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The Springfield Union-News - column

UMass loss burns Flint: Coach fumes after team gives one away
By Mike Shalin, The Boston Herald, 12/22/1999

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico - Bruiser Flint was beside himself. After watching his UMass club drop its opening game of the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic to Southern Illinois, 65-63, yesterday, the coach lit into the Minutemen.

``They should be ashamed of themselves the way they played tonight,'' Flint said. ``What really gets me is guys get upset when you get on them. They're like, `Hey, man,' and I'm like, `Hey, man?' . . . We embarrassed ourselves. We embarrassed ourselves.

``They just played with more heart, they just wanted it more than us. That's why they won it. We came back but didn't deserve to win.''

The Minutemen (5-4) jumped out to an 18-4 lead in the first 10 minutes as the cold-shooting Salukis were just 1-of-17 from the floor. But even then, Flint had a sense that his team wasn't playing well. In fact, UMass led only 4-0 more than four minutes into the game.

Southern Illinois (4-4) used a 9-0 run to get back in the game after being down, 23-9. The teams were tied at the half and SIU went up by 10 (51-41) eight minutes into the second half.

UMass came back and actually was within Shannon Crooks' in-and-out 12-footer of tying the game with six seconds left. But the Minutemen were lucky to get that close, having repeatedly turned the ball over (24 for the game, with all 10 Minutemen who played committing at least one).

``I've been saying all year, if we don't come out with heart and desire and scrapping, we can't win,'' Flint said. ``It's just disappointing - other than Winston (Smith, in 12 minutes) and Anthony Oates (season-high 14 minutes), I got nothing from nobody.''

He allowed that Crooks (13 points, six rebounds) was OK, but wouldn't say that about anyone else - even Monty Mack, who scored 20 points but, like Crooks, had four turnovers.

``I mean, what do you do? . . . If we don't realize what it takes to win games, we're not going to win a lot of games, regardless of who we're playing.''

The Minutemen face the host team, American Puerto Rico, in today's second round. Wins by UMass and BC (vs. Illinois-Chicago) will create a rematch of their Dec. 4 Conte Forum matchup (a UMass win) in tomorrow's fifth-place game.

``You get the effort like we got on Saturday (a win over Florida State in Fort Lauderdale) and then you come in and play like this,'' Flint said. ``That's very disappointing, very disappointing. The effort's got to be there. When we are that way, we're pretty good. When we're not, we lose the game like we did today. We just have to learn a lesson and go from there.''

Chris Kirkland had 18 points and seven rebounds for UMass.

Ricky Collum led the Salukis with 16 points. Forward Chris Thunell, who has 10 rebounds, hit just 1-for-10 from the floor, but his one success made it 63-58 with 2:02 left.

``The crazy thing is we had the opportunity,'' Flint said. ``That one rolled out on Shannon at the end.''

UMass embarrassed in Classic
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/22/1999

BAYEMON, Puerto Rico - After his team's 65-55 loss to Marshall in November, University of Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint told his team to feel bad.

"This one was worse then that," Flint said, after Tuesday's 65-63 loss to Southern Illinois in the first round of the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic.

"They should be ashamed of themselves, the way they played tonight. We embarrassed ourselves."

The Salukies outrebounded UMass 46-35 despite being significantly smaller. The Minutemen turned the ball over 24 times, essentially throwing the game away.

"Southern Illinois played with more heart, they wanted it more then us," said Flint.

"Even if we came back, we didn't deserve to win. If we don't come out and play with heart and desire, we're going to get beat. I'm disappointed with the guys, and their attitude. Guys think they are better then they are."

Minuteman centers Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand struggled with foul trouble and inconsistency. Only rarely used reserve Anthony Oates played well among the pivot men. He had career highs in minutes (14) and rebounds (four) to go with two points.

Monty Mack led UMass with 20 points to move into 22nd place on the Minuteman career scoring list with 1,159. Chris Kirkland scored 18, while Shannon Crooks added 13. Ricky Collum led SIU with 16 points.

After trailing most of the second half, UMass made a late run. A driving floater by Mack made it 63-60 with 1:40 left in the game. The Salukies quickly turned the ball over, but UMass returned the favor when a pass bounced off Mack's thigh out of bounds.

A Brandon Malls basket made it 65-60, but Mack was fouled behind the arc and made all three free throws to make it 65-63 with 52 seconds left.

Kent Williams threw a pass away, giving UMass a chance to tie it. Crooks drove into the lane and put up a would-be tying shot. The ball bounced off the front and back of the rim, but fell off, into the hands of Chris Thunell, who was quickly fouled with 4 seconds left.

He missed both free throws, but Crooks' hurried desperation heave from half court was off the mark and the Salukies prevailed. The Minutemen (5-4) face American University of Puerto Rico in the tournament's losers bracket at 1:30 p.m. today.

UMass scored the first six points of the game Tuesday and opened a 23-9 lead. After Saturday's impressive performance in their win over Florida State, it looked like the Minutemen were en route to an easy victory.

But a 21-4 run by the Salukies late in the first half turned momentum in their favor. The teams went into halftime tied, 34-34.

"We have to start putting people away, we have to step on their throats and kick them when they're down," Flint said. "You have to have killer instinct. We have to be diving, scrapping ... when we are that way, we're pretty good. If not, we lose games like we lost tonight."

Taking advantage of UMass' 17 second-half turnovers, Southern Illinois controlled the game after intermission.

"We pretty much said if you want it, take it," Flint said. "We lost balls off our legs. We threw the ball away and they took advantage."

SIU coach Bruce Webber was proud of his team's effort.

"They have more athletic ability and more size then we do," he said. "The only way we could win was to out-scrap them."

Tournament: Minutemen beaten in Puerto Rico
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 12/22/1999

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico This was a loss fashioned by a team that couldn't stand prosperity and thought it was better than it was, plain and simple.

That's how the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team fell 65-63 to Southern Illinois, a Puerto Rico Holiday Classic quarterfinal outcome that stunned the Minutemen but was nonetheless just, because it wasn't a game they deserved to win, anyway.

"The other team just wanted it more than we did," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said after the game at the Guerra Sports Complex.

In a game that saw the Salukis (4-4) outscore the Minutemen 42-18 over a 20-minute stretch that extended from the first half into the second, UMass followed its best performance of the season Saturday's 69-60 win over Florida State with what Flint called its worst.

"Southern Illinois played with heart and desire," said Flint, who was at a loss to explain why UMass didn't. "And when we don't do that, we're going to lose a lot of games."

The Minutemen didn't have it, losing to a scrappy but hardly glamorous Missouri Valley Conference team that was led by guard Ricky Collum's 16 points. The loss virtually ruins the tournament for UMass (5-4), which now plays American University of Puerto Rico (0-6) today at 1:30 in a game that won't even be recognized in the power rankings used to gauge NCAA tournament qualification.

That's because the Puerto Rican team, which bowed 102-58 to 11th-ranked Tennessee last night, is not a member of the NCAA. Even losing to Tennessee would have been far more beneficial to UMass, but worrying about power rankings at this point seems needless, anyway.

"Guys were talking about us being good again, and getting back to the NCAA tournament," said Flint, who singled out center Anthony Oates (season-high 14 minutes), forward Winston Smith and to some degree guard Shannon Crooks as the only players he felt gave adequate efforts.

Monty Mack (20 points) and Chris Kirkland (18) led UMass, but the Minutemen committed 24 turnovers 17 in the second half. They still cut a 51-41 deficit to 59-58 with 3:48 left, but trailed 65-60 after Brandon Mells' jumper with a minute to go.

Mack was fouled on a 3-point try and made all three free throws with 52 seconds left, and UMass had a chance after Salukis' guard Kent Williams threw a pass out of bounds with 22 seconds left.

Shannon Crooks (13 points) drove to the basket, only to see his short jumper roll in and out with 6 seconds left. Other than a wild half-court heave by Crooks at the buzzer, that was the last UMass chance.

Southern Illinois manhandled UMass on the boards (46-35) and in the loose-ball category, and woke up from a terrible start that saw UMass allow only one basket in the first 10 minutes en route to a 23-9 lead.

A sequence that typified the game came when the Salukis scored consecutive baskets for a 63-58 lead one after an offensive rebound, and the other following a terrible pass by Crooks.

"They have more size and athletic ability than we do," Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We came to the eight-minute mark (in the first half) and had a timeout, and our guys' heads were low.

"But I told them not to quit on me. We said we came here to play basketball, and as the game went on, we were the aggressors."

Despite giving up size, Southern Illinois grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, which allowed them to take 16 shots more than UMass and overcome 32.3 percent shooting.

Questions arise after tough loss
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 12/22/1999

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico It doesn't get any worse than this not this season, anyhow. At least not yet.

"This was a worse loss than the Marshall game (a 65-55 home defeat Nov. 29) no question," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said after watching his team lose 65-63 to Southern Illinois in the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic quarterfinal at Guerra Sports Complex. "We embarrassed ourselves out there. We ought to be ashamed I told them that."

Knowing that some of the questions will center on why he can't draw out a more consistent effort, Flint continued to say the players had to find some motivation in themselves, but he also wondered what else he could have done.

"We've got to scrap and dive for balls, and the coaching staff preaches that," he said. "But I went down to the bottom of the bench, and almost nobody gave us anything. Maybe I should have played JoVann Johnson that's probably a fair question."

Johnson, a 6-foot-4 junior college transfer, has been the only scholarship player not to appear in each of the last two games. He might fit into a three-guard lineup, but UMass didn't use one until the final two minutes yesterday, and it didn't include him.

Johnson's only playing time in the last six games was a 32-second cameo appearance at Detroit and that came after Jonathan DePina had fouled out, and Flint had already decided not to play a struggling Monty Mack for the rest of the game.


Even an early 23-9 lead didn't help UMass yesterday.

"You have to have a killer instinct," Flint said. We've got to start putting people away kick 'em when they're down."

It couldn't have been the pressure of playing in front of a large crowd. Yesterday's game began with only about 100 people that's 100, not 1,000 in the stands, which was not surprising because tournaments in Puerto Rico are considered exciting junkets for the teams, but attract virtually no local interest.


American University of Puerto Rico, whose 0-6 record includes a 114-69 blowout loss to DePaul, includes 22-year-old Virginia Tech transfer Jesus Rodriguez, a 6-8, 220-pound center who has played on several Puerto Rican international teams.

Other projected starters are 6-6 Alex Rodriguez, 6-4 Ivan Rios, 5-10 Jonathan Colon and 6-0 Joseph Rodriguez.


With 20 points, Monty Mack has 1,159 in his career and moved into 22nd place all-time at UMass. He passed Rodger Twitchell (1,151) and both Lari Ketner and Will Herndon (each with 1,148) yesterday, and should wrest the 21st spot from Rafer Giles (1,163) today.


In yesterday's afternoon quarterfinals, North Carolina-Charlotte romped to an 87-61 win over Illinois-Chicago, as James Zimmerman came off the bench to score 19 points.

Tulsa's 80-66 win over Boston College came behind five double-figure scorers. BC freshman Trey Bell, who entered the game averaging 21 points per game, missed 8 of 11 shots, was held to eight points and made seven turnovers.

Photo - click for larger image Photo - click for larger image

Massachusetts Minutemen 63
Southern Illinois Salukis 65
Puerto Rico Holiday Classic, First Round
at Bayamon PR

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Blizzard        28   1-1   0-0   0-1  1  2    3
Kirkland        39  4-11 10-11   1-7  2  3   18
Rhymer          19   0-0   1-3   1-6  0  4    1
Depina          13   0-3   0-0   0-1  3  1    0
Mack            29  6-13   3-3   0-1  2  2   17
Oates           14   1-1   0-2   1-3  0  4    2
Smith           12   2-2   0-0   1-2  0  0    4
Babul           20   1-5   0-0   2-4  1  3    2
Crooks          19  5-12   3-6   1-6  2  3   16
Brand            7   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  3    0
TOTALS         200 20-49 17-25  7-31 11 25   63

Percentages: FG-.408, FT-.680. 3-Point Goals:
6-12, .500 (Blizzard 1-1, Kirkland 0-2, Mack 2-5,
Crooks 3-4). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 5
(Rhymer 3, Blizzard, Babul). Turnovers: 24
(Kirkland 5, Crooks 4, Mack 4, Blizzard 2, Depina
2, Oates 2, Smith 2, Babul, Brand, Rhymer).
Steals: 5 (Kirkland 4, Crooks).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Thunell         22  1-10   2-4  5-10  1  3    4
Tilmon          16   3-6   2-3   4-6  0  4    8
Mells           30   4-7   0-0   1-3  5  3    9
Collum          36   4-9   4-4   0-3  1  3   16
Williams        33  2-10   0-0   0-0  1  1    4
Cross           17   2-4   5-8   4-6  1  3    9
Dearman         24  4-11   1-3   1-5  0  3    9
Schrader        22   1-8   4-4   1-4  1  3    6
TOTALS         200 21-65 18-26 16-37 10 23   65

Percentages: FG-.323, FT-.692. 3-Point Goals:
5-18, .278 (Thunell 0-3, Mells 1-2, Collum 4-7,
Williams 0-4, Schrader 0-2). Team rebounds: 9.
Blocked shots: 2 (Schrader, Williams). Turnovers:
19 (Dearman 5, Cross 3, Mells 3, Collum 2,
Schrader 2, Williams 2, Thunell, Tilmon). Steals:
9 (Mells 4, Thunell 2, Tilmon 2, Dearman).
Massachusetts      34   29  -   63
Southern Ill       34   31  -   65
Technical fouls: None. Officials: .

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