MHERST, Mass. -- Slightly more than six minutes elapsed before Chris Mihm finally touched the ball for the first time Saturday. He quickly made up for lost time.
The University of Texas junior set school records for blocked shots in a game and career as the Longhorns thwarted a Massachusetts rally for a 68-57 victory. The 7-foot center swatted away eight shots as No. 16 UT won its first nonconference road game by suffocating the Minutemen in the first half, then holding on in the second.
Shannon Crooks doesn't make it easy for Texas' Chris McColpin.
He certainly succeeded. Mihm, who led the Longhorns with 18 points and 12 rebounds, had six blocks in the opening half as Texas played its best defensive half of the season. His eight blocks for the game, eclipsing his school single-game mark by one, gave Mihm 237 for his career, one more than Albert Burditt's total from 1991-94.
"It was a goal of mine coming into UT," Mihm said. "I didn't know I was that close. I always try to be a factor on defense. It's something I kind of have a knack for and enjoy doing. I take pride in that."
With Mihm policing the middle and Lawrence Williams heating up on the perimeter, Texas outscored UMass 26-7 over the final 13 minutes, 54 seconds of the first half to take a 31-16 lead at intermission. It was the lowest point total in a half for Coach Bruiser Flint's Minutemen in the 8-year-old history of the Mullins Center. During one nine-minute stretch, UMass was held scoreless, missing 14 straight shots.
The Longhorns led by as many as 20 points early in the second half, 41-21 on a driving slam by Gabe Muoneke against the press, before UMass rallied by finally hitting some shots from the perimeter. The Minutemen got within six, 51-45 on a three-pointer by Shannon Crooks with 8 1/2 minutes to play and had the ball. But Texas forced a turnover, which triggered a 6-0 run that rebuilt the lead to 57-45.
Chris Mihm looks to get out of trouble as The Condor flies right at him.
UMass never again got closer than eight points, to the delight of a small contingent of Longhorns fans, including some native Texans attending college in the area who held up a sign proclaiming "Texas Fights" in the second half. With about four minutes gone in the half, a middle-aged UMass fan, walking with a cane, tried to tear the sign in half. He was handcuffed by three policemen and escorted from the arena.
It was that kind of day for the Minutemen and their fans after Flint's team fell to 11-10, increasing speculation that Flint might be on his way out after four seasons as John Calipari's successor.
Williams hit his first five three-pointers of the game and finished with 17 points, both career highs. He also helped do a decent job on Mack, who scored 16, three under his average. Senior guard William Clay, perhaps UT's best perimeter defender, never got off the bench as punishment for missing Friday's team flight.
Barnes started forward Chris Owens in Clay's place, but he was unimpressed again with UT's offensive motion with its big lineup. Barnes said he was leaning toward starting guard Darren Kelly at the spot when Texas resumes Big 12 Conference play on Wednesday against Texas Tech at the Erwin Center.
Williams said he enjoyed playing in the Mullins Center, where he once dreamed of playing when Calipari's Minutemen had Marcus Camby. "It just felt like a shooter's gym," he said. "The rims are so soft, the ball's so soft. It just felt right."
Added Barnes: "Lawrence can really shoot. People need to know he can do that. He needs to draw as much attention on the perimeter as Mihm and Gabe do inside."
You may contact Randy Riggs at email@example.com or 445-3957.
MHERST - As usual, Bruiser Flint talked about the effort, and the heart, and how much he enjoys coaching this team.
Kit Rhymer was stymied by the Longhorn defense.
They shot 21 percent from the floor in the first half, rallied in the second, and ran out of energy after pulling within reach.
It's the overriding theme of the 1999-2000 season, much to the frustration of those who have to live it.
``In the second half we came out and played, and in the first half we were hesitant,'' said Monty Mack. ``Nobody knows why it always seems to happen that way. Sometimes we come out hard, and sometimes we don't. We seem to pick a half to play well in, and you can't do that.''
But the Minutemen can't help themselves.
With the usual entourage of NBA scouts on hand, Texas center Chris Mihm shook off another afternoon of rough specialized coverage to hit all 10 of his free throws as the bulk of an 18-point performance.
He also grabbed 12 rebounds and feasted on the undersized Minutemen down at the other end, breaking his own school record with eight blocks, including six in the first half.
Monty Mack with one of his rare clear-looks at the basket.
Shannon Crooks, the prime first-half culprit with an 0-for-9 performance - most of them misses off wide-open shots - scored 17 points during the Minutemen's second-half run and finishes with an unsightly 6-20 performance from the floor.
But it was also his deep shooting, combined with Mack and Chris Kirkland - another second-half Lazarus with 15 of his 17 points in that stretch - that brought UMass back.
Mack triggered UMass' best stretch with a trey that cut the Texas lead to 49-40 with 10:52 left. Kirkland then answered Ivan Wagner's drive off the break with one of his personal highlights - a lane-splitting tomahawk dunk over Mihm that cut the Texas lead to 51-42.
Kirkland then stole the inbounds pass, setting up a Crooks trey that chopped the score to 51-45 with 8:31 left.
The Minutemen would be teased by this margin the rest of the way. They followed up Crooks' 3-pointer with three misses and three turnovers - mortal mistakes, considering the 6-0 Texas run that followed. UMass pulled within eight points (59-51) on a Kirkland drive with 2:31 left, but the Longhorns were about to close this one out from the line.
Wagner, Mihm and Chris McColpin combined to shoot 9-10 from the line over the last 1:14.
``We knew they would make a run,'' said Mihm. ``Monty Mack started to light it up, and when that happens, it's a totally different game. But we were able to maintain control.''
MHERST - Monty Mack continued his climb up the all-time UMass scoring list yesterday, scoring 16 points to tie Marcus Camby for 10th with 1,387 career points.
The senior guard passed Julius Erving with his 14-point performance against Temple on Tuesday.
But it's hard to imagine that other players absorb as much stress on this kind of journey.
Mack, subjected once again to box-and-one coverage, this time by Texas, shot a painful 6-for-14 yesterday, after shooting 5-for-12 against Temple.
But give Mack credit. He accepts the conditions.
``I'm not frustrated - I'm used to it by now,'' said Mack. ``We use me as a decoy, to free up other people.''
Texas looks familiar
Texas came in shooting .626 as a team from the free throw line, and looked like the old Celtics from the line down the stretch. They shot 9-for-10 from the line over the last 1:14.
Chris Mihm beats out Mike Babul for the rebound.
Mihm alone scored 10 of his 18 points on 10-for-10 shooting from the line. He also had 12 rebounds.
Credit Texas coach Rick Barnes with an adjustment geared to making these players take their performance from the line more seriously.
``We were shooting such a low percentage that (the coaching staff) came up with the rule that each of us has to make 100 free throws, either before or after practice, before you can leave for the day,'' said Mihm.
``I think it's started to make a difference in the last couple of weeks.''
Kearse verbally commits
UMass, in a move aimed at finally solving the point guard problem that has existed on this team for the last three years, has received a verbal commitment from a player who might be able to solve the problem.
Jarett Kearse, who made the Big East's all-rookie team three years ago as a West Virginia freshman, has made a verbal commitment to enroll at UMass next fall.
Kearse transferred out of West Virginia last year, reportedly because of personal problems with head coach Gale Catlett.
He is now attending a community college in Philadelphia, but is not playing. As a result, he will be eligible to play next season.
Kearse, a 6-5 guard, averaged 13.5 points and 5.3 assists per game during his two seasons with the Mountaineers.
Marcum receives honor
UMass athletic director Bob Marcum was honored at halftime yesterday after he was named regional athletic director of the year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. He was one of 24 winners selected nationally, including four in Div. 1.
MHERST - Early in the second half of yesterday's men's basketball game at the Mullins Center, security personnel escorted a fan from the building in handcuffs.
The University of Massachusetts offense was handcuffed in the first half, too, and by the time the Minutemen became unshackled, it was too late. A stirring comeback fell short in a 68-57 loss to 16th-ranked Texas, leaving the season-high crowd of 8,145 to settle for a gallant effort by a team that again came up empty against a nationally ranked opponent.
With 52 turnovers in the game, there was a lot of scrapping for the rock.
"I don't think anybody knows why," Mack said. "But we can't do that."
UMass did, though, and fell to 11-10 with the nonconference loss. It came on the heels of Tuesday's 75-48 defeat to 21st-ranked Temple and caused UMass to drop to 4-5 at home.
Texas (15-6) led 31-16 at halftime, the Minutemen's lowest point total for one half at the Mullins Center since it opened in 1993. But after shooting 21.4 percent in the first half, UMass connected on 51.6 percent in the second, trimming what had grown to a 20-point deficit to 51-45 with eight minutes left.
At that point, Texas' Chris Owens missed two free throws, and UMass center Kitwana Rhymer grabbed the rebound. But Rhymer lost control of the ball, Texas forward Gabe Muoneke retrieved it and dunked it, and the Minutemen never seriously threatened the Longhorns' lead again.
"If we play like we did in the second half, we can play with anybody," said UMass forward Chris Kirkland, who had two points at halftime but finished with 17.
Shannon Crooks also scored 17 points, 15 in the second half when he shook off 0-for-9 first-half shooting to hit 6 of 11 afterward.
Big Chris Mihm made easy work of the UMass defense.
What hurt the Minutemen was the 6-for-7 accuracy of Texas guard Lawrence Williams, who scored 16 points, nearly triple his 5.6 average.
"You've got to make Williams and those other guards make shots," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said, acknowledging the proven abilities of Mihm and Muoneke. "If they do, they're tough to beat."
UMass forced 24 turnovers and took 59 shots to Texas' 41. But the Longhorns were determined to keep Mack in check, and they did so reasonably well with a box-and-one defense.
"I didn't think it was frustrating," said Mack, who still got free for four 3-pointers. "I'm used to it by now."
"Whenever you hold a team to 16 points in a half, that's pretty impressive defense," Mihm said. "We knew they were going to make a run, though. In the second half, they started hitting from the perimeter, and Mack started lighting it up, and they gained confidence."
Mack hit two 3-pointers, Crooks had one, and Kirkland threw down a monster dunk at the end of a 24-10 surge that cut a 20-point Texas lead to 51-45.
MHERST — Minutemen are coming, and Minutemen are going.
University of Massachusetts men's basketball team has received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-5 Jarrett Kearse, and expects to receive another from 6-8 Jackie Rogers, a junior college power forward who played with Kearse when both were at West Virginia University, possibly as early as tomorrow.
Rogers plays for Barton County (Kan.) Community College, while Kearse is at Philadelphia Community College (but not playing basketball) after leaving West Virginia. He led the Mountaineers with 5.3 assists per game last season, and averaged 13.5 points.
UMass is also optimistic that Lynn English High School point guard Anthony Anderson will make a verbal commitment this week. Anderson has been quoted as "heavily leaning" to the Minutemen.
Kearse, who can play either guard spot and small forward, told "Insider's Report," an online basketball service, that UMass was his first choice when he came out of high school in Philadelphia.
But the Minutemen were pursuing Shannon Crooks at the time, so Kearse went to West Virginia. Crooks went to St. John's, then transferred to UMass.
Kearse left West Virginia after last season and is not playing basketball this year, a decision he made to save two years of eligibility. He will enter UMass as a junior.
If Kearse, Rogers and Anderson come to UMass, they would join forward Raheim Lamb of Boston and shooting guard Jameel Pugh of Sacramento, Calif., who are already signed. That would fill next year's limit of 13 scholarships. Another may be freed up, though, if seldom-used forward Ronell Blizzard decides to transfer.
Blizzard, a sophomore forward who considered transferring after last season, is considered a transfer possibility as he does not appear to be in the team's plans.
Meanwhile, 6-3 junior JoVann Johnson is back on campus to complete his academic work for the year. But Johnson, who left the team during Christmas break for a family funeral and didn't return, will not be involved with the team.
Johnson, a junior college transfer from Wabash Valley Community College of Mt. Carmel, Ill., was dissatisfied with limited playing time, but left the team under amicable circumstances.
After yesterday's 68-57 UMass loss to Texas, he shot baskets with Eric Williams, a forward who is sitting out this season after transferring from Syracuse and becomes eligible next year.
MOVIN' ON UP:
Monty Mack's 16 points moved the 6-3 guard into a tie for 10th place on the all-time UMass scoring list. He is even with Marcus Camby at 1,387 points, and should pass Camby and Edwin Green (ninth at 1,393) against La Salle Wednesday night.
MIHM'S NOT MUM:
Texas junior center Chris Mihm set a school record yesterday with eight blocks, as well as the career mark with 237. He had six in the first half, but UMass coach Bruiser Flint said the Minutemen actually challenged Mihm more aggressively in the second half, when he had two.
"We didn't attack in the first half," Flint said. "Mihm blocked a couple of shots, and we got tentative. But I told the guys that if he was going to block them, let him block them."
elcome to the Mullins Center, the Land of the Mixed Signal.
Your guess is as good as mine, and vice versa, on the status of Bruiser Flint, coach of the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team. For every clue as to which way the wind is blowing, there's a clue to the contrary.
The common feeling on the street is that the guy's doomed. After yesterday's 68-57 loss to Texas, it was natural to look at the Temple-Texas daily double — two showcase games, three stinko halves out of four — as a lost final chance for Flint to turn it around.
Yet there was Flint's father, sitting pleasantly with athletic director Bob Marcum. And Mr. Flint's hands were not seen around Mr. Marcum's throat, not even once.
Don't go by the team. The team is schizo. Do you fire a coach whose club ran the Rip Van Winkle offense for a half, or do you hang in there with a coach whose no-quit team was playing like crazy in the second half?
The perception is that the fans want him out, that in the pregame introductions, more holler "Booo!" than "Bruuu!" But in a recent Boston Herald survey, two-thirds of the respondents said to bring him back. Figure that one out.
Flint has taken the high road during this tremendously stressful situation. After the Temple blowout, he appeared almost serene.
The media assumed he had accepted his fate, somewhat like Gary Gilmore once did. But a new theory is that Flint was so relaxed because he actually knows he'll probably be back after all.
He even got some support from John Calipari, who claimed that everyone in Massachusetts, from Paul Cellucci on down, has to get behind this program. That assumes our leaders have cleared up other vital matters, such as raising Lt. Gov. Jane Swift's family.
But more people seem to believe that wherever Calipari lands next — perhaps Georgia Tech — he'll add the deposed Flint to his staff.
On the surface, this week's double reminder that UMass cannot come within 10 points of Top 25 teams at home would settle the issue. Flint's Followers say he's getting the most out of a limited team.
That hasn't satisfied those who claim that's because he can't recruit. But just when the coach seems kaput, recruits are suddenly stampeding to play for him.
Jameel Pugh's vertical leap grows with every newspaper story about him. Jarrett Kearse, a double-figure scorer for West Virginia last year, says he's coming. Others will supposedly soon follow.
And with assistant Tony Barbee's recruiting skills coming into focus, the defense plea is simple: just hang in for one more year.
Besides, Marcum would rather not have to pay off the last two years of Flint's contract. But just when Flint's case builds, we hear from Gabe Muoneke, who was just trying to be gracious.
"They have a lot of talented players," the Texas forward said yesterday. "I don't understand their (11-10) record myself."
To which Flint's Firing Squad says "We do." Flint's Followers, meanwhile, say "Ouch."
Marcum has not done what North Carolina did for Bill Guthridge, which said the coach would be back if he wanted to come back. Marcum only says the issue will be evaluated over the full season.
The common assumption after Temple and Texas is that Flint's dismissal is only a matter of time. But that doesn't explain his father chatting it up with Marcum, or all these recruits saying they want in.
Last year, while talking about his players, Flint said his mother once told him that "good things happen to good people." I wish I could definitely tell you this fine man will be back. Or that he won't.
I can't. You may think he's done, and you may be right. But after the conflicting clues being bounced around yesterday, it may make more sense if — at least for now — we all just stay tuned.
awrence Williams warned 'em.
The Texas guard cautioned his teammates as to what would go down Saturday at Massachusetts. Too bad for UMass that he didn't pass the word along to the Minutemen as well.
"I told them [Friday] in shootaround that I feel it, and I was going to be feeling it tomorrow," Williams told KVET radio of a prediction he made the day before the Longhorns' matchup with the Minutemen in Amherst. "I couldn't miss."
Williams wasn't that accurate come game time. He did miss -- once.
A single, errant three-point attempt foiled Williams' perfect day, as the junior transfer nailed six-of-seven shot attempts on his way to a career-high 17 points during No. 16 Texas' 68-57 victory.
"Lawrence Williams was very good," Texas head coach Rick Barnes said of his starting guard, who also hit a career-best five three-pointers and pulled down four rebounds. "He shot the ball well for us and gave us the outside threat that we needed."
Which just so happened to nicely complement the inside threat of Gabe Muoneke and Chris Mihm.
Muoneke bounced back from the frustrating six-point evening he had in the Horns' previous game against the Sooners by dumping 16 points on the Minutemen, including a number of rim-rattling jams that nearly sent a Mullins Center crowd of 8,145 running for cover.
Chris Mihm and Chris Owens get ready to throw Kit Rhymer a block party.
The Texas junior center was swatting balls into the stands on such a frequent basis in the game's first half that by the break he had totaled just as many rejections -- six -- as UMass had buckets.
And if that stat doesn't fully explain how the Horns were able to build a 31-16 lead by the break, then the following nuggets of information should help:
Nugget one -- UMass hit an anemic 21 percent of its 28 field goal attempts during the first half.
Nugget two -- for one stretch in the first 20 minutes of play, the Minutemen became the 10-minute men, going scoreless for a period of time that lasted nearly that long.
During that sick shooting display that saw UMass (11-10, 5-3 Big East) miss everything from everywhere, the Horns went on a 12-0 run to erase an early four-point deficit and claim a 17-9 lead that they never relinquished.
Texas (15-6, 6-2 Big 12) would build its cushion to as much as 20 points in the second half on one of Muoneke's thunder dunks.
That was apparently the signal for the Minutemen to go ahead and make a game of it, as UMass would rattle off 24 of the next 34 points. Behind torrid shooting from point guard Shannon Crooks and forward Chris Kirkland, who both tallied 15 of their 17 points apiece in the second half, Massachusetts cut the Texas lead to 51-45.
But then behind more Muoneke dunks and layups, the Horns built their advantage back to a comfortable 10 points and held on for the 11-point victory.
"Gabe made a couple of good plays," Barnes said of his power forward. "Gabe really stepped up as a leader today and was really vocal with the team."
Muoneke also served as part of the "box" in the box-and-one defense that Barnes implemented for much of the game. Texas, which usually runs a man-to-man set on the defensive end of the court, switched to a zone in hopes of limiting the production of UMass guard Monty Mack.
And for the most part, it worked.
Mack, who entered the game averaging nearly 20 points a contest, was held to 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
"We did some things we haven't done all year," Barnes said. "We played a little box-and-one, because Monty Mack is a guy we felt could really score some points. So we just wanted to take him out of his offense."
The Horns didn't take Mack completely out of his offensive game, but they did manage to do so with just about every other UMass player who took the court.
Take away Mack, Kirkland and Crooks, who all tallied double figures, and the rest of the Minutemen totaled a combined seven points. Five of the remaining seven Minutemen that found floor time didn't score a single point, and the septuplet united for a dismal 3-of-13 shooting.
As a team, UMass connected on just 37 percent of its shot attempts, as compared to the 54 percent that the Horns torched the nets for. Texas also knocked down a season best 83 percent of its free throws.
The only real complaint Barnes had of his team was the sloppy 24 giveaways the Horns committed.
"We kept turning the ball over, and I got upset with fact that we didn't play the clock and work the clock the way we needed to," Barnes said. "We've always tried to teach our team that defense will get the lead for you, your offense has to keep it, and we turned the ball over 24 times. That's too many."
Just not enough to spoil a much-needed road victory.
"We got it done," said Barnes, whose Horns won for just the third time at an opponent's home court. "It wasn't the prettiest way to get it done. But we got it done."
MHERST - When Texas forward Gabe Muoneke slammed home a one-handed dunk 2:47 into the second half to give his team a 41-21 lead, it looked like the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team was in for its second straight drubbing after Tuesday's 75-48 loss to Temple.
Instead, the Minutemen answered with a 24-10 run that slashed the deficit to six, 51-45.
But in the end, they couldn't get over the top and suffered their second straight defeat, 68-57, at the hands of the No. 16 Longhorns Saturday in the Mullins Center.
"We attacked better in the second half," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "We shot 21 percent in the first half because we didn't attack. (Chris Mihm) blocked a couple shots and we got tentative. In the second half we started attacking and we got back into the game."
UMass (11-10) used 3-pointers to get back into the game after its dreadfully cold first-half shooters began heating up.
A rare 3-pointer by Mike Babul started the spurt, followed by a three and a two by Shannon Crooks, with two Muoneke free throws mixed in. Two Chris Kirkland free throws made it 43-31.
UMass traded threes for twos, when another trey by Crooks and two 3-pointers by Mack (who finally got open despite facing a box-and-one) allowed the Minutemen to cut the deficit despite three Texas (15-6) baskets.
Kirkland nearly matched Muoneke's earlier dunk with a one-hander of his own on Texas star center Chris Mihm to make it 51-42.
Crooks hit his third 3-pointer in less than eight minutes, adding more excitement to what already had become a frenzied Mullins Center crowd of 8,145 as the Texas lead dwindled to 51-45.
"In the second half we just came out and played," Mack said. "We sometimes pick a half that we're going to come out, and we can't do that. Coach said we needed to be physical and go out there and play."
UMass had chances to get even closer, but it couldn't take advantage of a Muoneke turnover and two missed free throws by Chris Owens. A dunk and a fast break layup for Muoneke followed by a Lawrence Williams layup brought the visitors' lead back to a dozen with 5:52 remaining.
"It was a lapse," Kirkland said of his team. "In order to beat good teams we have to capitalize on those things."
The Minutemen's intensity remained high but their shooting percentage did not. With UMass forced to foul, Texas made 9-of-10 foul shots in the final 1:14 to seal the win.
"I think we could have done a better job of understanding where we were in the game and done a better job of finishing the game," Muoneke said. "But I think our team did a pretty good job holding them off. They went on a pretty big tear there."
Mihm echoed Muoneke.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Mihm said. "They started getting hot from the perimeter and Monty Mack is a great player and he really started lighting us up and got them back in it."
Kirkland and Crooks led the Minutemen with 17 points each, with 15 each in the second half. Mack's 16 points moved him into a tie with Marcus Camby for 10th place on the UMass career scoring chart with 1,387 points.
The Minuteman zone was effective against Mihm early, despite two first-half fouls by Kitwana Rhymer that limited his minutes. But Mihm killed UMass at the line, making all 10 free throws he took. The likely future lottery pick finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high eight blocked shots.
Williams made UMass pay for its zone by hitting 3-pointers over it in the first half. He hit five of six treys in the game.
"That's the way you have to play those guys," Flint said. "You have to make Lawrence Williams and those guys make shots. When they do (make them), they're tough to beat."
Williams finished with 17, while Muoneke added 16.
UMass' offensive struggles from the Temple game carried over into the first half, as the Minutemen shot just 21.4 percent and made just six field goals for 16 points. That was the worst first-half output ever in the Mullins Center.
The Minutemen will try to stay above .500 when they host La Salle at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
MHERST - One word describes the difference between the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's lackluster first-half performance and its inspired, near-miss effort in the second half. Pressure.
Pressure, both on the offensive and defensive ends, turned what could have been a nationally-televised blowout to the 16th-ranked University of Texas, into a commendable 68-57 defeat, a game that saw UMass take some victories, albeit moral ones, from the Mullins Center Saturday.
Trailing 31-16 at intermission, and fading fast early in the second half, the Minutemen employed a tenacious full-court press that flustered the Longhorns, and led directly to a 24-10 run that pulled UMass within six points, 51-45, with 8:31 to play.
Bruiser gets a little crazy on the sideline.
Defensively, Texas simply could not handle UMass' smaller, three-guard lineup behind the timeline.
With Texas starting point guard Ivan Wagner on the bench in foul trouble, UMass guards Monty Mack, Shannon Crooks and Jonathan DePina harassed the Longhorns into 14 second-half turnovers (24 total).
Texas center Chris Mihm, who usually exuded calm and confidence in the first half, looked hurried by the UMass trap, and turned the ball over three times in the second frame. Gabe Muoneke had four of his six turnovers in the second, and Lawrence Williams had all three of his after the break.
On offense, the Minutemen, who looked tentative attacking the imposing Mihm and his Texas defense, used a more aggressive transition game to get open looks.
Mack and Crooks took advantage of picks on the high-post, and suddenly began to shoot the ball more efficiently.
Crooks, who was 0-for-9 from the floor in the first half, including 0-for-4 3-pointers, was 6-for-11 in the second half, and knocked down three big threes.
At one point, Mack and Crooks dropped three 3-pointers in a row, cutting the lead to 49-40 and sending the near sellout crowd into a frenzy with 10:32 to play.
Forward Chris Kirkland also enjoyed a more productive second half, highlighting the UMass run with a thunderous dunk to cut the Longhorn lead to single digits, 51-42.
"We didn't change much at halftime, I just told the guys if he (Mihm) is going to block us, make him block us," Flint said.
"In the second half, all of a sudden we started attacking and we got ourselves back in the game."
* * *
Mihm had a career-day against the Minutemen Saturday, setting both the Texas single-game and career record for blocked shots. Mihm broke his own single-game record with eight blocks. He has recorded seven blocks five times. Mihm passed Albert Burditt (236) on the career list, and now stands at 237.
* * *
Mack pulled into a 10th-place tie with Marcus Camby on UMass all-time scoring list at 1,387 points. When he scores his next point, Mack will have the second-most points scored by a UMass player in three-years, trailing only Jim McCoy, who scored 1,818 points between 1988 and 1991. McCoy also has the all-time UMass scoring mark with 2,374 points.
MHERST - Before the season started, even the most optimistic of University of Massachusetts men's basketball fans didn't have high hopes for their team's chances in the first week of February.
Two games against two tough Ts - Temple and Texas - were not promising. The Owls were a preseason top 10 team, and the Longhorns had dominated UMass last year.
Both teams arrived at the Mullins Center ranked - Temple at No. 21 and Texas at No. 16 - and represented an opportunity for the Minutemen to pull off big upsets. Instead, the games went according to form and the favorites prevailed.
Instead of dwelling on the week's missed opportunities, though, UMass needs to pick up where it left off after sweeping Duquesne and Virginia Tech last week.
Barring a run of the table, the Minutemen are an unlikely NCAA Tournament at-large bid candidate anyway. But there are still goals worth pursuing if they can put this week behind them.
The biggest of those would be the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which begins one month from Tuesday in Philadelphia. If Temple gets upset, the event is anyone's for the taking.
Since the league expanded to 12 teams, no team has ever won the event without getting the first-round bye that comes with finishing first or second in each division.
UMass is currently tied for second place with St. Bonaventure. That makes every conference game for both teams crucial the rest of the way.
The National Invitation Tournament remains on the team's radar as well. A record of .500 or better is required to get in. While this is short of the team's NCAA goal, with the talent the Minutemen possess, it would be a respectable finish and something to build off.
It would give the returning players a taste of the postseason, which could help them if UMass is successful down the road.
Most important, the final eight games of the year present a chance to get the program moving in the right direction and put and put an end to the swirling rumors surrounding coach Bruiser Flint's job security.
The nucleus of returning players is potentially a solid one. The return of Monty Mack, Shannon Crooks and Kitwana Rhymer give UMass a decent-to-solid foundation. Add in the best recruiting class in Flint's tenure as head coach and the Minutemen should be better, with more offense and far more depth.
But to go into next season in the right frame of mind, it would help to finish this season strong with an attitude that could carry over.
Flint is optimistic.
"We have to keep playing hard and play a little smarter," he said. "If we do that and go out and attack people, we'll be fine."
|Texas Longhorns (#16)||68|
|at the Mullins Center|
TEXAS (68) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Muoneke 32 7-10 2-2 2-4 2 2 16 Owens 15 2-5 0-2 2-5 0 1 4 Mihm 37 4-10 10-10 2-12 0 1 18 Wagner 27 1-3 4-4 1-3 5 3 6 Williams 33 6-7 0-0 0-4 0 4 17 Wyatt 3 0-0 0-0 1-1 0 0 0 Mccolpin 15 0-1 3-4 0-1 3 1 3 Kelly 34 2-5 0-1 0-2 5 0 4 Ogden 4 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-41 19-23 8-33 15 12 68 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.537, FT-.826. 3-Point Goals: 5-13, .385 (Muoneke 0-1, Mihm 0-1, Wagner 0-2, Williams 5-6, Mccolpin 0-1, Kelly 0-2). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 9 (Mihm 8, Owens). Turnovers: 24 (Muoneke 6, Kelly 5, Mihm 4, Williams 3, Owens 2, Wagner 2, Ogden, Wyatt). Steals: 10 (Wagner 3, Mccolpin 2, Muoneke 2, Ogden, Owens, Williams). MASSACHUSETTS (57) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Kirkland 39 7-12 3-4 7-9 1 1 17 Babul 28 2-3 0-0 1-4 2 1 5 Rhymer 28 0-4 0-0 1-3 1 3 0 Mack 39 6-14 0-0 0-1 0 5 16 Crooks 39 6-20 2-4 1-3 5 4 17 Oates 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Depina 8 0-2 0-0 2-2 3 0 0 Blizzard 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Smith 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Brand 14 1-4 0-0 1-3 0 2 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-59 5-8 13-25 12 16 57 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.373, FT-.625. 3-Point Goals: 8-23, .348 (Kirkland 0-1, Babul 1-2, Mack 4-9, Crooks 3-9, Depina 0-2). Team rebounds: None. Blocked shots: 1 (Brand). Turnovers: 18 (Crooks 5, Mack 5, Kirkland 4, Rhymer 3, Brand). Steals: 14 (Kirkland 4, Mack 4, Rhymer 3, Babul 2, Brand). __________________________________ Texas 31 37 - 68 Massachusetts 16 41 - 57 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 8,145. Officials: Larry Lembo, Mike Sanzere, David Bair.