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The Springfield Union-News - notebook
The Charleston (WV) Gazette
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - column
The Charleston Daily Mail
The Boston Herald

Minutemen tumble to Marshall
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 11/30/1999

AMHERST - The three-year contract with Marshall University is over, thank goodness.

Chris Kirkland contributed with 10 points and 6 rebounds.
In the future, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team might want to consider scheduling Kentucky or Cincinnati. Anybody but the Thundering Herd from Huntington, W.Va., whose 65-55 victory last night threw an ocean of cold water on the Minutemen's early-season optimism.

"I told the team to feel bad about this one, but to learn from it," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said after a loss that was severely deflating to the 5,682 fans who came out for the home opener.

It came against a Mid-American Conference team that UMass (1-2) is expected to beat though after nearly overcoming a 19-point second-half deficit in a two-point loss in 1997, and thrashing UMass by 22 last year, Marshall hardly takes a back seat to the Minutemen anymore.

"We don't feel it's an upset," said Marshall coach Greg White, whose team starts only one senior (Derrick Wright), and has yet to play a home game, but is now 3-0 despite shooting only 37.7 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from the line.

"I think we can play a lot better," said White, whose starters all played at least 35 minutes. Tamar Slay hit 5 of 7 3-pointers and scored 24 points, and center J.R. VanHoose scored 19 with 16 rebounds as the Thundering Herd owned a stunning 48-33 rebounding edge.

"I don't think we got the effort from some guys," said Flint, targeting the frontcourt of Mike Babul, Chris Kirkland and Kitwana Rhymer among the culprits. "Marshall made its shots and crushed us on the boards. The bottom line was that they outhustled us."

Monty Mack poured in 40% of the Minutemen points.
Actually, last night started out grandly for UMass. Monty Mack (22 points) scored on a fast-break basket which gave UMass a 20-10 lead at the midpoint of the first half. But the Herd came thundering back for a 28-28 halftime tie, and the worst was yet to come.

When Slay hit a 3-pointer with 14:20 left in the game, it capped an 11-0 run that gave Marshall a 39-32 lead. UMass was within two until Slay hit a 3-point shot to make it 58-53 with 3:20 left, and the Herd closed out the game on a 10-2 run, playing with poise while UMass scrambled for opportunities.

Kirkland scored 10 points for UMass, but none in the second half. Rhymer had 10 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six blocks, but a UMass preseason concern about rebounding became a very real problem when Marshall collected 21 offensive rebounds including nine by VanHoose and seven by Wright.

"You can't keep giving people second chances," Flint said. "There's only so much defense you can play."

"Sixteen offensive boards from two guys that's almost unheard of," said VanHoose, who admitted that his rebounding numbers surprised even himself.

"You look at their team, and here I am, 6-10 and maybe 230, soaking wet," the Marshall center said. "I don't know what it was in this game. But we didn't give up."

UMass didn't help itself with 2-for-14 three-point shooting. The Minutemen were within 55-53 with 3:20 left, but a two-minute scoring drought ruined any comeback hopes.

"In the final five minutes, I think we gained confidence and they lost some confidence," White said. "UMass is going to be a good team, but they're trying to run which they have to do and they may be caught between styles."

"I still think we'll be all right," Flint said. But last night's result undoubtedly left an even larger number of fans unconvinced, at least for now.

Mack may start Thursday night
UMass notebook
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 11/30/1999

AMHERST - Monty Mack remained the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's sixth man last night, but he may not be playing that role Thursday night against Boston University.

Shannon Crooks showed great promise in exhibition play, but has yet to dazzle in games that count.
"He'll probably start," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said after last night's 65-55 loss to Marshall at the Mullins Center. Last night, Mack came off the bench for the third straight game. He scored 22 points in 31 minutes.

Shannon Crooks and Jonathan DePina again started at guard for the Minutemen, who lost their home opener for the first time since the 1989-90 season, and the second time in 17 years.

Mack missed almost the entire preseason with a stress fracture in his left foot. He recovered in time for the Nov. 20 opener against Iona, but coming off the bench saved minutes for the 6-foot-3 senior.

The improved play of DePina at the point and Crooks' ability to play either guard spot had allowed Flint to keep a rotation that was working reasonably well.

UMass led 20-10 after 9:30 last night, and Mack didn't play the first five minutes. But after the game, Flint said he'll probably move Mack into DePina's spot, which the coach feels would give him a slightly stronger defensive backcourt while getting his best scorer into the game from the start. Crooks is shooting 33 percent (11 for 33) from the floor and 25 percent (3 for 12) from the line this season, his first at UMass after sitting out a year as a transfer. He also has more turnovers (eight) than assists (seven).

DePina's play has been better this season, but he is still prone to mistakes, such as a key turnover with 1:55 left and UMass trailing 58-53 last night. And even though Mack and Crooks took 33 of the team's 60 shots, Flint didn't blame them, instead pointing fingers at a frontcourt he said was unwilling to aggressively look for shots.

Last night's 6:45 start was made for TV. With WGGB Channel 40 (an ABC affiliate) broadcasting the game, the normal starting time was pushed ahead by 15 minutes to minimize the chance of running into Monday Night Football at 9. Network news was pre-empted instead.

If the game had gone long, Channel 40 officials had until 9:10 to make a decision, and had the option of staying with the UMass game, though ABC frowns mightily on local affiliates pre-empting NFL football. The game ended at 8:36 p.m.

Kit Rhymer had a good defensive game, but the all-around effort for the team came up short.
Kitwana Rhymer had a career-high six blocks and grabbed 10 rebounds, giving him 27 boards in two games. But Flint said his junior center was off his game, losing several battles to Marshall center J.R. VanHoose (19 points, 16 rebounds).

In the final 30:30, Marshall outscored UMass 55-35. In 1997, the Herd finished the game on a 24-7 run but lost 61-59. And last year, Marshall closed out an 88-66 victory with a 39-22 surge.

Anthony Oates was not in uniform. The UMass senior center has a deep contusion in his left foot. His status for Thursday's game is undetermined.

Marshall Slays UMass
Outside touch lifts Herd to 65-55 win
By Mike Whiteford, The Charleston Gazette Staff Writer, 11/30/1999

AMHERST, Mass. - A wealth of offensive rebounds just seemed to bounce Marshall's way, the Herd's J.R. VanHoose modestly explained.

The splendid outside shooting of Tamar Slay, however, cannot simply be dismissed as good bounces.

The 6-foot-8 Slay took another step in fulfilling his coach's high expectations by hitting 5-of-7 shots from 3-point range, finished with 24 points and led Marshall to a 65-55 victory over the University of Massachusetts Monday night. A crowd of 5,682 attended in the 9,493-seat Mullins Center.

"This is the best game I've had since I've been at Marshall,'' said Slay, a sophomore from Beckley, who set a career-high of 19 points in the Herd's previous game last week against Stony Brook.

The 6-foot-10 VanHoose provided an inside complement to Slay's outside shooting by scoring 19 points and leading all rebounders with 16, including nine offensive boards.

Ronell Blizzard dunks one home, but these were his only 2 points of the night.
The Herd (3-0) overcame an early 10-point deficit, forced a 28-28 halftime tie and, after falling behind in the early moments of the second half, regained the lead and kept things under control for the remainder of the game. The Herd dominated the boards against the comparably sized Minutemen, outrebounding them 48-33 overall and 21-8 on the offensive side.

And in a sign of growth and maturity, perhaps, the Herd survived the early deficit, undaunted by the hostile crowd, the UMass quickness and the road's assorted other perils.

"I think only good things are going to happen for Marshall basketball from here on out. We got a big, big road win, and look who was out there - two sophomores, two juniors and a senior,'' said VanHoose, referring to himself, Slay, Travis Young, Cornelius Jackson and Derrick Wright.

A 10-point deficit on the road, VanHoose added, would have presented far more problems to a less experienced Marshall team last year.

"The team we had last year I think would have given up right there,'' he said. "Being down 10 on the road, we would have given up right there. We're more mature now, we're more experienced. We know how to fight throug>

Transfer interrupted!

also saw significance in the comeback.

"We talked this afternoon in our meeting about handling adversity,'' said White. "We got down 10 early, and we kept clawing and scratching. And they started to lose their confidence inside of five minutes. And we started to gain confidence.''

"They crashed the boards,'' said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. "Every time we stopped them from getting a basket, they would get the ball right back and put it in. You have to give them credit.''

Slay, whom White has touted as a potentially superb shooter, averaged just 5.8 points last year as a hot-and-cold shooter. He finished the night 9-for-16 from the field and scored 15 of his points in the second half.

Standing alone on the perimeter, he accepted passes from Jackson and others and, without hesitation, let fly to the basket.

"Cornelius was doing a good job of driving the gaps, and he'd pitch it back out to me,'' said Slay, "and J.R. and Derrick were setting great screens for me.''

The Minutemen threatened to break things open in the first half. Monty Mack, who did not start but entered the game with 16:10 left in the half, scored eight quick points, helping UMass stretch a 9-8 lead to 20-10.

But VanHoose kept his team in contention with three consecutive baskets, and the Herd eventually rallied to a 28-28 halftime tie on Slay's last-second basket after a Herd steal.

"We did a good job with the hustle stats, picking up loose balls, coming up with rebounds,'' said White. "The offensive rebounds were huge for us. But I didn't think we played particularly well tonight, and they had a lot to do with that. They're a big, strong physical team, and they'll push you out on the floor. Our bench didn't give us what they needed to give us. Our bench is much better than they showed tonight.''

The halftime tie may have been a moral victory for a Marshall team that shot only 31.6 percent in the first half. Despite Slay's accuracy, the Herd shot only 37.7 percent for the game.

BRIEFLY: The Herd will play its home opener against Radford University at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by home games against West Virginia State Dec. 7, Rio Grande College Dec. 15 and Georgia Dec. 18. ... Former Mullens coach Don Nuckols, who coached White in high school, attended the game. ... In a poll of coaches and media, the Minutemen were picked to finish second to Temple in the Atlantic 10's East Division. St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, Rhode Island and Fordham were picked to follow.

Herd rebounding stops UMass
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 11/30/1999

AMHERST - A promising start gave way to an all-too-familiar finish Monday night, as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team dropped its home opener to Marshall, 65-55, at the Mullins Center.

"They made shots when they needed to make shots and plays when they needed to make plays," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said of Marshall. "We have to bounce back. I told them to feel bad about this one because I don't think we got the effort from some people."

Marshall coach Greg White wasn't awed by his team's success.

"We believed coming in tonight we could win," White said. "We didn't feel like this was an upset."

It seemed that Marshall was in position to grab every rebound available, out-boarding the Minutemen by 15.
The Thundering Herd exploited the Minutemen's woeful lack of rebounding presence, as Marshall translated a 48-33 rebounding advantage into a relatively easy win.

"They crushed us on the boards," Flint said. "We only had 33 rebounds total. They had 21 on offense. Every time we made them take a bad shot, they got the rebound and put it back in. Our frontline was awful. (Mike) Babul, (Chris) Kirkland, (Kitwana) Rhymer, they were awful today. Awful."

The loss wasted a 22-point effort by Monty Mack, who was UMass' only consistent scoring threat down the stretch. Kirkland added 10 points, but they all came in the first half. Rhymer had 10 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double, and a career-high six blocked shots before fouling out.

But too often Rhymer seemed to be alone inside as the rest of the Minutemen struggled to keep Marshall off the offensive glass. The Herd grabbed 21 offensive boards and scored 19 second-chance points, while UMass had just eight offensive rebounds and six second-chance points, which translated into a lot of empty trips down the floor.

"I was very surprised," said Marshall center J.R. VanHoose, who had 19 points and 16 boards for the undefeated Herd (3-0). "I don't know how to explain it. I just happened to be in the right place and they weren't blocking me out. In the first half, the ball was just coming to us off the rim and there was really nothing they could do."

Just a week after UMass coach Bruiser Flint called Mike Babul the best defender in the country, Tamar Slay challenged the statement. The 6-foot-8 sophomore swingman dropped 24 points on the Minuteman forward.

"This was my best game since I've been at Marshall," Slay said.

Flint said Babul's subpar performance had nothing to do with the back injury that bothered him during the preseason. "There's nothing wrong with him, not one thing," Flint said. "He was just a step behind things today."

Translating solid defense into some easy baskets, the Minutemen cruised early, leading 20-10 less than 10 minutes into the game, but Marshall finished the half on an 18-8 run that made the score 28-28 at intermission.

After Mack scored the first four points of the second half, Marshall scored the next 11 points and never trailed again.

The Herd stretched its lead to eight points at 49-41, but led by Mack, UMass battled back to within a basket at 53-51 with just over three minutes left. The teams traded baskets and then Slay buried his fifth 3-pointer of the game to make it 58-53. The Minutemen never got any closer.

The Minutemen (1-2) return to action at 7 p.m. Thursday when they host Boston University.

Spectre of last season looms
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 11/30/1999

AMHERST - Fans bought tickets or turned on the TV Monday night with an optimistic feeling about the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team.

And why not? A new system, a fun preseason, a solid win over Iona, and a respectable showing against defending national champion Connecticut had many believing that the Minutemen might be on their way back to solid footing.

They still might be, but when those same fans walked out of the Mullins Center or clicked off their TVs after the Minutemen's 65-55 loss to Marshall, most of the good feelings were gone, replaced by an overwhelming, "Here they go again."

Criticizing a team after just the third game of the season might be premature, but when it is the third game following a 14-16 season, the leash gets a lot shorter and Monday's defeat looked far too much like too many games in the 1998-99 season.

Just over a week ago, UMass coach Bruiser Flint addressed a crowd of fans at the school's weekly sports luncheon.

In his short speech he promised the listeners that this year's squad would be one that hustled and played hard for the full 40 minutes.

The UMass effort, or lack thereof, looked hauntingly familiar to Bruiser Flint.
He didn't get that effort Monday night and he was so angry about it after the game that on his post-game radio interview, he mistakenly uttered the forbidden F-word over the air. He quickly apologized, but he was obviously frazzled.

In the press conference after the game, Flint didn't have much of an explanation for the disappointing effort and reverted to an all-too-familiar refrain from last year.

"Guys have to come focused for the games. Guys weren't focused from the opening tip," he said. "Guys have to come to play. There's only so many speeches you can make."

Maybe the most disturbing thing for UMass, though, was the source of the problem. It seemed that so many of last season's problems were tied to chemistry that seemed linked to Lari Ketner, Charlton Clarke and Ajmal Basit. But those three are gone.

Chris Kirkland and Mike Babul were positive influences last year, and their hustle was a bright spot during a tough campaign. But last night, those two were among the guilty parties. After a strong first half, Kirkland disappeared. Babul never seemed to show up at all.

Their absence left sophomore Kitwana Rhymer alone on the glass and he got hammered. Marshall isn't a big enough team that it should be outrebounding UMass, 48-33, and grabbing 13 more offensive boards (21-8). But they did, and made it look easy.

"We had guys that didn't even leave their feet tonight," Flint said. "They outhustled us on the boards. Rebounding is about attitude. If you don't have the attitude to go and get the ball you're not going to get it."

This is not part of the most difficult stretch of UMass' schedule, but if the Minutemen don't come "ready to play," any game could be a loss.

Before the new year and the start of conference play, UMass has nine games left: Boston University, Boston College, Villanova, Detroit, Florida State, Providence and three games in Puerto Rico.

With the exception of a potential game against Tennessee in Puerto Rico, none of those opponents is ranked. Even the "name teams," Villanova and Providence, are struggling.

If the Minutemen can rebound (no pun intended) from this loss and play like they did against Iona, then they could find themselves in solid shape. But the often fragile psyche of this team can ill-afford one of the slow starts that have plagued each of Flint's first three teams. Still, he was confident that this was a one-game problem.

"They'll be all right," Flint said after the game. "This will be a good learning experience. They'll understand. If they don't, we're going to be taking some Ls."

Potentially, a lot of them.

Slay's 24 conquer UMass
From staff and wire reports, The Charleston Daily Mail, 11/30/1999

AMHERST, Mass. -- Tamar Slay poured in 24 points and J.R. VanHoose added 19 to lead unbeaten Marshall to a 65-55 win Monday over Massachusetts.

The Minutemen (including Shannon Crooks here) had an all-too-often view of Tamar Slay, from behind, as Slay exploded for 24 points.
Marshall (3- 0) broke from a 28-28 halftime deadlock, and after UMass's Monty Mack scored the first two baskets of the second half, Marshall surged for nine straight points and stayed in front the rest of the way to gain its third win of the season.

UMass, which fell to 1-2, hit a lowly 11-for-33 in the second half and was beaten on the boards 48-33 for the game.

VanHoose had two hoops, Derrick Wright and Cornelius Jackson had one apiece, and Slay's 3-pointer finished Marshall's streak early in the second half, putting the Thundering Herd on top 39-32.

UMass got to within two points of a tie at 55-53 on a dunk by Kitwana Rhymer with 3:20 to play.

But Slay nailed a 3-pointer and VanHoose made two free throws to seal the verdict for the Thundering Herd.

"That was a great game,'' said Slay, the former Beckley High star. "It was my best game since I've been here. Things were working for me. That gives me a lot of confidence.''

Slay, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound sophomore, said his clutch 3- pointer in the closing minutes was by design.

"Coach (Greg) White called the play during the timeout,'' Slay said. "The guys set a good screen for me. When I got the ball I saw I had a lot of room. It went in, luckily.''

Mack ended with 22 points and Chris Kirkland and Rhymer had 10 each for the Minutemen.

UMass led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but just past the 10-minute mark, VanHoose made three straight baskets and the Thundering Herd started to come back.

Marshall never got even, however, until halftime when Jackson nailed a three-pointer and Slay hit a layup at the buzzer.

UMass falters: Can't contain Marshall in loss
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 11/30/1999

AMHERST - UMass dropped a true stinker of a game to Marshall last night, a 65-55 home-opening loss.

The defeat revealed one glaring truth: Until further notice, Monty Mack, sore left foot and all, has to play every minute. Without him, UMass is utterly helpless.

And even with the senior guard, who scored 22 points last night, the Minutemen (1-2) in their present state are going to be hard-pressed to do something credible against good teams.

The appropriately named Tamar Slay killed the Minutemen last night from downtown with 24 points, including five unguarded 3-pointers. And Thundering Herd center J.R. VanHoose absolutely manhandled the Minutemen in tight, with 19 points as his reward for a night of banging.

UMass did well to pull within 59-53 with 1:25 left. The Minutemen hadn't defended or rebounded well. Their offense was haphazard.

Mack answered that with a true rarity when he missed two free throws with 1:18 left.

The Minutemen fell flat almost as quickly as they jumped in front early in the second half.

Mack started it out with a pair of slashing hoops for a 32-28 lead and his teammates gave it back that fast.

Marshall followed with an 11-0 run for a 39-32 lead, before Mack tightened things up with a running banker followed by an up-top 3-pointer that cut Marshall's edge to 41-37.

That's as close as the Minutemen came for a painfully long time.

They finally cut deeper with 3:58 left on a Mack slash from the left side, to cap a rather slow 6-0 string that included two Mack free throws and Kitwana Rhymer's dunking put-back of a Mack miss.

Marshall led, 55-53, and barely held on to that two-point edge over the next 55 seconds before Slay swung into the left corner to drain his fifth 3-pointer of the game for a 58-53 lead.

In the first half there was another glaring observation one could make of UMass: The Minutemen, only two-and-a-half games into the 1999-2000 season, arguably have expended more energy than all of last year.

The Minutemen weren't lacking for sweat in their ability to pull out to a 28-23 lead with 1:09 left in the first half.

Mack, in a sixth-man role that appears to be working whether the guard likes it or not, came off the bench and scored nine points. Chris Kirkland got off to his best start of the early season with 10.

And with Rhymer blocking five first-half shots, UMass appeared to be on the verge of a spurt.

The Minutemen should have checked the clock.

A Mack 18-footer gave the Minutemen that 28-23 lead. Just as quickly, however, Cornelius Jackson took it away with a deep trey from well beyond the top of the circle down the other end that slashed the UMass lead to 28-26.

Then the unthinkable.

VanHoose (11 points, 11 rebounds in the first half) missed a transition layup just before the buzzer, only for Slay to grab a quick rebound and squeeze off a put-back that tied the score at 28 at the half.

Marshall Thundering Herd 65
Massachusetts Minutemen 55
at the Mullins Center

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Slay            37  9-16   1-2   1-5  2  2   24
D Wright        36  3-10   1-2   7-9  0  3    7
Vanhoose        39  7-20   5-9  9-16  1  1   19
Young           35  3-10   0-0   2-4  1  2    6
Jackson         37   3-6   0-0   0-4  6  1    7
Burgess          7   1-6   0-0   0-0  0  1    2
Wuller           2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Dobbs            3   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Evans            4   0-1   0-0   0-0  1  0    0
TOTALS         200 26-69  7-13 19-38 11 10   65

Percentages: FG-.377, FT-.538. 3-Point Goals:
6-13, .462 (Slay 5-7, Young 0-2, Jackson 1-2,
Burgess 0-2). Team rebounds: 10. Blocked shots: 4
(D Wright 2, Slay, Vanhoose). Turnovers: 15 (Slay
4, D Wright 3, Jackson 3, Vanhoose 2, Young 2,
Burgess). Steals: 8 (Jackson 2, Young 2, D
Wright, Evans, Slay, Vanhoose).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Kirkland        37   5-8   0-0   0-6  2  3   10
Babul           30   0-3   1-2   0-2  0  1    1
Rhymer          31   5-8   0-0  2-10  0  5   10
Depina          23   0-2   2-2   0-3  4  0    2
Crooks          27  4-14   0-2   2-5  2  3    8
Blizzard         9   1-4   0-0   1-1  1  0    2
Johnson          4   0-0   0-0   0-1  0  0    0
Mack            31  9-19   2-4   1-1  2  1   22
Smith            1   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Brand            7   0-1   0-0   0-1  0  3    0
TOTALS         200 24-60  5-10  6-30 11 16   55

Percentages: FG-.400, FT-.500. 3-Point Goals:
2-14, .143 (Kirkland 0-1, Babul 0-1, Crooks 0-3,
Blizzard 0-2, Mack 2-7). Team rebounds: 3.
Blocked shots: 10 (Rhymer 6, Kirkland 3, Brand).
Turnovers: 14 (Kirkland 3, Brand 2, Crooks 2,
Rhymer 2, Depina, Johnson, Mack, Smith). Steals:
9 (Crooks 3, Babul 2, Blizzard, Depina, Johnson,
Marshall           28   37  -   65
Massachusetts      28   27  -   55
Technical fouls: None.  A: 5,682. Officials: John
Cahill, Bryan Kersey, Kelly Lombard.

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