ssistant Coach Nate Blackwell said the Owls will have to exploit their interior advantage to score a road win against the Minutemen. Temple travels to Amherst, Mass., for an ESPN2 televised contest on Tuesday night.
Assistant Coach Nate Blackwell previews Tuesday night's Temple-UMass matchup:
General thoughts on the contest:
"It's going to be a game of who can force their will on the other team. We like to play at a decent tempo. I wouldn't say necessarily a slow tempo, but at a tempo that is comfortable for us. They're going to try to make us go a little faster. They do a lot of different things as far as playing aggressive man-to-man. They come at you with some type of run-and-jump press every now and then. If we can handle their pressure and handle their man-to-man, I think we'll be fine."
Keys to getting the victory:
"I think we have better inside people so we have to try and exploit that early, try and get the ball into Lamont some and see if he can get a game going early, which would make the game easier for our guards. It's always going to be tough. I don't think that because we're supposed to be a little bit better than them that we're going to be able to go in there and blow them away. I think it's going to be a game where for us to win it we're going to have to take our time and methodically work out a win."
Matching up the team's post players:
"The matchup is actually better for us. We prefer playing against big people. When we play against teams like Duquesne and La Salle we have to get a little lucky in the fact that they don't hit shots. Because they spread you out with four or five guys and you're in a zone. If you get four guys on one side of the floor that means there's two guys on the other side playing nobody. So if they hit those shots, you could be in for a long night. Teams like UMass that play two guys inside like we do, it's a better matchup for us. So we actually hope that we see two big guys as opposed to four little guys, because that spreads us out a little too much."
Stopping Chris Kirkland and Monty Mack:
"We've done a good job at times of containing them. I think Kirkland hurt us last year in the one game, but I think in the other games we contained him pretty good. We've got to make sure that we can stop him from getting in the middle and getting our guys in foul trouble. And of course you've always got to get to Mack. I think he might be one of the finer two guards in our league. He's absolutely a great scorer. He can shoot from the outside, he can put it on the floor and get his own shot. So he's always a tough cover."
On UMass freshman center Micah Brand:
"They get the ball to him. He seems to be the primary inside guy, because they kind of spread Kirkland out a little bit. Kit Rhymer's the off guy, sort of like what Kevin and Ronnie are to Lamont. I think the matchup favors us in terms of the fact that they are going to have two inside guys. I've seen Brand play, he's a very good player, I just would think that Lamont and Kevin can handle him and give him trouble on defense. Our kids our really big. They take up a lot of ground. I think it's a tough cover for them. I think Brand's going to have a tough time covering. They're going to help down and do a lot of different things, but all that aids your offense. When they help down you should be able to get somebody open."
Importance of winning on the road:
"While we're doing OK, we've still got things to prove. We haven't been a great road basketball team. We've been very good at home. But we have had trouble going into people's homes and beating them, as evidenced by the St. Bonnie game, a game in which we were controlling the whole game and just kind of lost a little bit of focus at the end. This is going to be an important task for us."
MHERST — Every so often, Bruiser Flint admits he wonders when the public will start noticing, or what it will take to convince them. He wonders why the enthusiasm to knock his University of Massachusetts men's basketball team hasn't been replaced by the equal energy to give it some credit, now that the Minutemen are playing better and winning.
"I've been saying for awhile that we've been playing better since the tournament in Puerto Rico, said Flint, whose team is knocking on the door for first place in the Atlantic 10's East Division. "It seems like nobody is listening, though."
This week, though, the fans and media will be watching and listening more closely. Tonight at the Mullins Center, UMass plays 21st-ranked Temple, and Saturday, it plays host to 16th-ranked Texas.
For UMass (11-8, 5-2 Atlantic 10), tonight's 9:30 game and Saturday's afternoon test offer a chance to win something even more elusive lately than victories.
"Those are two top teams, and it's a big challenge for us," Flint said. "But win or lose, we're playing good ball. I feel better about our chances than I did a month ago." Since Jan. 8, the Minutemen are 5-1 and have won their last three. A win would lift them to within a half-game of first place in the A-10 East.
But Temple (14-4, 7-1) has won five straight, allowing only 42.6 points per game in that stretch. Given that UMass beat Virginia Tech 49-41 Saturday, it's possible the final score may resemble a halftime score.
"Against Temple, every possession is important, almost like it's football," Flint said.
Temple has been fighting injuries all season. Tonight, starting center Kevin Lyde is questionable with back spasms. Ron Rollerson (6-10), who started in Lyde's place in Saturday's 81-37 rout of Duquesne, has a leg injury that may keep him out, too.
But the Owls have senior point guard Pepe Sanchez, who missed eight games with an ankle injury. Forward Mark Karcher, who missed one game with an early-season shoulder injury, has found his scoring touch and is scoring 15.8 points per game.
"We're going as well as we are because Mark is getting off to good starts in games," Temple coach John Chaney said.
When Sanchez was out, Quincy Wadley played point guard, but the Temple senior is more natural at shooting guard. Last week, Wadley averaged 14 points and six rebounds per game, and was named A-10 co-player of the week with UMass guard Monty Mack, who scored 22 points in each game of the Minutemen's two-game road sweep.
MHERST — When the Atlantic 10 Conference expanded and split into two divisions in 1995, University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach John Calipari was asked how he thought the division should be handled.
"It doesn't really matter," said Calipari, an unforgettable member of the cast that has made UMass-Temple one of college basketball's very special rivalries. "As long as Temple and UMass play each other twice a year, that's all that counts."
They do, of course, as rivals in the conference's East Division. From 1993-96, they even played three times, meeting every year in the Atlantic 10 tournament championship game. Research by the league indicates that in the history of college basketball, this is the only instance of the same two teams playing for the league tournament title in four straight years.
Yet those games, all of which were won by the Minutemen, represent only part of the history of a rivalry that seems to have lasted for ages, but is actually only 17 years old.
With both teams hot and again fighting for first place in the Atlantic 10 East Division, they meet tonight at the Mullins Center in the only 9:30 tipoff on this season's UMass schedule — a concession to national television (ESPN2) and a reminder that UMass-Temple is still a big deal.
It grew with the help of two famous coaches, the irascible John Chaney at Temple and the emotional Calipari at UMass and a moment both would rather forget.
On Feb. 13, 1994, after a 56-55 UMass win at the Mullins Center, Chaney had to be restrained from physically confronting Calipari, the man who had usurped his Atlantic 10 dominance. The incident stamped the rivalry into the nation's awareness, perhaps unfairly overshadowing all the memorable games the teams have staged.
Eleven days later, amid heavy security, the teams met again at Temple's McGonigle Hall. The feuding coaches shook hands before the game, and the tension was eased. But the outcome was the same: UMass won by one point.
The UMass-Temple series can be easily broken into three periods: Temple's 21-0 domination from 1983-92, the 1992-96 seasons when UMass surpassed the Owls as the Atlantic 10's showcase team, and Bruiser Flint's years, which have seen Temple reclaim its position of A-10 prominence.
Yet Flint, who grew up in Philadelphia and shares many of Chaney's values and beliefs, is 3-3 against the Temple legend. And the appeal of the rivalry is still found in the fact that any team able to beat Temple can rightfully call itself a credible, national program.
For a rivalry this heated, it hasn't been that close. Temple won the first 21 meetings, including an 89-68 decision at the Springfield Civic Center Jan. 12, 1989 - Calipari's first UMass-Temple game as a coach.
On Feb. 11, 1990, the teams went into triple overtime at Curry Hicks Cage before Temple won for the 17th straight time. But the 83-82 thriller, considered one of the most heart-stopping games ever played at the Cage, sent a message to Philadelphia that the tide was about to turn.
It happened on Feb. 16, 1992, a 67-52 UMass win in Amherst. Temple won the next meeting, but then UMass captured 12 of the next 13, controlling the Owls in a way no other team could approach.
Both Calipari and Flint have said that part of the reason for that five-year dominance, in addition to quality players, was a thorough familiarity with Temple's unique (and to opponents, infuriating) style of patient offense and zone defense. With UMass playing almost exclusive man-to-man defense, the games of the 1990's not only pitted different basketball histories and cultures, but a contrast of styles.
The series now stands 26-14 in Temple's favor, yet last year's regular-season finale shows how resolutely the Minutemen still dog the Owls. It was Senior Day at UMass, the end of a drab campaign.
Temple had won 13 of 15 and was 19-8 overall. UMass was 12-15 and had just lost to LaSalle. But the Minutemen won 57-49.
After tonight's game in Amherst, the teams meet again Feb. 26 at the Apollo of Temple.
Once, while playing at UMass, Marcus Camby was asked if he'd like the chance to beat Connecticut, which didn't play the Minutemen at the time.
"Sure, but I'd rather beat Temple," he said.
Coaches, players and arenas have changed, but that attitude remains the defining spirit of the rivalry that's about to be renewed once more.
MHERST - There was energy in the hallway outside the University of Massachusetts men's basketball locker room Monday evening.
It flowed into the weight room and the training room and from the players, coaching staff and even the managers.
The UMass-Temple rivalry doesn't attract the same national attention that it did half a decade ago, but to the people involved, the excitement of the showdown remains abundant.
"We're real excited," said senior captain Mike Babul. "This is the biggest game of the year so far. We have to be ready."
"It means a lot because it's the rivalry and its been going on for so long," said senior guard Monty Mack. "These are games that we live to play for."
More than rivalry rides on the game that will tip off at 9:30 p.m. to accommodate ESPN2. With the No. 21-ranked Owls arriving at 7-1 and UMass checking in at 5-2, an upset win by the Minutemen would put the two squads in a tie for first place in the loss column in the Atlantic 10 East. While the Owls are the heavy favorite, Temple is just 1-9 all-time in the Mullins Center.
"It's always a big game," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "It's still early, but it feels good that we have a chance to play for first place. Plus, it's Temple. The guys have been in these games and they know how they are."
An upset won't be easy. Far from it. Temple's last five opponents have failed to score more than 50 points, including Duquesne, which scored just 37. Since point guard Pepe Sanchez returned from an ankle injury, the Owls are 8-1.
Sanchez has played in only 10 games this season, not enough to be eligible for national leader lists, but his 8.1 assists would rank him fifth in the nation.
A year ago, UMass split the season series with Temple, losing to the Owls when Sanchez was out of the lineup, but beating them when he played. Despite that, Flint is concerned about the floor general.
"I don't think anybody wants to see him," Flint said. "He makes them play so much differently. He controls what they do. If they can control you, they'll beat you. That's the bottom line."
Guarding Sanchez for most of the game will be Minuteman point guard Shannon Crooks, who will be seeing Temple's matchup zone for the first time in his career. How he plays against it could go a long way toward dictating the outcome of the contest.
"I'm just going in like it's another game," Crooks said. "I'm not intimidated by anybody. I've heard a lot about the zone. You just have to play against it and be under control and watch the turnovers. It's going to be fun just to be a part of the game."
Crooks' teammates have tried to help him prepare.
"I told him there are going to be times in the zone when you look open and you're really not," Mack said. "That's the same problem I had my first year when I played them. I think he'll be all right."
Babul had similar advice.
"We told him you have to take your time and do what coach says," Babul said. "You can't play it like any other zone, because you'll just turn the ball over. Stick to the game plan. Shannon has to be under control."
On the receiving end of many of Sanchez's passes has been junior forward Mark Karcher, the Owls' leading scorer at 15.8 points per game.
"Mark Karcher has been getting off to good starts shooting," Temple coach John Chaney said. "We've fed off that. If he doesn't shoot well, it's a lot more of a struggle for us."
Babul will try to make that struggle a reality.
"He hurt us down in Philly last year, but we did a good job on him up here," Babul said. "Hopefully I can just keep him under control early. I know he lost a lot of weight, so he's not as strong as he was last year. He'll be quicker, but I think I can handle him off the dribble."
"I know Mike will be ready," Flint said. "He's been playing so much differently and so much tougher in the last couple weeks."
The game will match up A-10 co-players of the week in the backcourt as Temple Quincy Wadley will square off with Mack.
Mack is second in the conference in scoring at 19.6 points per game.
"I was very impressed with him," Chaney said. "Mack has a great chance to get to the pros."
Injuries have plagued the Owls throughout the season, with Sanchez and Karcher missing chunks of time. Sophomore center Kevin Lyde and his backup, Ron Rollerson, are the latest players keeping the medical staff busy.
Lyde's recurring back spasms flared up Saturday, causing the 6-foot-9 big man to miss Temple's easy 81-37 win over Duquesne. He is listed as a probable starter despite missing just under a week of practice. Chaney wouldn't commit to Lyde playing, but there wasn't much doubt in Flint's mind.
"Oh, he'll play,' Flint said.
Rollerson might be another story. The hefty sophomore was on crutches as of Monday, with what Chaney described as a "stress thing in his foot."
Flint has had some success in his coaching career against Temple, playing his hometown's top program to a standstill at 3-3. While many schools have failed trying to shoot 3-pointers over the Owls' famous matchup zone, Flint and John Calipari before him have successfully used a different strategy to defeat the Owls.
"We've always said if you go out and try to shoot a ton of threes against them, you're going to lose by 30," Flint said. "Some of the other teams in the league are starting to figure that out. We try not to shoot a ton of threes. We shoot them when they come to us.
"We try to get the best shot available. A lot of teams think they have to hit threes against Temple to beat them. We call that fool's gold.
"You have to find the holes in the zone," Flint continued. "One of the advantages we have is that we can have four ball-handlers out there, which can spread the zone out a little bit."
Mack has paid attention to Flint's teaching.
"It's about being in the right spots on the floor," Mack said. "If we have guys in the right spots, we'll get some good looks. You have to avoid quick shots, because that's what they want you to do."
Babul warned against wasting possessions.
"You know it's going to be a low-scoring game," he said. "You have to take care of the ball. Every basket counts, no matter how it goes in."
ickets are still available for tonight's 9:30 game between the University of Massachusetts and Temple at the Mullins Center.
The traditional rivalry game drew only 7,782 last year, when the Minutemen entered the game with a record of 12-15, but the UMass coaching staff is working overtime to promote this year's game. A box of fliers that was set to be hung in residence halls, classroom buildings and dining areas was outside the Minuteman locker room Monday.
Copying a tactic that helped draw a sizable crowd to Midnight Madness, team managers will be around campus tomorrow with bullhorns, encouraging students to attend the game.
"We need a full house," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint, who then addressed the fans directly. "Come to the game tomorrow night. This is a big game. We need the place to be rocking a little bit."
Tickets for non-students are $20 and can be picked up at the UMass ticket offices in the Mullins Center and the Curry Hicks Cage.
MHERST - Growing up rooting for the University of Massachusetts, Shannon Crooks would flip on the VCR for particularly important Minuteman games. Somewhere in the Everett native's video library are still a few tapes of UMass-Temple games.
If someone is taping tonight's game between the Minutemen and Owls, Crooks will be on the tape this time, as he will join the rivalry he used to record.
In the 1990s the games featured several future NBA players, a few last-second shots and John Chaney threatening to kill John Calipari.
Bruiser Flint's favorite installment of the rivalry came in 1992, when the Minutemen finally beat Temple, 67-52, after 22 consecutive losses, en route to the Sweet Sixteen.
"One of the best games we ever played was the year we stopped the streak. I say that game because we weren't going to lose that one," Flint began.
"We were down. We came out in the second half and you could see it in the locker room. We're tired of losing to these guys and we played with so much energy. They were pretty good that year and we came out and beat them."
Flint said that finally beating Temple was a big step in the UMass program's progress.
"When you lose to somebody 22 games in a row and then you beat them, it shows you're making some progress."
For assistant coach and former Minuteman forward Tony Barbee, the most memorable game was a loss during his freshman year.
"Probably the triple overtime one (1990) because it was the first time we had a chance to beat them," he said.
The Minutemen lost that game, 84-83, when Owl Michael Hardin hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third overtime to break UMass' hearts.
In his senior year, Barbee sank a put-back at the end of regulation to give UMass a 52-50 win over Temple, but his best positive memory of the rivalry came in the Atlantic 10 championship when UMass prevailed, 69-61, at the Curry Hicks Cage.
"It was a sweet ending to it all," Barbee said. "I came in and we could never beat Temple and we finished them off, beating them twice in one year. That was the best one."
When Barbee was in Wyoming last year he made sure he watched the UMass-Temple game on his satellite dish, but he's glad to be part of it again.
"It doesn't matter who the players are or how good each team is," he said. "It's always an even matchup."
Like Crooks, teammate Monty Mack watched a lot of UMass-Temple games on TV.
"I remember Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie battling with Edgar (Padilla) and Carmelo (Travieso)," Mack said. "There were some big battles and good games."
MHERST - After a 70-60 loss to St. Bonaventure on Jan. 6, it appeared that the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team was heading for its second straight early write-off.
The Minutemen were 6-7 and on the losing end of three straight. After last year's struggles, few people could muster enough optimism to think the Minutemen could turn things around.
But coach Bruiser Flint was adamant after that game.
"The wheels aren't going to fall off," Flint said. "This isn't that kind of team."
He was right. Unlike the 1998-99 Minutemen, this collection of personalities and talents responded.
Since the loss to the Bonnies, the Minutemen have won five of six, including convincing wins over Fordham and Rhode Island.
A win over Temple tonight would put UMass in a first-place tie in the loss column in the Atlantic 10 East.
Following are more reasons to believe UMass can continue its success:
* The development of center Kitwana Rhymer and point guard Shannon Crooks has been perhaps the biggest key. Crooks' shooting and, more important, his shot selection, have improved steadily throughout the season as he's shed the rust from missing all of last year. His increased patience and decreased turnovers have made the team run more smoothly.
Rhymer, who wasn't a regular starter even in high school, is his team's No. 1 center for the first time in his career. His ability to maintain that status seemed in question during a prolonged slump midway through the season in which foul trouble kept him off the floor.
But he's replaced the fouls with rebounds and has been a force on the boards. That has taken some pressure off Chris Kirkland in the frontcourt.
"I don't know if we'd be playing for first place in the A-10 East if Kit hadn't come around," Flint said. "He and Shannon have really gotten better in the last couple weeks and that's why we're in the position we're in right now."
* After collapsing in the second half against Dayton, the Minutemen seem to have learned an important lesson in poise.
When UMass came unglued against the Flyers, it never recovered and blew a 12-point halftime lead.
But Thursday night when Duquesne erased a 14-point UMass advantage, the Minutemen stayed composed and counterattacked their way to a 84-75 win.
The Minutemen followed up that win with Saturday's low-scoring victory. In neither contest did UMass have its "A-game", but in two completely different games style-wise, the Minutemen did what they had to do to win, a trait that was never really on display last year.
* The UMass players have settled into roles and Flint has found a bench rotation that he knows what to expect from. Winston Smith, who had been mistake-prone in the past, has provided smart play and a spark of hustle, reminiscent of what Rigo Nunez provided in the mid-1990s.
Jonathan DePina still is error-prone but he has limited his turnovers significantly and has shown the willingness to take (and often make) open shots.
Freshman center Micah Brand still needs to get stronger, but has provided rebounding and offense as well.
* The Atlantic 10 has been wildly inconsistent this year, with only Temple playing reliably well. After this week's games with the Owls and Texas (Saturday at the Mullins Center), the Minutemen will have another stretch of very winnable games against La Salle, Xavier, Rhode Island and Fordham.
An at-large NCAA Tournament bid is nearly out of reach for UMass since it already has eight losses, but a National Invitation Tournament berth is very reachable and would be a significant improvement over last year's 14-16 record.
Plus, if Temple gets upset in the A-10 Tournament, the league's NCAA automatic-bid sweepstakes becomes a crap-shoot. If UMass can get a first-round bye, it could at least be a contender.
This week presents a big test for the Minutemen, who enter it big underdogs in both games. A split would be a huge step, while two wins would be cause for celebration.
Regardless of the results, if UMass can play respectably and keep its confidence, it could provide a boost for the team for the rest of the season.
his just might be the game it was looking for.
When the Massachusetts men’s basketball team hosts No. 20 Temple tonight at 9:30 p.m. at the Williams D. Mullins Center, the 41st meeting of the two Atlantic 10 East foes will mark the renewal of a great rivalry.
It will also be the first time a perennially strong opponent will travel to Amherst since Villanova on Dec. 6.
The Owls hold the high hand in the series with a 26-14 lead despite the Minutemen snapping a 3-0 Temple roll last year with a 57-49 win in the regular season finale.
With a win, UMass (11-8) would take a step closer to the A-10 East lead, which Temple (14-4) has a stronghold on with a 7-2 in conference record. The Minutemen are tied for second with St. Bonaventure at 5-2.
"This is probably the biggest rivalry in the league without question," said UMass coach James "Bruiser" Flint. "UMass, Temple, this is Rivalry Week on ESPN and we’re on it so that just goes to show you what this rivalry is all about.
"Everybody gets up for the game, they get up, we get up… we’ve been the better teams in the league in the past few years," Flint continued. "When everybody talks about the A-10, they talk about UMass and Temple."
The two squads are at a deadlock tie in Amherst with 10 wins apiece. Temple captured the first 21 meetings between the two teams before UMass rebounded to take 14 of the next 19 match ups.
Besides the rivalry, what makes this game a clash of streaks, strides, and pride?
UMass is riding a three-game winning streak with victories over Rhode Island, Duquesne and Virginia Tech while averaging 74 points to its opponents’ 55. The Owls have secured five-straight victories and eight of their last nine with the return of senior guard Juan "Pepe" Sanchez.
"They’re coming off a five-game winning streak so they’re playing well," said Flint. "We just have to stay the course, cut down on the turnovers, rebound, and play defense like we’ve been playing."
The Owls are fairly balanced in the offensive department as junior Mark Karcher leads the Owls in scoring with 15.8 ppg and five rebounds per game. Senior Quincy Wadley is second with 11.5 ppg and Lynn Greer comes off the bench with 13.2 ppg.
Temple plays a trapping defensive zone that can fool perimeter shooters into thinking that time is not of essence. The Minutemen will have familiarity on their side. Last season, Mack responded with 18 points and the UMass defense matched up to shut down the Owls offensively, as they converted just two of their attempts from the floor in the second half.
Senior co-captain Chris Kirkland will need to step up and play more aggressive on the offensive end to compensate should the Minutemen guards fall into trouble.
"One of the advantages I think we have is that we have four ball-handlers out there at times and you can spread the zone out there a little bit," said Flint. "We find that if we shoot a ton of threes than we get beat by 30, I think that other teams are starting to figure that out."
The rivalry has spawned beyond notoriety of just within the conference, sometimes making it the biggest billing on many of the players’ schedules.
"It’s going to be nothing but exciting, Temple coming into our home," said A-10 Player of the Week Monty Mack. "I think it means a lot because it is a rivalry and it’s been going on for so long."
"It’s the type of game you have to look forward to," Mack continued.
Mack could become the first Minuteman to average better than 20 points per game since Marcus Camby did during the 1995-1996 season with 20.5 per contest. The senior is second in the league in scoring with 19.6, a good distance behind George Washington’s SirValiant Brown, who averages 24.7 ppg. The sharpshooter has led UMass in scoring in the past 11 of 12 games, reaching 20 points in eight of them. In the 81 games Mack has played at UMass, he has reached double digits 72 times, or 88 percent.
"He’s getting better because he’s a little more patient on offense, he hasn’t been forcing his shots," said Flint.
Guard Shannon Crooks and center Kitwana Rhymer have been a major part of turnaround since January 6 when the Minutemen were 6-7 after falling to the Bonnies, 70-60.
"I don’t know if we would be playing for first place in the league without him (Rhymer)," said Flint. "Shannon’s really gotten better in the past couple of weeks."
"We’ve had more success than others in the league (against the zone)," Flint said. "But everybody knows each others’ tendencies, I don’t think anything really surprises you, it’s about which team is the best that night."