HILADELPHIA - There was urgency yesterday for a quick knockout.
Monty Mack pulls up for a clear look to the basket.
The Minutemen stormed out to a 21-8 lead during the first 11 minutes of the first half and never relented.
The Dukes (9-20), who have lost 12 of their last 13 games, never had much in response. Wayne Smith, their best player, scored his first basket of the game on a 3-pointer with 1:50 left and finished with five points on 1-of-4 shooting under the debilitating defense of Mike Babul.
And the Minutemen improved to 16-14, an important mark, considering that they went into the game with the hope that one more win would be enough to earn a bid to next week's NIT tournament.
A quarterfinal win today over George Washington (15-14) would be a nice insurance policy.
Something more basic matters right now. The Minutemen have to somehow bottle the intensity and defense that triggered yesterday's cold-blooded attack, with Monty Mack scoring 27 points from a variety of spots under Duquesne's rather casual approach to defense.
``We just wanted to make them match our intensity,'' said Mack. ``As long as we kept up our end, we felt we were going to be OK.''
This was an impossibility for Duquesne.
With the exception of an 8-0 run that cut the UMass lead to 21-16 with 7:06 left in the first half and another 8-0 burst that cut UMass' increasingly colossal edge to 62-46 with 3:50 left in the game, the Dukes were rudderless.
The Minutemen forced them into four shot clock violations, the most embarrassing aspect of their 23-turnover performance.
After limiting the Dukes to 33 percent shooting in the first half, the Minutemen outdid themselves by knocking their opponent down to 32 percent in the second half. The result at the other end of the floor was a true UMass oddity. The Minutemen shot 53 percent in the first half and 47 percent for the game.
Shannon Crooks, whose over-exuberance with the ball has often hurt the Minutemen, settled for a more controlled and efficient 18-point, four-assist performance that also included 7-of-11 shooting.
And when Chris Kirkland lapsed into early foul trouble, the reserve duo of Winston Smith and Ronell Blizzard stepped in without slowing down the pace.
UMass hit a peak lead of 29 points (58-29) with 10:31 left, before the margin slowly fluttered back to the 20-point range.
That is not to say that UMass coach Bruiser Flint was completely impressed. Indeed, he needs to be finicky right now, with George Washington lined up today.
``(Duquesne) went on a couple of runs because we laid off a bit, but this was good,'' Flint said. ``This was a matter of defense and intensity.''
HILADELPHIA - UMass' 87-86 loss to George Washington on Feb. 29 was so frustratingly winnable that Monty Mack couldn't help himself.
The UMass guard just had to let out the following warning: ``I think that if we see them again, it will be a different story. It will be more of a battle. We know how they play now.''
Mack had no idea when he would see the Colonials again. Thanks to UMass' 77-52 win over Duquesne yesterday in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, his wish has been granted.
The Minutemen play George Washington, which had a first-round bye, in a quarterfinal game today at 2:30 p.m. Mack and his crew get a second chance to match shots with SirValiant Brown, the GW guard who is the second leading scorer in the country, averaging 24.3 points per game.
Matching baskets is fine, provided the Minutemen can pull the Colonials back into a more familiar, plodding game.
``We have to play this game at our intensity, not theirs,'' Mack said yesterday. ``But it's like I said before, we know what to expect from them now.''
Said UMass coach Bruiser Flint: ``We have to play our game, not their game. We didn't get any big rebounds against them. We didn't play our game the last time out, and we definitely didn't play our game over those last three minutes.''
By hook or Crooks
Shannon Crooks, whose shot selection has not always pleased his superiors, noticed that Flint and Mack were both straining to contain smirks after someone complimented the guard on his 3-point shooting after yesterday's game.
Crooks, who hit 7-of-11, hit back-to-back treys for a 37-20 first half lead.
``It's Bru,'' Crooks said, nonplussed by the increasing laughter from the two men to his right. ``He's says to keep shooting them and they'll have to fall sometime. Next year they'll fall.'' . . . A gaunt-looking Micah Brand, suffering the after-effects of a bout with pneumonia, watched yesterday's game from the bench. He will not play today and is considered questionable if the Minutemen advance to the NIT next week.
Va. Tech 51, Fordham 48 - Without their leading scorer and rebounder Dennis Mims, the Hokies (16-14) held the Rams (14-15) to two points during the last 10 minutes of the game. Mims was suspended for violating team rules.
The Hokies will face No. 6 Temple today.
Trailing 49-48, Fordham played for the last shot with 31 seconds left in the game. But the Rams turned the ball over with 6.9 seconds remaining. Brendan Dunlop (13 points) made both of his free throws for the winning margin. Teremun Johnson's 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
Mims, who is averaging 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, did not accompany the team to Philadelphia. He is suspended indefinitely.
St. Joseph's 65, La Salle 56 - Bill Phillips came off the bench to score 20 points, including a crucial 3-point play in the final minute, to lead the Hawks (13-15) over the Explorers (11-17).
St. Joseph's plays Dayton in the second round today.
With St. Joseph's clinging to a 58-56 lead, Phillips scored on a driving layup and hit a free throw to complete a three-point play, giving the Hawks a 61-56 lead with 1:00 remaining.
Xavier 75, Rhode Island 60 - David West scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Musketeers (20-10) over the Rams (5-25).
Xavier never trailed in the game and led by as many as 16 points. The Musketeers play St. Bonaventure today.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
HILADELPHIA — After the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team lost to George Washington at the Mullins Center nine days ago, Monty Mack said if the teams met again, it might be a different story.
Mike Babul looks to dish the rock.
"We'll know what to expect from certain players, and I think we'll know better how to play them," said Mack, whose 27 points led yesterday's convincing victory that was considered essential to the Minutemen's NIT hopes. "It will be a battle. We've just got to go out and play smart and do what we do best — defense."
In the 87-86 loss to GW Feb. 29, the UMass defense broke down at times against the Atlantic 10's highest-scoring team. That contest was part of a three-game losing streak UMass took into yesterday's game, but beating Duquesne raised the Minutemen's record at 16-14 and put them on the doorstep of the NIT.
No one can say for sure if a win today is essential to selection, but it would probably end all doubt.
George Washington (15-14) drew a bye in the first round.
"I think it's good we played today," claimed forward Winston Smith, who contributed eight points off the bench. "It was good to have a strong game out of everybody, and we got a good feel of the court."
UMass raced to an 11-0 lead against Duquesne, which finished a 9-20 season by losing 13 of its last 14. For the second straight year, the Dukes were ousted by UMass in the first round.
It was 40-24 at halftime, and 58-29 when a 17-4 Duquesne run made the game briefly interesting. But led by Mack and 18 points from backcourt mate Shannon Crooks — who snapped out of a shooting slump with 7-for-11 accuracy — UMass was never in real danger.
"I know I can shoot," said Crooks, 8 for 36 in his previous two games. "Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don't."
UMass coach Bruiser Flint credited the defense, which forced Duquesne into four shot-clock violations, 23 turnovers and 32.7-percent shooting.
"Mike Babul did what he had to do — guard Wayne Smith," Flint said. The UMass forward and Atlantic 10 all-defensive team member held Smith, who averaged 17.1 points per game, but tailed off in the second half of the season, to five points on 1-for-4 shooting.
Courtney Wallace (13 points) and Simon Ogunlesi (12 points, 12 rebounds led the Dukes.
The Minutemen are not predicting they'll win the A-10 tournament and snag the automatic NCAA berth. They're only asking not to be counted out prematurely.
"It's definitely doable," said Kitwana Rhymer, who had nine rebounds and three blocked shots yesterday. "It's not impossible."
UMass, the next-to-last A-10 team in free-throw accuracy, helped itself yesterday with 16-for-19 shooting.
HILADELPHIA — In 10 minutes against Duquesne at the First Union Spectrum yesterday, University of Massachusetts reserve center Anthony Oates scored two points and fouled out. He also grabbed one rebound, even though it never showed up in the final statistics, which credited him with none.
But by giving UMass strong defensive minutes, Oates did his job as the backup for Kitwana Rhymer in the Minutemen's 77-52 Atlantic 10 tournament first-round rout.
"He came up big today," said starting center Kitwana Rhymer, who played 30 minutes, eight fewer than he had in Saturday's regular-season finale at St. Bonaventure. "I needed time to rest, and he's not a bad player."
Oates played little this season, but is a key reserve now that Micah Brand, who normally spells Rhymer, is out of the tournament with pneumonia. All UMass expects from Oates is defensive presence, and yesterday he gave adequate minutes against Simon Ogunlesi, Duquesne's 6-foot-10, 265-pound center.
"I just tried to grab some boards and give Kit some rest," the 6-10, 285-pound Oates said. "In practice, Bruiser (UMass coach Flint) talked about Ogunlesi being physical, but I didn't realize it until he gave me that first elbow to the shoulder."
With as many as four games in four days possible, and Brand out, UMass needs minutes from Oates. If the Minutemen are selected for the NIT, Brand might be able to play, but UMass isn't counting on it.
"It's possible," Flint said. The 6-foot-11 Brand missed the final regular-season game and yesterday's contest with pneumonia, but he is with the team in Philadelphia.
UMass trainer Ron Laham was slightly less optimistic that Brand would be ready by next week.
"Right now, I'd say it's questionable," Laham said.
With 27 points, UMass guard Monty Mack moved passed Donald Russell and into fifth place on the school's all-time scoring charts. Mack has 1,564 points, six more than Russell scored from 1981-85, with UMass assistant coach Tony Barbee (1,643 from 1989-93) in fourth.
If Mack graduates on time in the spring as expected, NCAA rules will give him another season of eligibility next year, restoring the year he sat out as a freshman for academics.
IN THE HOUSE:
Former UMass coach John Calipari and former assistant John Robic attended yesterday's game. Calipari is a Philadelphia 76ers assistant and a candidate for the job at Memphis, while Robic just finished his first season as head coach of Youngstown State.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Virginia Tech's 51-48 first-round win over Fordham yesterday improved the Hokies' NIT chances. Like UMass, they are 16-14 . . . UMass has beaten Duquesne 15 straight times, dating back to 1991. Four of those victories have come in the A-10 tournament, all since 1994.
HILADELPHIA - On the Duquesne bench sat a glum crew. The clock seemingly was operating in slow motion as the Dukes' season was ever-so-slowly winding down.
Finally, and mercifully, it had come to an end.
Duquesne had lost for the 13th time in its final 14 games, 77-52, to Massachusetts in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at the First Union Spectrum.
"We expected to win more games than we did this year," Duquesne coach Darelle Porter said, his voice trailing off. "Today, we weren't too competitive."
In fact, the Dukes were pathetic. They shot poorly (32.7 percent) and committed 23 turnovers.
Leading scorer Wayne Smith, who a day earlier was named to the A-10 all-conference second team, tied his season-low with five points. Smith was held scoreless from the field until he hit a 3-point shot with 1:53 remaining.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, blanketed from the start by Massachusetts forward Mike Babul, came in averaging 17.1 points per game but was held to just four field-goal attempts.
"That was his job, to guard Wayne Smith. Nothing else," Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint said, matter-of-factly.
Smith offered no excuses. He said: "What happened today was my teammates played better than me. I didn't step up. I tried to make up for it on defense, but ... "
But, it didn't appear the Dukes had anything left after yet another season of struggles that began when they briefly assumed first place in the A-10 West, racing to an overall record of 8-7.
"Our kids are drained, mentally and physically," Porter said. "With all the new players we had this year, we tried a lot of different lineups, but we really didn't get the chemistry going."
In two seasons under Porter, Duquesne has limped to a 14-43 record, although the Dukes did win more games this season than last, when they finished 5-23, losing 20 of their final 21 games.
But both times, the team suffered through long losing streaks - 17 last season and 10 this year.
"At the end of this season, we seemed to come together and play as a team," said junior guard Courtney Wallace, who led the Dukes with 13 points - and with seven turnovers.
The improvement appeared to be most noticeable in the play of center Simon Ogunlesi, who scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Dukes yesterday after a 21-point, 7-rebound effort in the Dukes' 67-58 loss at La Salle in the regular-season finale Saturday.
Ogunlesi, an excitable player who transferred from Villanova in the off-season, missed three games while serving various suspensions this season. But in recent weeks, he had responded, prompting numerous compliments from his teammates, including Smith, who called him "our best player today" after the La Salle game.
Ogunlesi might very well have been the team's best player yesterday, too, but his contributions weren't nearly enough to help the Dukes contend.
Duquesne, whistled for four 35-second shot-clock calls, was out of it from the start. The Dukes waited 5 minutes and 5 seconds before scoring their first basket. In the meantime, Massachusetts (16-14), ignited by two quick baskets by Sto-Rox graduate Chris Kirkland, bolted to an 11-0 lead.
Kirkland finished with 11 points and was one of three Massachusetts players in double figures. Senior guard Monty Mack, selected to the all-conference first team, scored 13 first-half points and finished with a game-high 27 on a 9-of-20 shooting effort, and backcourt mate Shannon Crooks added 18 points on a 7-of-11 effort.
"We just wanted them to match our intensity, and we wanted to come out and play hard," Mack said.
The plan worked as Duquesne folded from the start.
Massachusetts, which ended a three-game losing streak, will face George Washington in the quarterfinals today.
HILADELPHIA - Duquesne Coach Darelle Porter sat at the makeshift media center inside the First Union Spectrum yesterday, head down, with a faceless expression. No opening statement, no need to look at the stat sheet to see how his players fared.
"Let's go," Porter said.
Porter knows the drill by now, knows the answers before the questions are asked. The 77-52 whipping at the hands of Massachusetts yesterday in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament went down in familiar fashion. The Dukes couldn't make a shot from the outside, turned the ball over 23 times and played poor defense.
"We're disappointed because we didn't compete," Porter said.
Duquesne (9-20) lost 13 of its final 14 games. Three of the final six losses were by 25 points or more. The Dukes lost 20 of their final 21 last season. Porter's record as head coach is 14-43.
"We expected to win more games this year," Porter said.
Porter used nine different starting lineups in the final nine games.
"We never really got our chemistry going in the second half of the season," Porter said.
The Dukes had as much trouble making an outside shot. They made their first shot of more than 5 feet when freshman Kevin Forney made a jumper from the top of the key with 10:20 remaining in the game. They made four outside shots and one 3-pointer.
"All year we couldn't shoot from the perimeter," Porter said. "When we knocked down shots we won. Our guys are going to have to get focused on shooting because teams scout you. Until we improve, teams are going to keep doing the same thing."
Wayne Smith had five points, matching a career-low. He was 1 for 4 from the field and 2 for 6 from the free-throw line. His one field goal was a 3-pointer with less than two minutes left in the game.
"My teammates played good [yesterday], but I didn't step up," Smith said.
Smith finished with 135 points in the final 11 games, an average of 12.2 per game after averaging 19.4 in the first 18. Smith scored 10 points or fewer in the final three games.
Courtney Wallace led the Dukes with 13 points. Wallace led the Dukes in scoring in four of the final six games. Simon Ogunlesi had 12 points and 12 rebounds. He was 6 for 11 from the field.
But the Dukes shot 32.7 percent from the field and had four shot-clock violations interspersed among the litany of turnovers.
"We broke down," Porter said.
The Dukes did not have an answer for the Massachusetts backcourt tandem of Monty Mack and Shannon Crooks. Mack scored 27 points on 9-for-20 shooting and Crooks added 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Senior forward and Sto-Rox graduate Chris Kirkland had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Massachusetts (16-14) will play George Washington (15-14) in a quarterfinal game at 2:30 p.m. today.
Massachusetts opened the game on an 11-0 run, hitting on four of its first five shots, while the Dukes missed their first five. Ogunlesi ended the dry spell with a layup with 14:55 remaining. It was the second time in five games, the Dukes did not score in the opening five minutes.
The Dukes were down, 21-8, after Mack converted a 3-point play, but the Dukes fought back with a 10-2 run and cut the lead to five, 23-18, with 6:39 left after an Ogunlesi dunk.
Wallace started the run with six consecutive points, converting four free throws after collecting two Massachusetts turnovers and driving hard to the basket. Ogunlesi had the final four points in the run.
But Massachusetts quickly reclaimed control of the game by going on a 17-6 run to end the half. Crooks, a 29 percent 3-point shooter this season, made back-to-back 3-pointers and a Jonathan DePina 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Minutemen a 40-24 edge at halftime.
"The first time we played [a 84-75 Massachusetts win], it was a war," Porter said. "[Yesterday], they wanted to come out and play aggressive, and they got off to a good start."
Duquesne opened the second half much in the same fashion it did the first. The Dukes had three turnovers in the first five minutes of the second half and did not score until 4:54 had elapsed. By that time, Massachusetts had run off 11 consecutive points and owned a 51-24 lead.
For all intents and purposes the game was over. Massachusetts led by as many as 29 points before the Dukes made a late 12-2 run and cut the lead to 16, 62-46, with 3:45 remaining. But that was as close as the Dukes got.
HILADELPHIA - Duquesne coach Darelle Porter said that if his team were to have any chance of beating the University of Massachusetts in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, it had to shut down Monty Mack.
Kit Rhymer tries to corrall the loose ball.
UMass (16-14) will face George Washington at 2:30 p.m. today in the quarterfinals. The win over Duquesne ensures the Minutemen of a having a winning season.
It was a game of runs, and almost all of them came from the Minutemen. UMass opened the game on an 11-0 spurt and never led by less than five the rest of the way. The Dukes went without a field goal for the first 5:06 of the game.
"We wanted to make them have to match our intensity," Mack said. "We wanted to come out and play hard, do the things we had to do and have fun."
There wasn't much fun being had on the opposing bench. Offense was a struggle throughout the game for Porter's squad. Duquesne shot just 32.7 percent from the field and turned the ball over 23 times. The UMass defense forced the Dukes into four shot-clock violations as well. Leading scorer Wayne Smith had just five points, as Minuteman senior Mike Babul lived up to the all-defensive team honor he received Tuesday.
"We did a good job defending," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "We did a good job of contesting shots and staying in front of them."
The Minutemen took advantage of those struggles right before and after intermission with a suspense-ending, halftime-crossing 14-0 run that put them ahead 51-24 and featured a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jonathan DePina.
The sizable lead allowed Flint to utilize reserves Anthony Oates, DePina, Ronell Blizzard and Winston Smith in hopes of keeping his regulars fresh for today's game.
"We tried to make some subs to give some guys some rest," said Flint.
Shannon Crooks delivered one of his best shooting performances of the year, hitting 7 of 11 shots for 18 points. Chris Kirkland added 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Minutemen, usually dreadful free-throw shooters (63.4 percent) were even accurate from the line, hitting 16 of 19 (84.2 percent) and making their first seven before DePina missed the front end of a one-and-one.
"The right people shot them today," Flint said. "If the right people shoot them, you're going to have a good percentage."
NOTES: Mack's 27 points moved him into the top five of the UMass career scoring list with 1,564 points, passing Donald Russell (1,558). Next on the list is UMass assistant Tony Barbee with 1,643.
The 27 points also improved Mack's season average to 20.0 points per game. If he maintains that average, he would be the first Minuteman to average 20 since Marcus Camby scored 20.5 points per game in 1995-96.
Mack's 61 steals this season gives him the fourth best single-season total. Chris Kirkland and Shannon Crooks each have 54 steals, good for sixth place on that list ... Former Minuteman coach and current Philadelphia 76ers assistant John Calipari was at the game, before the Sixers played Vancouver across the parking lot at the First Union Center... UMass has now won its first-round Atlantic 10 game for nine straight years. The Minutemen have beaten Duquesne 15 straight times, their longest active streak against any conference foe.
|Duquesne Dukes (W6)||52|
|Massachusetts Minutemen (E3)||77|
|Atlantic-10 Tournament First Round|
at the First Union Spectrum,
DUQUESNE (52) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Stephenson 16 2-4 0-0 1-3 0 2 4 Smith 28 1-4 2-6 1-3 2 3 5 Ogunlesi 29 6-11 0-2 4-12 1 4 12 Montgomery 25 1-7 3-4 3-6 3 0 5 Stanfield 19 2-5 0-0 2-3 0 3 5 Wallace 32 4-11 5-6 1-7 2 4 13 Radkowski 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Barker 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Forney 17 1-7 2-2 1-1 2 0 4 Midgley 12 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Tann 3 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 2 Hunter 13 0-2 2-4 0-2 1 2 2 Gilmore 1 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Clark 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 18-55 14-24 13-38 12 18 52 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.327, FT-.583. 3-Point Goals: 2-7, .286 (Smith 1-1, Stanfield 1-1, Wallace 0-2, Forney 0-1, Midgley 0-1, Tann 0-1). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 1 (Ogunlesi). Turnovers: 23 (Wallace 7, Hunter 3, Smith 3, Montgomery 2, Stephenson 2, Forney, Ogunlesi). Steals: 7 (Smith 2, Wallace 2, Hunter, Montgomery, Stanfield). MASSACHUSETTS (77) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Kirkland 26 3-10 5-6 0-7 2 2 11 Babul 21 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 Rhymer 30 3-7 0-1 2-9 0 3 6 Mack 32 9-20 7-7 1-4 2 0 27 Crooks 30 7-11 2-2 1-3 4 4 18 Oates 10 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 5 2 Depina 18 1-3 0-1 1-4 1 2 3 Blizzard 8 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 2 0 Smith 24 3-4 2-2 0-3 1 2 8 Early 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 28-59 16-19 5-31 11 21 77 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.475, FT-.842. 3-Point Goals: 5-13, .385 (Mack 2-8, Crooks 2-3, Depina 1-2). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 7 (Rhymer 5, Kirkland, Blizzard). Turnovers: 12 (Crooks 3, Rhymer 3, Smith 3, Kirkland 2, Blizzard). Steals: 10 (Crooks 3, Kirkland 2, Mack 2, Smith 2, Rhymer). __________________________________ Duquesne 24 28 - 52 Massachusetts 40 37 - 77 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 5,528. Officials: Larry Lembo, Bryan Kersey, Jack Sweeney.