Coverage from:
The Boston Herald
The Boston Herald - notebook
The Boston Herald - Flint status
The Albany Times Union
The Albany Times Union - column
The Springfield Union-News
The Springfield Union-News - notebook
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - notebook

Disappointing end for Minutemen
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 3/17/2000

ALBANY, N.Y. - The ending came in a familiar way last night.

Kit Rhymer registered a double-double with 16 points and 12 boards.
There were inopportune turnovers and big rebounds by the other team. Good looks rimmed out.

And ultimately, UMass couldn't hold on to a lead that had belonged to the Minutemen for most of the game in last night's 66-65 loss to Siena in the first round of the NIT.

UMass coach Bruiser Flint plans to meet with athletic director Bob Marcum soon - perhaps as early as today - regarding his future with the program. He was left thanking his players in the wake of yet another offensive collapse.

``This team played hard for me this year and I have to thank them. There's nothing more I can say than that,'' he said. ``I've just got to thank them.''

Such sentiment was painful, though, considering the course the game took over the last three minutes. The Minutemen appeared close to opening up a large lead on several occasions, only for the Saints to slash back in a variety of ways with their multiple options.

Marcus Faison, one of the more talented scorers the Minutemen faced this year, got the best of them with a 22-point, six-rebound effort that included five offensive boards. Monty Mack led UMass with 20 points on painful 8-for-23 shooting.

The Saints' offensive rebounding was a particularly damaging element last night. The team compiled 20 second-chance points and grabbed all the important rebounds.

With less than 12 minutes to play in the game, Mack landed hard on his left arm after missing a shot and - while Mack was hurt on the floor - Siena's Dave Deters hit a layup to give the Saints a 48-46 edge.

Mack returned shortly thereafter and the Minutemen (17-15) held a thin 61-59 lead with three minutes left when Faison hit two free throws for the tie and triggered a frenetic stretch.

UMass sophomore Shannon Crooks was whistled for traveling while bringing the ball up. Siena answered with a turnover of its own and this time Crooks, who was knocked from the game in the opening half with a bloody nose, keyed a fast break. The sophomore coasted in and missed a running finger roll, though Flint thought the guard was fouled on the play.

Corey Osinski (11 points) gave the Saints a 62-61 lead with 2:26 left on a free throw, the first of five lead changes the rest of the way.

Kitwana Rhymer hit two free throws for a 63-62 UMass edge, only to have Faison curl off a pick for a 10-footer and a 64-63 Siena edge with 1:40 left. This time the Minutemen converted when senior Mike Babul drove and fed Rhymer for a dunk and a 65-64 lead with only two seconds on the shot clock and 1:05 remaining in the contest.

Reserve center Michael Buhrman, who hadn't scored to that point but did haul in six rebounds, tipped in a Faison miss with 25 seconds left on what proved to be the winning shot. This held up when Mack drove the baseline but put his off-balance shot off the bottom of the rim.

Buhrman grabbed the biggest board of the game and though the center missed the front end of a 1-and-1 down the other end, Crooks' desperation drive with three seconds left also rolled away harmlessly.

So went the 1999-2000 Minutemen.

Trip down NIT memory lane
UMass Notebook
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 3/17/2000

ALBANY, N.Y. - Siena, last night's NIT first-round opponent, occupies a special place in UMass history.

The Minutemen beat the Saints to advance to the 1991 NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden. Tony Barbee, now a UMass assistant, hit the winning 3-pointer with just seconds remaining.

``The year before that we had lost in the first round of the NIT, but after that (1991) win, people started saying that UMass was a team to be reckoned with,'' said UMass coach Bruiser Flint.

Throw away the numbers

The Minutemen might as well be the poster team for NIT qualification, considering all of the characteristics they carried into last night's game.

They are desperate for respect, they played well too late for anyone to know what is the real UMass and what isn't, and they have a touch of promise.

So forget about all of those awful rating systems, especially the Ratings Power Index (RPI) that had UMass listed at 131 by the end of the season.

``I try not to pay attention to it,'' said Flint, whose nonconference schedule is constructed to take advantage of RPI characteristics like the quality of opponents.

``It's just about winning games right now,'' Flint added.

New heroes

With role players like Kitwana Rhymer and Mike Babul stepping up much more on the offensive end, shots have opened up for the Minutemen's established scorers.

Monty Mack, naturally, is the happiest.

``It's taken so much pressure off him. He doesn't feel like he's the one who has to score every time we have the ball, now,'' said Flint. ``He's getting much better looks, and he's also become a much better passer lately.''

Micah Brand, who missed the A-10 tournament because of pneumonia, was available to play last night.

Flint's job status uncertain
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 3/17/2000

ALBANY, N.Y. - Though he clearly would have liked to finish the season last night with a vote of confidence from up above, Bruiser Flint went to sleep knowing only that he will meet with UMass athletic director Bob Marcum soon to discuss his future.

Marcum, who has declined to discuss the matter publicly in recent weeks, left the arena shortly after last night's game and was not available for comment.

Though UMass' qualification for the NIT was thought to save Flint's job, Marcum's hasty exit didn't help the perception that the coach could still be in trouble.

``What can I say, we're supposed to have a meeting and sit down and talk,'' Flint said of the uncertainty regarding his job. ``We're going to meet in the next day or so, I imagine.''

In Flint's mind, there shouldn't be an issue. His Minutemen rebounded from last season's 14-17 finish to make the NIT this year, Flint's third postseason appearance in four years as coach.

Marcum could draw considerable ire from a number of quarters - including the national coaching fraternity - if he fires a coach who qualified for postseason play. Julius Erving and Bill Cosby, two of UMass' most famous alumni, reportedly have already called UMass chancellor David Scott and supported Flint.

But at issue for Marcum is a season marked by declining attendance and decreasing revenue - not just by the UMass basketball program, but by the entire athletic department, which is said to be considerably over budget.

Also at issue will be Flint's largest recruiting class ever, with as many as six new players due in Amherst in the fall. Jackie Rogers, a highly regarded power forward from Barton Community College in Kansas, is said to be holding off on a commitment to UMass until Flint's job security is clarified. A Flint dismissal also could affect UMass' firmer recruiting commitments, including Boston English's Raheim Lamb (forward), Lynn English's Anthony Anderson (guard), West Virginia transfer Jarret Kearse (guard) and incoming freshman Jameel Pugh (forward).

Saints alive on late tip-in
Freshman Buhrman sinks shot, gets crucial rebound in last 24.3 seconds
By Tim Reynolds, The Albany Times Union Staff Writer, 3/17/2000

ALBANY -- When Jim Cantamessa fouled out with 1:54 remaining, the standing ovation from the crowd was for the senior whose career was hanging in the balance.

The next ovation from the crowd was for the freshman who took Cantamessa's spot in the lineup. It was his efforts which largely ensured that Siena's season wasn't ending on this night.

Michael Buhrman's tip-in with 24.3 seconds remaining was the final basket of the game, and his defensive rebound with 8.7 seconds left helped finish off Siena's 66-65 victory over Massachusetts in the first round of the 63rd annual National Invitation Tournament on Thursday before 9,649 fans at Pepsi Arena.

The tip-in was Buhrman's only shot of the game. And no one in the arena Thursday night will soon forget it, least of all Buhrman.

"I've been in at the end of games throughout the year,'' Buhrman said. "I wasn't unfamiliar with the position. I just knew what I had to do for us to win the game and get to the next one.''

The next one is Monday, a second-round NIT game at Penn State (16-15), which defeated Princeton Wednesday 55-41. Game time is 7:30 p.m., and it will be the first meeting between the schools.

Marcus Faison (who passed Jeffrey Robinson for third place on Siena's all-time scoring list) led Siena with a game-high 22 points, while Corey Osinski scored 11 and Isaiah Stewart added 10 for the Saints, who moved to 24-8 overall with the victory. Until Thursday, Siena had not won a game without scoring at least 82 points this season, and even though UMass had the tempo to its liking the Saints somehow managed to find a way.

"Our guys played very tough and they played very hard,'' Siena coach Paul Hewitt said. "We knew it was going to be a very physical affair. We knew we had to do a good job on the glass and we did. We didn't shoot the ball well, but we did all the other things we had to do to give ourselves a chance, and in the end, we made the most of that chance.''

But even after Buhrman's tip-in, the Saints had to survive two more daggers.

UMass senior Monty Mack (who led the Minutemen with 20 points, but shot 8-for-23) had a chance to give his team the lead with 10.7 seconds left, but his floater from about 12 feet out in the lane bounced off the rim -- and Buhrman grabbed the rebound, which Hewitt called "the biggest rebound of the season so far, to keep us alive.''

"That could have been the end of the season right there if I don't get that ball,'' Buhrman said. "It came to me. I've got to make the play.''

Shannon Crooks tracks down the loose ball in front of Siena's Isaiah Stewart.
Buhrman missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 8.7 seconds left, giving UMass one more chance. Shannon Crooks took the final shot, from an even shorter distance than Mack's final attempt. Dwayne Archbold, though, got in Crooks' way just enough to prevent the sophomore guard from getting a real good look, and the Saints survived.

UMass coach Bruiser Flint said he thought Crooks was fouled by Archbold, and Archbold didn't deny that there was contact.

"I tried to take a charge, but the ref didn't call it,'' Archbold said. "I just tried to get in his way. ... It was late in the game, and I didn't think the ref would call a foul or a charge. There was contact, but I don't think he was calling it either way.''

Flint lobbied for a foul call at the buzzer but, to his credit, didn't blast the officiating after the game.

"We had two good looks,'' Flint said. "We just didn't make them. That's how it goes.''

UMass led 32-27 at the half, after controlling tempo exactly to its liking for most of the first 20 minutes.

Siena made five of its first six shots (including a perfect 3-for-3 effort from Stewart), and grabbed a 12-6 lead early, but the Saints shot 5-for-20 and scored only 15 points in the final 17:17 of the half.

And even though UMass (17-16) controlled that tempo for much of the second half, Siena's offense was much more successful in the final 20 minutes than it was in the first half.

Chances are, though, that people will only remember one tip-in. If nothing else, the memories of the loss to Iona in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title game are a lot cloudier now.

"We didn't get the goal we set at the beginning of the year, so now we have to set another goal,'' Faison said. "And that's to get to the NIT finals.''

Siena fights on like lions
By Steve Campbell, The Albany Times Union, 3/17/2000

ALBANY -- What a relief it was for the Siena Saints.

You could see it from the start, when Jim Cantamessa flicked up a shot from behind the 3-point line less than a half minute into their consolation season. Swish. You could see it near the end of Thursday night, when Saints players began prematurely celebrating a victory that did not yet rightfully belong to them. You could see it in between, when the Massachusetts Minutemen brought out the ruggedness and the resourcefulness of the Saints.

For a change, the Saints had little to lose but a basketball game.

Win, and the Saints would walk away hoisting the scalp of a program just four years removed from the Final Four. They'd get at least once more chance to add a coat of luster to the season that had developed a dull finish. Lose, and, well, they have already observed the proper mourning period for the passing of their NCAA Tournament dreams. The statute of limitations has come and gone. Nobody can imprison this team with NCAA-or-bust expectations.

Free at last, the Saints treated themselves to a grand old time of a 66-65 victory in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. March being the month of madness, the Siena hero was a freshman who didn't take a shot -- let alone score a point -- in the first 39 /2 minutes. Michael Buhrman, of all people, scored what turned out to be the winning basket on a tip-in with 23 seconds remaining. All the Saints had to do from there was make not one, but two defensive stops.

"We had to let it all out,'' Saints sophomore guard Dwayne Archbold said. "If we were to lose this game, it would be the last game of the season. I think everybody wanted to keep this program together, because we have a great team. I don't think anybody wanted to lose this togetherness. We want to stay like this as long as we can.''

The Saints had to endure five lead changes in the final three minutes to prolong their season. Just 10 days earlier, on the same Pepsi Arena floor, the Saints had lost their invitation to the NCAA Tournament. An 84-80 defeat against Iona in the title game of the MAAC Tournament had forced the Saints to confront, as coach Paul Hewitt describes it, "10 days of negativity.''

The Siena locker room became the headquarters of the Western World after a seven-point comeback against an Atlantic-10 Conference team that finishes the season 17-16. The Saints are 24-8, with a second-round game against Penn State on the horizon. When the light is right, they can almost see Madison Square Garden.

"It's very big for this program,'' said Siena senior guard Marcus Faison, who scored a game-high 22 points and moved into third place on the school's career scoring list. "We didn't get the goal that we set at the beginning of the year. But now we have to go for the goal that we can get: Get in the NIT Final.''

Remember, the Saints had 22 victories -- total -- in the three seasons before Hewitt's arrival. The Saints have averaged 22 victories since. Just like that, they've reached a point where they expect nothing but the best. Still, there are worse things than leaving the court to a standing ovation from a crowd of 9,649 fans.

"It's not lost on me that we're not a program that goes to the NCAA Tournament every year,'' Hewitt said. "I know who we are, and I know what we can be. Getting to the NIT is no great shame. I'm not going to look down my nose at a 23-, 24-win season.''

The Minutemen sure aren't in any position to look down at the Saints. On a night when UMass controlled the pace and tempo of play, the Saints willingly got their hands dirty. The Saints scrambled on defense, hounding All-A10 guard Monty Mack into 8-of-23 shooting. They protected the basketball, committing only three turnovers after halftime. They outworked and outsmarted the Minutemen on the boards (41-33).

"That's how we had to play,'' Hewitt said. "We knew it was going to be a very physical game. That's one of the last things I told them going out of the locker room: It's going to be a very hard-fought game. So if you're faint of heart, if you don't like a lot of contact, then don't get out on the court tonight.''

The next time Faison is faint of heart down the stretch will be the first in memory. Fourteen of his points came in the second half. Faison scored eight points in the final four minutes, rallying the Saints from down, 57-54.

His last basket came with barely a minute remaining, giving Siena a 64-63 lead. UMass tried to blank Faison with stopper deluxe Mike Babul, a member of the all-A10 defensive team. Faison took the ball on the right wing, dribbled to the center of the court and nailed a jumper from the foul line.

The Saints were down, 65-64, when Archbold missed a jumper from the right side. Faison grabbed the rebound and missed, but Buhrman came, as Hewitt put it, "out of nowhere'' to deliver a left-handed tip-in.

Buhrman came up with another rebound with eight seconds left, this one on a missed runner by Mack. Saints players began hugging in celebration, but Buhrman kept the door cracked open for a UMass victory by missing the front end of a one-and-one. What a relief it was for the Saints when Shannon Crooks misfired on a runner just before the buzzer.

UMass ousted by Siena
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 3/17/2000

A towel covered his broken nose after the game, but nothing could hide the broken heart of Shannon Crooks, who never heard the whistle that may have helped extend the University of Massachusetts men's basketball season.

Shannon Crooks takes it straight into the Siena defense.
"I was just trying to get to the basket," said Crooks, who waded into traffic for a last-second layup that never had much of a chance. The referee's whistle didn't sound, but the final horn did, and Siena had grabbed a 66-65 National Invitation Tournament first-round game at Pepsi Arena.

Crooks and his UMass teammates knew that it's risky to trust your fate to one last-second call, especially on the road. The game that closed out a 17-16 season was lost in other ways, including the winning basket by Siena freshman Michael Buhrman with 23 seconds left.

Buhrman's tip-in came on Siena's third shot of the possession, erasing a 65-64 UMass lead that came when Kitwana Rhymer dunked off a Chris Kirkland feed with 1:04 left.

It was the only shot of the game for Buhrman, who averaged only 5.5 points per game this season.

"I just tried to wedge myself in between their big guys," Buhrman said. "They didn't box me out really well."

Crooks missed 10 minutes after breaking his nose in the first half. Monty Mack, who scored 20 points, came down hard on his left elbow in the second half, but returned and had a chance to win it after Buhrman's tip-in.

"We were going to show them one defense and then switch to another," Siena coach Paul Hewitt said. "But then I decided to forget the gimmicks and go straight man-to-man."

Mack drove the lane for a short jumper, one that both Mack and Hewitt later said they thought was going in. But it didn't, Buhrman got the rebound and was fouled with nine seconds left.

He missed the front end of the 1-and-1, and Mack fed Crooks breaking toward the basket.

"I thought he was going to pull up," said UMass forward Mike Babul, who played his final college game. "Then I thought he got killed under there, but they didn't call it."

Mack, Rhymer (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Kirkland (13 points) led UMass. Marcus Faison's 22 points led Siena (24-8), which plays Penn State (16-15) in the second round of the NIT next week.

UMass lost the rebounding battled (41-33), and got burned on second-chance points (20-6), but may have escaped if not for Buhrman's heroics. The Minutemen also missed six of 13 free throws.

Chris Kirkland shot 6-11 from the floor and had 5 steals, but the team collectively fell short.
"It says something about the character of our team that UMass didn't let us run up and down the floor like we'd like, but we found a way to win, anyway," Faison said of Siena, the nation's third-highest scoring team (86.9 ppg.) and one that loves the 3-point shot.

Rhymer picked up his third foul with 15:17 left, and even though he sat down only briefly, Faison's 3-point shot tied the game 46-46. Mack went down hard while Dave Deters was scoring to give Siena a 48-46 lead with 11:34 left.

"It went numb at first, but then it started feeling better as I way laying on the floor," said Mack, who came back to hit a 3-pointer that gave UMass a 55-54 lead with six minutes remaining.

He then hit a fadeaway jumper from the baseline, capping an 8-0 UMass run that lasted more than four minutes. But Faison's two free throws and one by Corey Osinski gave Siena a 62-61 lead with 2:26 left.

Flint awaits word about his job
UMass notebook
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 3/17/2000

ALBANY, N.Y. Bruiser Flint didn't act like a man who thought he'd coached his final men's basketball game for the University of Massachusetts, and he certainly doesn't want to think that way.

Jon DePina and Micah Brand can only watch the victory slip away.
But until athletic director Bob Marcum says anything one way or the other, the four-year coach can only do what the fans are doing wait to hear his fate.

"What can I say?" Flint said after last night's 66-65 National Invitation Tournament first-round loss to Siena at the Pepsi Arena here. last night. "All I can do is my job."

Flint's 17-16 team left him with a 71-57 career record. He is 0-3 in NCAA and NIT tournament play, but hopes a strong UMass showing at last week's Atlantic 10 tournament, and a promising recruiting class for next year, has swayed the sentiment his way.

Marcum has said he wouldn't comment until the season was over. Flint has two years left on his contract, and said he expects to meet with Marcum soon, though as of last night, he was not sure when.


Jonathan DePina, whose improved shooting touch may be the Minutemen's best-kept secret, went 2 for 3 from 3-point range and joined some heady company.

DePina scored eight points and is now shooting 44.4 percent (20 for 45) from behind the arc this season. That ranks tied for fifth with Jerome Malloy (1991-92) on the all-time UMass single-season list. To qualify, a player must make at least 20 shots from 3-point range, so DePina didn't qualify until last night.


UMass freshman center Micah Brand, who missed four games with the effects of pneumonia, scored four points and had four rebounds in six minutes. He gave effective minutes late in the game, when Kitwana Rhymer got into foul trouble.


Monty Mack's 20 points gave him 1,617 career points. The school's all-time No. 5 scorer is a senior, but he'll regain his final year of eligibility next season (lost for academic rules as a freshman) if he graduates on time as expected this spring.

Saints end Minutemen season
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/17/2000

ALBANY, N.Y. - When the front end of Michael Buhrman's one-and-one bounced off the rim with 8.7 seconds left, the University of Massachusetts pushed the ball quickly up the court, trailing Siena by a point.

Monty Mack fired the ball up the floor to Shannon Crooks. Still hurting from a broken nose he suffered earlier in the game, Crooks drove into the lane anyway.

Despite a collision of several bodies, neither a charge nor a block was whistled. Crooks' shot fell short and the Saints rushed the floor to celebrate a 66-65 win in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Pepsi Arena.

As the celebration swirled around him, Crooks sat on the floor dejected for several moments before a Minuteman manager helped him to his feet. The final miss was the culmination of a long night for the Minuteman point guard, who finished with two points, six turnovers and one broken facial feature.

"On the last play, I got fouled going to the basket," Crooks said. "I got bumped, but with a couple seconds left they're not going to call that call."

Crooks wasn't the only UMass player who missed a chance at heroics. With 24.8 seconds left and the Minutemen leading 65-64, no one came up with a rebound from either Dwayne Archibold's or Marcus Faison's misses, and Buhrman delivered what proved to be the game-winning tip-in with 24.8 seconds left.

Mack had a chance for heroics himself on the next play as he slashed into the lane, but he front-rimmed his floater, which bounced into Buhrman's hands.

"I feel bad for our seniors," Mack said. "I wish I could have hit that last shot for them because I didn't want to see them go out like this. They played hard for us for four years. I wanted to see them go further."

"Monty couldn't get a better look," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "He curled into the lane. That's his shot. Our last two looks were good looks. We just didn't make them."

Buhrman was fouled immediately and went to the line, setting up the final sequence of events.

UMass finished its season at 17-16, while the Saints (24-8) advance to face Penn State at State College in the NIT second round Monday.

Mack led the Minutemen with 20 points, while junior center Kitwana Rhymer scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. In his final game in a UMass uniform, Chris Kirkland fouled out with 13 points.

"It was one of the most frustrating games of the year," Kirkland said. "We needed to do some little things to win the game. Tonight was disappointing to go out like this."

Fellow departing senior Mike Babul had two points. Anthony Oates, also on track to graduate, did not see action in his final college game.

"The seniors are just great guys," Crooks said. "I hate to see them leave and their careers end like this. The rest of the years I'm playing, I'm going to be playing for them. They're still a part of this family. I thank them for playing hard."

"My seniors were great kids. They gave it their all every day," Flint said. "They made me happy to go to practice every day."

Siena was strong out of the gate and took a 10-3 lead, scoring on each of its first five possessions. The Saints held the lead until Mack sank a pair of free throws with 6:46 left until intermission, which gave the visitors a 20-19 advantage. Eight late points by Jonathan DePina helped stake UMass to a 32-27 halftime lead.

That advantage didn't come without a price, as Crooks caught an elbow in the face from Siena's Corey Osinski that broke his nose. He left the court bleeding, with his face buried in a towel. He missed the first 7:45 of the second half before returning.

Shortly after Crooks re-entered the lineup, Mack was briefly sidelined with what appeared to be an elbow injury, but he too returned.

After trailing most of the half, the Saints made a 13-3 run to pull ahead, 54-49, but a hoop by Kirkland, a free throw by Rhymer, a three and a two by Mack made up an 8-0 UMass spurt that regained the lead at 57-54.

Siena senior Faison (22 points), who at one point in the second half scored six points within a minute, made two free throws with 3:54 left. After that, neither team led by more than two the rest of the way.

Status of Flint hangs over team
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/17/2000

ALBANY, N.Y. - There was a weird lack of a feeling of finality that usually accompanies the end of any season, when the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team lost a heartbreaker to Siena in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament Thursday night.

The closure likely will come soon, when an announcement is made on the status of Bruiser Flint as the team's head coach after the Minutemen's 17-16 season. Speculation ran rampant last night, but Flint himself opted for the middle ground.

"I guess we're supposed to have a meeting and they'll let me know," Flint said with a shrug. "We'll see. We'll see."

Athletic Director Bob Marcum had said he wouldn't make any decision or statement until after the season and he has stuck to that. Now that the season is over, how long the process takes is anybody's guess.

Flint has a few factors working in his favor. Officials from the university, which is having financial problems, might be hesitant to spend a sizable chunk of money to buy out the remaining two years of Flint's contract, at around $250,000.

Further, there is a feeling around college basketball that the Minutemen have a chance to be a solid team next year.

Monty Mack returns as a likely preseason player of the year in the Atlantic 10, while Shannon Crooks and Kitwana Rhymer both made significant improvements in their first year in the starting lineup and played well down the stretch.

Micah Brand will have seven more months in the weight room, giving the Minutemen a solid returning nucleus.

Add to that a potentially impressive recruiting class and there is reason for optimism.

Mack said the team learned a lot from this season.

"We learned that if we work hard enough, even when people doubt us, we can still play," he said. "I think we proved a lot of people wrong. They didn't think we would make it this far."

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his future, Flint spoke with optimism.

"This whole year will help us out," Flint said. "This was Kit's first year really playing. It was Micah's first season and Shannon's first season. I think our experience will make us that much better. We have Eric (Williams) sitting out and some good recruits coming in, so I think our talent takes a big jump. I'm looking forward to it.

"We got a taste of being back to it, so I know guys will work hard and we'll have an even better season than we had this year," he continued. "Our guys got back to winning basketball and understanding what it takes to win. From this point on, I think we'll be okay."

* * *

Jackie Rogers, the Barton County Community College power forward who has been coveted by UMass, will be on campus this weekend for an official visit.

* * *

With his college career behind him, senior Chris Kirkland said his next priority is to make sure his academics are in order.

"I'm going to let things kind of die down a little bit and concentrate on my school," he said. "I want to graduate this semester."

Kirkland won't be the only one hitting the books.

As a partial qualifier coming out of high school, Mack was forced to sit out his freshman year. NCAA rules allow partial qualifiers to gain back the lost year of eligibility if they earn their degree in four years. Mack reiterated his plan to take advantage of that.

"I'm going to take care of my school work and make sure I get those 13 credits so I can come back," he said.

* * *

Mack (632) and Kirkland (490) finished the season as the second highest single-season scoring duo in school history, behind Marcus Camby (675) and Donta Bright (538) who combined for 1,213 points in 1995-96. The current tandem did it in four fewer games.

* * *

The UMass loss capped a day of heartbreaks in the Atlantic 10. In the NCAA Tournament, St. Bonaventure nearly upset Kentucky in regulation before falling to the Wildcats in double overtime, 85-80. And Dayton had a chance to win its game at the buzzer before falling to Purdue, 62-61.

Of the five postseason teams from the conference, only Temple, which faces Lafayette today in the NCAA Tournament and Xavier, which faces Notre Dame in the NIT Monday, remain.

* * *

St. Bonaventure assistant coach Tyrone Weeks did not make his team's game, for a pretty good reason. He was en route to Cleveland from Olean when he learned that his fiance, Kim Sykes, had gone into labor with the couple's first child. Tyrone Travis Weeks Jr. was born later. The youngster already takes after his burly dad, weighing in at eight pounds, six ounces.

Photos from The Daily Hampshire Gazette

Massachusetts Minutemen 65
Siena Saints 66
NIT First Round
at the Pepsi Arena, Albany NY

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Kirkland        33  6-11   1-2   2-4  4  5   13
Babul           32   1-4   0-0   2-3  3  3    2
Rhymer          33   6-9   4-8  5-12  2  4   16
Mack            33  8-23   2-3   1-3  4  2   20
Crooks          28   1-5   0-0   1-3  2  2    2
Depina          16   3-5   0-0   0-0  0  0    8
Blizzard        11   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Smith            8   0-1   0-0   0-2  0  1    0
Brand            6   2-3   0-0   0-4  0  1    4
TOTALS         200 27-61  7-13 11-31 15 18   65

Percentages: FG-.443, FT-.538. 3-Point Goals:
4-16, .250 (Kirkland 0-1, Mack 2-10, Crooks 0-1,
Depina 2-3, Smith 0-1). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked
shots: 3 (Rhymer 2, Mack). Turnovers: 11 (Crooks
6, Rhymer 2, Kirkland, Smith). Steals: 8
(Kirkland 5, Crooks 2, Rhymer).

SIENA (66)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Cantamessa      16   2-4   0-0   0-3  1  5    6
Osinski         23   5-8   1-2   2-3  0  2   11
Deters          16   2-3   2-2   2-3  0  2    6
Faison          24  7-17   7-8   5-6  3  2   22
Stewart         32   4-9   1-2   2-5  4  0   10
Archbold        26   2-7   2-2   2-4  0  0    7
Buhrman         23   1-1   0-1   1-6  3  1    2
Knapp           18   0-4   0-0   0-2  1  2    0
Clinton         13   0-3   0-0   1-6  0  1    0
Taylor           7   1-2   0-0   0-1  0  0    2
Karangwa         1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Ogburn           1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
TOTALS         200 24-58 13-17 15-39 12 16   66

Percentages: FG-.414, FT-.765. 3-Point Goals:
5-18, .278 (Cantamessa 2-3, Osinski 0-1, Faison
1-3, Stewart 1-4, Archbold 1-3, Knapp 0-4). Team
rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 3 (Osinski 3).
Turnovers: 13 (Stewart 3, Cantamessa 2, Knapp 2,
Archbold, Buhrman, Clinton, Karangwa, Ogburn,
Taylor). Steals: 2 (Buhrman, Osinski).
Massachusetts      32   33  -   65
Siena              27   39  -   66
Technical fouls: None.  A: 9,649. Officials: Sam
Lickliter, Jerry Sauder, Mark Masariu.

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