Blizzard, Kirkland). Turnovers: 15
(Basit 2, Blizzard 2, Cruz 2, Depina 2, Babul,
Clarke, Denson, Kirkland, M Mack, Oates, Smith).
Steals: 7 (Smith 3, Clarke 2, Denson, Kirkland).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Cotton          25   2-7   3-4   3-4  0  1    8
Harley          20   0-5   2-2   2-3  1  1    2
Beerbohm        16   1-5   0-0   0-0  0  1    2
Sims            28   1-8   1-2   3-5  1  3    4
Pina            19   1-2   0-0   0-0  1  0    2
Ross            24   3-9   6-8   5-8  1  3   12
Walls           32  3-11   1-2   3-6  0  3    8
Millar          15   2-7   0-2   1-1  1  0    4
Deane           21   1-5   0-4   1-4  2  5    3
TOTALS         200 14-59 13-24 18-31  7 17   45

Percentages: FG-.237, FT-.542. 3-Point Goals:
4-16, .250 (Cotton 1-1, Beerbohm 0-1, Sims 1-3,
Ross 0-2, Walls 1-5, Millar 0-1, Deane 1-3). Team
rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 2 (Sims, Beerbohm).
Turnovers: 11 (Deane 3, Cotton 2, Sims 2, Walls
2, Harley, Millar). Steals: 7 (Cotton 2, Sims 2,
Beerbohm, Deane, Ross).
Massachusetts      37   38  -   75
Boston College     18   27  -   45
Technical fouls: None.  A: 7,172. Officials: Jody
Silvester, Donnie Gray, William Bush.

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