Coverage from:
The Providence Journal
The Providence Journal - notebook
The Springfield Union-News
The Springfield Union-News - notebook
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - column


Frantic Friar win
Lucky bounce in overtime lifts PC over Minutemen
David Murray's last-second basket caps a crazy play that results in a 61-60 victory.
By Carolyn Thornton, The Providence Journal Sports Writer, 12/31/1999

PROVIDENCE -- Providence College closed out 1999 with a thriller last night, edging the University of Massachusetts, 61-60, with a crazy last-second basket in overtime.

David Murray turned in a career-high 14 points that included the game-winning basket, a hook shot with just one second left on the clock that brought the crowd of 9,796 at the Civic Center to its feet.

Photo
Mike Babul shuts down the baseline on PC's Erron Maxey.
``This was an epic battle of wills,'' said PC coach Tim Welsh. ``It was more like a heavyweight fight. The big kids were banging the heck out of each other. The guards were clawing at each other all night long. Those guys were playing hard on both teams, and basically it was a matter of whoever had the ball last looked like they were going to win the basketball game. The ball just squirted loose and it was a lucky play and we won.''

The excitement really didn't start to build until the second half.

UMass shot a dismal 11-for-36 from the field in the first half and Providence capitalized. Karim Shabazz contributed eight of his 14 points to pace a balanced scoring attack that put the Friars ahead by as many as 11.

UMass had better luck finding the basket over the last five minutes of the opening half, though, as Shannon Crooks sparked a 10-4 run with six points.

After Jamaal Camah sank the back end of a two-shot foul, Crooks made a layup to cut the Minutemen's deficit to 32-27 at the intermission.

Even with the lead, Welsh said he gave his players an earful in the locker room.

``I was very upset at halftime because they had 17 offensive rebounds at halftime and they looked stronger than us on the boards. I think we were just trying to go up and outjump them, and they were getting second- and third-shot opportunities. When you have a team that can jump as well as you and is very strong, you've got to make sure you're in good block-out position. I think the last eight or nine minutes plus the overtime, I think we did a better job.''

UMass carried the momentum into the second half. Monty Mack, the Minutemen's top scorer who had managed just six points in the first half, finally found his shot and helped stage the comeback, chipping in 12 of his game-high 22 points over the first 10 minutes.

Photo
Kit Rhymer battles in the paint.
Crooks set up Chris Kirkland for a dunk to put UMass ahead, 46-45, for the first time since it held a 6-4 lead with 16:17 remaining in the first half. The teams stayed within a basket of each other for the rest of the half.

Two free throws by the Friars' John Linehan with a minute to go put PC ahead, 56-54.

Jamaal Camah made a nice steal on the ensuing inbounds play, but Providence threw the ball away after calling a timeout. The Minutemen's Winston Smith hit a 14-foot jumper with 16 seconds left to tie the score and send the game into overtime.

UMass took a 60-59 lead with 27 seconds remaining when Crooks sank the front end of a two-shot foul.

With just seconds left on the clock, the Friars' Abdul Mills looked frantically for an open man from the top of the key. Crooks and Kirkland descended upon him, and the ball came loose. It bounced around in the air, finally finding its way into Murray's hands at the foul line, where the proceeded to sink the winning basket.

``The ball got tapped to me on the floor,'' said Murray, the 6-9 junior forward from the Bronx. ``I knew the clock was running down, so I just took it to the hole.''

``Unfortunately, I can't tell you we designed that last play,'' said Welsh. ``Sometimes the ball bounces funny in a game like tonight. The ball was bouncing all over the place, and obviously both teams weren't shooting the ball that well. And I think it's a credit to defense. UMass played very good defense, and I think we held them to 32 percent on the floor and that's with 26 offensive rebounds they somehow got off the glass.''


No apology necessary by ailing Linehan for his gutsy effort
From The Providence Journal, 12/31/1999

Seconds after last night's 61-60 victory over UMass, John Linehan limped over to PC coach Tim Welsh and apologized.

Photo
Mike Babul and Kit Rhymer collapse on PC's Karim Shabazz.
``Coach, I'm sorry I let you down,'' he said.

Welsh said that he felt badly about getting stripped of the ball at halfcourt when the Friars led by two points, 59-57, with 2:14 to play in overtime. Monty Mack scored off the steal on the play and Shannon Crooks then hit a free throw to put UMass ahead until the Friars' David Murray hit his game-winning shot at the last second.

Never mind that it had been questionable whether Linehan was even going to be able to play last night because of a recurring groin injury. Never mind that he not only played, but he played hard, making a few key steals in the final minutes of regulation that allowed the game to go into overtime.

``That's just the type of kid he is, and that's why he's one of my favorites,'' said Welsh.

``What can I say about John Linehan? He goes out there basically on one leg, plays 30 minutes, gets four assists and three steals. He made some huge plays out there.''

Linehan had surgery for a hernia on Oct. 26. A week later, a blood clot forced him back into the hospital. And two days after that, the area became infected and had to be drained.

Linehan returned to the lineup in time for PC's matchup with Boston University. But the injury was reaggravated when he was kicked with a few minutes left in PC's game against University of Rhode Island.

He was injured again against Central Connecticut on Dec. 21 when an opposing player landed on him, forcing him to miss the Arkansas and Long Island games.

``He felt good the last few days and he practiced, so he was ready to play,'' Welsh said of his decision to play Linehan last night. ``I didn't have plans on playing him that much, but he looked a lot like his old self. I think his offensive timing was off a little bit, but defensively, he was up on the ball and making the plays out there.''

Photo
PC's Erron Maxey and Chris Kirkland battle for the rock.
Good points, bad points

Rebounding and free-throw shooting will be on the Friars' practice agenda as they prepare for Sunday's game against Fordham. PC shot 59 percent from the line for the game that included a 5-for-11 performance in the first half.

UMass outrebounded Providence, 49-32.

Welsh was pleased, however, with his team's defense, especially the Friars' coverage of the Minutemen's top scorer Monty Mack.

``We just hung around with our defense and really played very good man-to-man defense,'' said Welsh. `` (Donta) Wade and (Jamaal) Camah did an excellent job on Mack. He's as good a guard as we'll face all year. He's very difficult to defend.

Checking series history

Before last night's game, Providence and UMass last met on Nov. 11, 1980, when the Friars posted a 56-43 victory at the Civic Center. Providence holds a 22-5 edge in the New England rivalry and has won five out of the last six meetings.

What's ahead for UMass

Providence was UMass' fifth Big East opponent on its preconference schedule. The Minutemen split a pair of games with Boston College, fell to UConn and rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Villanova.

UMass has a week off before traveling to St. Bonaventure for its Atlantic-10 opener on Jan. 6. The Minutemen then return home to face Fordham on Jan. 8.


Tough way to end millennium
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 12/31/1999

PROVIDENCE This was not one to remember the 20th century by, but it will also be one the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team figures to remember well into the 21st.

"Bring on the new millennium please," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said as he leaned back in a chair, absorbing the events that led to Providence's 61-60 overtime victory last night. "We've lost a few tough ones in the last year, but we couldn't have played harder than we did tonight. Both teams left everything out on the floor."

One thing wasn't left on the Providence Civic Center floor, however the basketball. It passed through several sets of hands during a wild scramble with time running out in the overtime, and at least three times it looked as if UMass which led 60-59 at the time might latch onto it.

Instead, the ball squirted into the hands of Providence forward David Murray, who then turned around for an uncontested layup with 1.3 seconds left to win the game.

"Shannon Crooks dove after it, and the ball popped out," said UMass forward Chris Kirkland, describing the sequence that began from beyond the foul line. "It went past me and Anthony Oates, and into their guy's hands."

"You're always watching for the ball," said Murray, a 6-foot-9 junior who scored a career-high 14 points. "This time, I happened to get lucky."

"I can't say I designed that play," Providence coach Tim Welsh said after the Friars, playing UMass for the first time since 1980, improved to 7-5. "Sometimes, the ball just bounces funny."

The final play spoiled a comeback by UMass (6-6), which lost for the third time in four games but received heroic efforts from reserves Winston Smith and Anthony Oates. Smith's only points came on a jumper with 16.9 seconds left in regulation that tied the game 56-56, and Oates played a career-high 19 minutes while neutralizing Karim Shabazz, Providence's 7-foot-2 center.

"Coach always stresses being ready for when the chance comes," Oates said. "I work in practice to get Kit (Rhymer) and Micah (Brand) ready, but also myself."

Rhymer and Brand fouled out, but Oates was ready to help hold Shabazz, the tallest player in Friars' history, to only six of the Florida State transfer's 14 points after halftime.

Monty Mack scored 22 points, his fifth straight 20-point game for UMass. But Mack was only 8 for 23 from the floor, which Welsh said was the result of stellar defense from Providence guards Donta Wade and Jamal Camah.

"I don't know about that," Flint said. "I thought Monty was open a lot, and I thought he got some great looks. Over time, he'll knock those down."

UMass shot only 32.4 percent, wasting a 49-32 rebounding edge that included a season-high 26 offensive boards. The Minutemen had 17 offensive rebounds in the first half, when they trailed by as many as 11 (28-17) before facing a 32-27 halftime deficit.

Mack scored eight points in the first four minutes of the second half, and when Kirkland converted an alley-oop from Crooks with 9:32 left, UMass finally had a 46-45 lead.

Kirkland finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but missed 11 of 15 shots and admitted that it will be hard to get over this one. "To give such a great effort, scrapping all night, and then lose like that it hurts inside," he said.

Flint tried a different starting lineup with Mike Babul and Crooks, and Babul helped shut down Providence forward Erron Maxey, who fouled out with seven points 10 below his average. Crooks scored 17 and made some key defensive plays, forcing John Linehan to shoot an airball as regulation play expired, and then hounding Linehan into losing possession near midcourt in the overtime, leading to Mack's layup that tied the game 59-59.

Crooks also hit a free throw with 27 seconds left in OT, which would have been the winning point had Murray not been in the right place at the right time.


Smith and Oates deliver punch off the bench
UMass notebook
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 12/31/1999

PROVIDENCE Anthony Oates has scored four baskets since coming to the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 1998. Winston Smith has been in and out of the playing rotation ever since arriving in 1996.

Together, they combined to nearly rescue a cold-shooting UMass team last night against Providence, before David Murray's layup with 1.3 seconds left in overtime gave the Friars a 61-60 victory.

"We were banging bodies out there, but I think that's my strength, actually," said Oates, a 6-foot-10, 285-pound center who played a career-high 19 minutes, all but three after halftime, and shut down 7-2, 230-pound Providence center Karim Shabazz. "It's still discouraging to work as hard as we did and see the result go the other way, though."

Smith forced overtime with a jumper that tied the game 56-56 with 16.9 seconds left in regulation. It was the only shot he made in a 26-minute effort, and one of only three he tried.

But when UMass staggered out of the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic, Flint lamented the overall team effort but praised Smith, and he has also saluted the work effort of Oates.

"I was as surprised as anybody when Winston took that shot at the end of regulation, but he's been working every day at practice on his shooting," Flint said. "He tries to shoot a couple of hundred before or after practice each day.

"Winston plays with so much heart," Flint said. "He just lets it all hang out."

As for Oates, his specialty is becoming matchups against odd-sized opponents. He played only briefly against Florida State, but clamped down on Nigel Dixon, the Seminoles' 6-10, 380-pound reserve center.

"Anthony is a good screener, because he's huge," Flint said. "He's starting to come around. We can put him in a game and get some good minutes from him now."

Oates became especially important after both Kit Rhymer and Micah Brand fouled out Rhymer in only 15 minutes and Brand in 12. Shabazz had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Providence is 3-0 since he became eligible last week.

NOT AVAILABLE:

UMass reserve guard JoVann Johnson missed the game because of a death in the family. He's expected back for the Atlantic 10 Conference opener Thursday at home against St. Bonaventure.

That will be UMass' first game at Mullins Center in exactly a month.

LINEUP SWITCH:

By starting Shannon Crooks and Mike Babul with Monty Mack, Rhymer and Chris Kirkland, Flint put out for the first time the lineup that had been anticipated before the season began. Mack's preseason foot injury and the time Crooks needed to shake off a year of inactivity as a transfer have affected starting assignments for both.

Babul replaced Ronell Blizzard, who had averaged 2.5 ppg. as a starting forward in the last four games.

TIGHTENING UP:

Providence shot 60 percent in the first half last night, but only 28.6 in the second half.


Friars down UMass in overtime
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/31/1999

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - In a game that was ugly throughout and exciting down the stretch, David Murray's lay-up in the midst of chaos with 1.3 seconds left gave Providence College a 61-60 win over the University of Massachusetts in overtime Thursday night at the Providence Civic Center.

After Shannon Crooks sank one of two free throws with 27.7 seconds remaining in overtime, the Friars struggled to find a shot. Seeing a chance to seal a victory, Crooks lunged for a loose ball but couldn't contain it. It touched fingertips on several hands before bouncing to Murray, who coolly laid it in.

Monty Mack was unable to unload a desperation toss. The Friars pigpiled in celebration, while the Minutemen collapsed to the floor in exhausted defeat.

"We lost the game on a scramble," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "The ball just squirted out."

"Unfortunately I can't tell you I designed the last play," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "Sometimes the ball bounces around in games like this. It squirted loose. It was a lucky play and we won."

Despite the loss, Flint saluted his Minutemen (6-6) after the game.

"We got a great effort from everybody," Flint said. "We couldn't have played any harder. It was unbelievable. If we played like this in Puerto Rico we would have been undefeated. Both teams played extremely hard. Everybody left everything on the floor."

Senior captain Chris Kirkland echoed his coach's sentiment.

"If we keep playing hard like this, sooner or later, the ball is going to bounce our way," Kirkland said.

Murray and teammate Karim Shabazz led the Friars with 14 points. Shabazz also had a team-high 10 rebounds and five blocks.

Mack led UMass with 22 points despite making just eight of 23 shots. Crooks kept the Minutemen in it early and finished with 17 points. Kirkland added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

UMass was in foul trouble all night as centers Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand were whistled early and often and both fouled out in the second half. Anthony Oates played well in their place. Nevertheless, UMass turned in its best game on the glass this season, outrebounding Providence, 49-32. The Minutemen had 26 offensive rebounds, but were unable to capitalize as they shot just 42 percent from the floor for the game.

Murray gave the Friars the lead early in overtime with a driving lay-up as the shot clock ticked down. Crooks made one of two free throws at the other end, and Donta Wade matched him with one-of-two for the Friars to make it 59-57. A strip by Crooks led to a lay-up by Mack setting up the final sequence.

UMass' early struggles resulted from shooting trouble. With 6:12 remaining in the first half, UMass had missed 17 of its first 23 shots. Mack was way of the mark shooting 1-for-8 at that juncture (2-for-11 in the half). Providence on the other hand was rolling, making 10 of its first 17 to lead 26-17.

Jamal Camah hit a shot while driving to the basket to extend the Friars' lead to double digits at 28-17 with 5:42 remaining. But Crooks, who had a great first half, helped bring the Minutemen back, scoring six of his 11 first-half points in the final five minutes as UMass finished the half on a 10-4 run to pull within 32-27.

"Shannon has been playing well since Puerto Rico," Flint said. "He made some big plays for us."

Mack tried to shoot his way out of his slump in the second half as he scored UMass' first eight points after intermission, but still couldn't find the range as he missed several shots from a variety of distances.

"Mont missed a lot of shots tonight," Flint said. "He got some great looks. The shots just didn't fall."

Providence extended its lead back to double digits at 40-30 with 17:09 left in the game, but the Minutemen answered with a 19-5 run, capped by back-to-back dunks by Kirkland. Donta Wade buried a three to tie the game at 48-48.

Neither team led by more than two for the rest of regulation. Providence had the ball with a chance to put the game away with 25.6 seconds left ahead 56-54, but John Linehan slipped and Murray's inbound pass went out of bounds to give UMass another chance.

Winston Smith's only basket of the game was a big one as Crooks got him the ball for a wide-open jumper, which dropped in to tie the game with 16.9 seconds left. Providence called time out with 8.3 seconds left. But Linehan's would-be game-winning three-pointer was an air ball.


Luck isn't with the Minutemen
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/31/1999

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - It's hard to know which University of Massachusetts team is going to show up from game to game. The Minutemen's split personality goes beyond Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There is a Prof. Johnson and a Col. Sanders kicking around in there, too.

Whichever personality is the worst shooter is that one that was on hand in Providence Thursday night, but in terms of heart and desire, UMass brought the best it had to offer. From the get-go, the Minutemen were diving for loose balls and rebounding with reckless abandon. Even on the final play that ended up killing them, the Minutemen were playing to win. Unfortunately, time and luck weren't on their side.

The Minutemen that showed up in their final game of the calendar year were the same ones that came from behind to beat Villanova. Despite double-figure deficits, team-wide shooting slumps, foul trouble to their entire frontcourt and a hot-shooting Providence team that couldn't seem to miss at times in the first half, the Minutemen hung in and battled.

Looking nothing like they did on their hideous jaunt through Puerto Rico, the UMass players showed some pride and heart, traits that are often question marks with them.

Shannon Crooks still missed a lot of shots, but last night he looked more like the player that excited UMass during the preseason, driving to the basket gracefully and athletically. While many times this year his shots have hit the side, front and back of the rim on the way out, tonight, a hefty number of them fell through to keep UMass in the game early.

His defense was impressive as well, as his steals and strips led to some critical Minuteman baskets.

Even unlikely heros Anthony Oates and Winston Smith did their parts.

Due to foul trouble for starter Kitwana Rhymer and backup Micah Brand, Oates played a career-high 19 minutes. While he only scored two points and grabbed two rebounds, the basket was a big one, coming during UMass' comeback run early in the second half. He did a solid job defensively on PC star center Karim Shabazz.

"We needed him tonight," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. "He did a good job out there. He did a good job on Shabazz. He was a big body on him in there."

Smith tied his season-high with 26 including all of overtime and the end of regulation. In fact he sank an open jumper to force the extra five minutes. His alert time-out call from the floor underneath a pile saved an important UMass possession down the stretch, as well.

"Winston's been coming to practice early and staying late to work on his shot," Flint said. "He's been taking a couple hundred extra every day. He was waiting for the opportunity to take a big shot like that."

It still goes in the books as a loss and UMass isn't in a great spot to be happy with moral victories, but it was a step in the right direction.

"I feel much better about my team than I did a week ago," Flint said. "We had some real good practices leading up to this."

Inconsistency still reigns and which Minuteman team will show up next week against St. Bonaventure remains a considerable mystery. UMass could win by 10 or lose by 20, but Bruiser Flint was correct in a point he made after the game.

"If we play like we did tonight, We can win a lot of games," he said.

The only question is: Will they?


Massachusetts Minutemen 60 OT
Providence Friars 61
at Providence

MASSACHUSETTS (60)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Kirkland        43  4-15   4-8  7-11  1  4   12
Babul           19   0-3   0-0   2-3  1  0    0
Rhymer          15   0-3   1-2   1-2  0  5    1
Mack            42  8-23   3-5   3-8  2  2   22
Crooks          36  6-15   5-8   4-6  3  3   17
Oates           19   1-1   0-0   0-2  0  2    2
Depina          12   0-1   0-0   0-0  1  1    0
Blizzard         1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
Smith           26   1-3   0-0   1-4  1  2    2
Brand           12   2-4   0-0   2-7  0  5    4
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         225 22-68 13-23 20-43  9 25   60
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.324, FT-.565. 3-Point Goals:
3-12, .250 (Babul 0-1, Mack 3-10, Crooks 0-1).
Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 1 (Oates).
Turnovers: 18 (Crooks 5, Kirkland 3, Mack 2,
Rhymer 2, Smith 2, Babul, Brand, Depina). Steals:
7 (Mack 5, Brand, Depina).

PROVIDENCE (61)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Maxey           22   2-4   2-2   1-7  2  5    7
Murray          39   5-9   4-6   1-4  1  3   14
Shabazz         41  4-10  6-13  3-10  0  2   14
Linehan         30   1-4   2-2   0-0  4  4    5
Wade            35   5-6   1-2   1-4  0  4   13
Camah           33   3-7   2-4   0-3  2  1    8
Rogers           3   0-1   0-0   0-1  1  0    0
Mills           15   0-2   0-0   0-1  0  1    0
Augustin         4   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Cole             3   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         225 20-45 17-29  6-30 10 20   61
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.444, FT-.586. 3-Point Goals:
4-10, .400 (Maxey 1-1, Linehan 1-4, Wade 2-3,
Rogers 0-1, Augustin 0-1). Team rebounds: 2.
Blocked shots: 9 (Shabazz 5, Murray 2, Maxey,
Cole). Turnovers: 18 (Shabazz 4, Camah 3, Murray
3, Linehan 2, Maxey 2, Mills 2, Wade). Steals: 8
(Camah 3, Linehan 3, Murray, Shabazz).
_______________________________________
Massachusetts      27   29    4  -   60
Providence         32   24    5  -   61
_______________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 9,796. Officials: John
Cahill, Ed Corbett, Donnie Gray.

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