Coverage from:
The Roanoke Times
The Springfield Union-News
The Daily Hampshire Gazette

Poor shooting sinks Hokies
By Randy King, The Roanoke Times, 1/30/2000

BLACKSBURG -- If Jim Weaver was looking for some bricks for the remodeling of Lane Stadium, the Virginia Tech athletic director could have found a good-sized load Saturday afternoon in Cassell Coliseum.

Lord knows, the Tech men's basketball team produced a sizable two-hour quota.

In a game in which they had to hurry to outscore the outside thermometer, the Hokies shot a season-low 30.9 percent in falling 49-41 to Massachusetts in front of 4,661 fans.

It was Virginia Tech's lowest output since a 55-40 loss to UMass last season. The Hokies were on pace for their lowest scoring game in 33 years before Andre Ray coaxed a leaning 3-pointer through the hoop with 16 seconds left.

"We can't win many games scoring 40 points," Ray said. "We've got to be able to put points on the board -- 60, 70, maybe 80 to win ball games. We can play the best defense in the world, but you've got to score points as well."

No startling revelation there. What was startling was how flat the Hokies came out five days removed from their highly energetic effort in a 71-66 overtime loss to Virginia in Richmond.

The Hokies, whose 41 points were less than Tech's football team averaged en route to the Sugar Bowl, didn't score until Dennis Mims' bucket 5:02 into the game. By that point, UMass (11-8, 5-2) had scored a pair of touchdowns and led 12-0.

"We didn't anticipate coming out that slow," Ray said. "Instead of jumping out on them, they jumped out and they beat us to the punch. For whatever reason we just didn't come out ready to play."

Winston Smith looks for help.
The Minutemen led 18-4 before Virginia Tech finally heard its alarm clock. Thanks to some tough defense, the Hokies outscored the suddenly sleepy visitors 14-4 in the final 10:58 of the half to close to 22-18 at halftime.

"I'm surprised we got off to such a slow start," first-year Tech coach Ricky Stokes said. "That's probably as poorly a first 10 minutes as we've played all year long."

Remarkably, the Hokies were in the game. At least they were until the action resumed. Sparked by three Monty Mack 3-pointers in the first 2:46 of the second half, UMass embarked on a 17-6 run to take a 15-point lead with 12:34 left.

After Virginia Tech closed to 41-30 with 10:31 remaining, the scoreboard locked up. Neither team scored in the next 5:52.

"I looked at the clock a few times and I said, "Man, we've been here for a while,'" UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "But we were playing good defense and up by 11."

In this A-10 taffy-pull, 11 points was akin to 25.

After the Hokies closed to 41-36 on Ray's running banker with 2:54 to play, the Minutemen broke out of their 8:22 scoring drought. Guard Shannon Crooks' three-point play with 2:34 made it an eight-point contest, and UMass had its third straight and fifth A-10 victory in six games in the bag.

Mack's 22 points paced the winners. Six-foot-10 Kitwana Rhymer augmented Mack's scoring with 15 rebounds.

Tech, paced by Mims' 18 points, dropped below .500 for the first time in three weeks. The Hokies have lost three straight since sweeping a three-game A-10 homestand.

"We thought we had something good going," said Ray, who was the only Virginia Tech player to meet the media after the game.

Hokies stopped cold
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 1/30/2000

BLACKSBURG, Va. Almost every basket was a chore, so the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team succeeded yesterday with defense, an old standby the Minutemen still treat as a labor of love.

It helped UMass survive two prolonged scoreless droughts in a 49-41 victory over Virginia Tech at Cassell Coliseum, as the Hokies were held to 30.9 percent shooting. UMass (11-8, 5-2 Atlantic 10) has won three straight games and five of its last six and for the first time in two seasons, the Minutemen are three games above .500.

It was the last Atlantic 10 meeting between UMass and Virginia Tech (9-10, 3-4), which joins the Big East next season. Last year at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen held Virginia Tech to 40 points the Hokies' lowest point total in 32 years and yesterday, they silenced them again.

"Both teams are good defensively, so we thought it would be a grind-out game," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "In this league, you've got to win at home and sneak a few on the road, and we're a prime example."

The Minutemen are 3-0 on the road in A-10 play, and now face a Tuesday night home showdown with Temple. Yesterday, Monty Mack scored 22 points for UMass, which opened with 12-0 and 16-2 leads, then managed only two points in a 10:23 span and led 22-18 at halftime.

But Mack hit three 3-pointers during a 17-6 run to open the second half, giving UMass a 39-24 lead with 12:34 left.

Leading 41-28, UMass went scoreless for an 8:25 stretch. But Virginia Tech also didn't score for a 5:52 part of that stretch, and the Minutemen still led 41-36 when Shannon Crooks drove for a basket (and three-point play with the foul) with 2:34 left.

"I looked up at the clock a few times and saw us stuck on 41," Flint said. "Then Shannon came off a curl and got us going again."

"I think that was probably the biggest play," Mack said. "The guy guarding him was late coming off a screen, so he pump-faked and finished."

Given its own scoring difficulties, that just about finished Virginia Tech, which received a combined 3-for-15 shooting and seven points from highly regarded freshman guards Brian Chase and Tony Dobbins. Forward Dennis Mims had 18 points for the Hokies, who have lost three straight.

UMass center Kitwana Rhymer continued his inspired play of late, grabbing 15 rebounds. Mike Babul had six points and eight rebounds, and provided the intangibles that in Flint's mind made it the best game of Babul's career.

"He guarded people, had some tip-ins and stuck his nose in there," Flint said. Babul had five offensive rebounds, and though he was shaken up after a rebound late in the game, he's expected back at full strength for Temple.

The game was played with two referees in the first half because the third official, Fran Connolly, was held up by bad weather in Atlanta and couldn't arrive until halftime, but worked the second half.

Minutemen turn up defense
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/31/2000

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Before Saturday, the last time the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team was at least three games over .500 was also the last time the Minutemen scored under 50 points - a 51-46 loss to Saint Louis in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

But in a battle of two of the Atlantic 10's best man-to-man defensive teams, UMass (11-8, 5-2 A-10) climbed back to three games above the horizon despite staying below the half-century mark on the scoreboard with a 49-41 win over Virginia Tech.

The win completed a perfect two-game road trip for UMass, which beat Duquesne, 84-75, Thursday.

"These were two big wins for us," said senior guard Monty Mack. "We came down here, played hard and did the things coach wanted us to do."

The final score was the lowest combined total for an A-10 game this year. Virginia Tech's 41 points were, briefly, the fewest scored in an A-10 game this season. Duquesne scored just 37 points in a loss to Temple later in the afternoon.

The Hokies, who are leaving the A-10 for the Big East at the end of the season, likely won't miss playing UMass. This year's offensive output actually was better than last year's, when they fell, 55-40.

The usually tough Minuteman defense was at its best Saturday, repeatedly forcing the Hokies to take bad shots with the shot clock near evaporation. Va. Tech's young backcourt wasn't ready for the smothering attention it received from Mack and Shannon Crooks. The Hokie guards shot 3-for-19 from the field and scored a combined seven points. The entire Hokie squad finished just 17-of-55 from the floor.

UMass could have stopped scoring with 10:58 left to play and the game would have gone to overtime, as the Minutemen led 41-28. With the double-digit lead and Va. Tech's struggles, UMass tried to be more patient on offense and work the clock down.

Virginia Tech (9-10, 3-4) took advantage of Crooks' foul trouble and cut its deficit to 41-36 with 2:54 left. But when Crooks re-entered the game, he fooled Tony Dobbins with an up-fake and drove by him to the basket. Despite being fouled by Russ Wheeler, Crooks' shot still fell and so did the free throw, which put UMass ahead, 44-38, with 2:34 left. That effectively finished off the home team.

"That was probably the biggest play of the game," Mack said. "That's what we need him to do."

Mack led UMass with 22 points, the 13th time he's led his team in scoring this year. Chris Kirkland's offensive numbers were down (six points), but he did an excellent job neutralizing UMass-killer Rolan Roberts, holding him to six points as well.

Kitwana Rhymer continued his rebounding brilliance, following up his 14 boards against Duquesne with 15 Saturday. Mike Babul had a season-high eight boards to highlight a solid overall game.

"I thought this was the best game Mike played as a UMass player," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "He made some big tip-ins. He guarded and stuck his nose in there and got some rebounds."

"Mike had a lot of offensive rebounds," Mack said. "He made a lot of big plays and gave us a boost. He's been running at the rim more and keeping the ball alive."

UMass opened the game with a 12-0 run. All five UMass starters scored in the first four minutes of play. UMass led 16-2 with 12:23 left in the first half before the Hokies closed the half on a 16-6 run.

As he did against Duquesne, Mack created breathing room for the Minutemen in the second half. He knocked down three 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the half and accounted for nine of his team's first 11 points after intermission.

"In the second half I came out there saying, I'm going to try to make every shot I can," Mack said. "I had the mechanics of my shot down and it was falling."

The Minutemen will take on A-10 leader and arch-rival Temple Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. in the Mullins Center.

Massachusetts Minutemen 49
Virginia Tech Hokies 41
at Virginia Tech

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Kirkland        39   2-9   2-2   0-4  1  0    6
Babul           31   3-4   0-0   5-8  1  1    6
Rhymer          36   3-7   0-0  4-15  0  3    6
Mack            37  7-17   5-6   1-5  1  1   22
Crooks          34   3-9   1-3   0-2  3  4    7
Depina           9   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Smith            9   1-1   0-1   0-0  0  0    2
Brand            5   0-0   0-0   0-1  0  2    0
TOTALS         200 19-47  8-12 10-35  6 11   49

Percentages: FG-.404, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals:
3-10, .300 (Mack 3-9, Crooks 0-1). Team rebounds:
2. Blocked shots: 2 (Kirkland, Rhymer).
Turnovers: 12 (Mack 4, Depina 3, Babul 2,
Kirkland, Rhymer). Steals: 3 (Crooks 2, Rhymer).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Roberts         27  3-10   0-0   2-4  1  4    6
Ray             34   3-9   1-2   2-3  1  4    8
Mims            30  7-12   4-7   5-7  0  2   18
Chase           31  2-12   0-0   0-1  1  2    5
Dobbins         26   1-3   0-2   1-4  0  1    2
Dunlop          24   0-4   0-0   1-4  1  3    0
J Smith          1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Wheeler         27   1-5   0-0   1-4  0  2    2
TOTALS         200 17-55  5-11 12-27  4 18   41

Percentages: FG-.309, FT-.455. 3-Point Goals:
2-14, .143 (Roberts 0-1, Ray 1-4, Chase 1-8,
Dobbins 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 3
(Roberts, Ray, Dobbins). Turnovers: 9 (Roberts 4,
Dunlop 2, Chase, Dobbins, Ray). Steals: 9
(Wheeler 3, Roberts 2, Chase, Dobbins, Dunlop,
Massachusetts      22   27  -   49
Virginia Tech      18   23  -   41
Technical fouls: None.  A: 4,661. Officials:
Glenn Mayborg, Kelly Lombard, Fran Connolly.

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