MHERST, Mass. | They're closing in on perfection, which probably doesn't mean much when you've lost three consecutive games.
The University of Dayton almost played 40 minutes of intense basketball, falling short by four minutes in the estimation of coach Oliver Purnell. Trouble is, that's when UMass took control, converting its free throws late as UD didn't to steal a 62-57 Atlantic 10 win at the Mullins Center Thursday night in front of 4,113 fans.
And now the Flyers (10-7, 1-3) prepare for La Salle after losses to Temple, St. Joseph's and UMass.
Once again the Flyers blew a commanding second-half advantage. They did it against Cincinnati, they did it against St. Joseph's and they did it last night after leading by 9 points with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Micah Brand gets in Yuanta Holland's way.
Tied at 57, UD forward Nate Green missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:28 remaining and UMass grabbed the rebound. Still tied at 57, UMass' Shannon Crooks made one of two free throws with 1:15 left.
With UMass up 58-57, Crooks again made one of two free throws at 33 seconds. UD's David Morris missed the front end of a one-and-one at 29 seconds, UMass rebounded the miss and Brand made two free throws to put the game away.
UMass improved to 5-10, 3-1.
"After we went up 9 ... we let them get transition baskets," Purnell said. "What hurt us was the offensive rebounds. Then we obviously missed critical free throws . We did a number of things to shoot ourselves in the foot."
Like letting the shot clock expire with 39.1 seconds remaining, down 58-57.
"Their big guys played well," Purnell said. "But we were in a position to win the game and didn't get it done."
UMass center Kitwana Rhymer totaled team highs in points (14) and rebounds (13). Brand, who at 6 foot 11 is one inch taller than Rhymer, added 14.
The Flyers did a nice job of stopping Monty Mack, who entered the game leading the Minutemen in scoring (18.2 points). The 6-foot-3 senior scored just 7 points and was 3-of-10 from the floor.
"Basically they had four or five guys go over there (and guard Mack)," Rhymer said. "I guess they didn't think anybody else could score."
Mack was defended by Brooks Hall, Nate Green and Tony Stanley, among others.
"We told our team not one guy was going to guard him," Purnell said. "We're all going to guard him. We did a good job of recognizing where he was."
MHERST — The University of Dayton proved it could stop Monty Mack, but the University of Massachusetts proved it could find other ways to win. It's hard to say which was more surprising.
"We wanted to post the ball, because we thought we had an incredible height advantage and Dayton doesn't double-team in the post," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said after the Minutemen (5-10, 3-1 Atlantic 10 Conference) won before 4,113 fans, a new Mullins Center low. "And we're making plays at the end of games that we hadn't been making."
Next up for UMass is tomorrow night's game against Duquesne at the Civic Center. It's the team's first Springfield appearance since 1995.
"As long as we play the way we can play there's no reason we can't contend for the Atlantic 10 championship," Flint said.
Dayton (10-7, 1-3) lost its third straight despite holding Mack to seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. Mack had been averaging 24.8 points per game in Atlantic 10 play, and the strategy looked good with 12 minutes left and the Flyers leading 45-36.
Rhymer's power game was too much for Dayton.
Rhymer tied his career scoring high.
Rogers had been heckled Saturday at St. Bonaventure, a school he nearly attended. On Sunday, Flint told his junior forward to shrug it off because he was showing progress, and Rogers responded.
"Every time we got the ball to Monty, Dayton had four guys going to his side," Rogers said. "I guess they didn't think the rest of us could score."
It worked in the first half, when Dayton took a 32-26 lead. The Flyers hit 6 of 7 3-point shots in the first half, but only 2 of 13 in the second.
"Tony Stanley was hitting every shot," Rhymer said of the Dayton guard, who scored 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including all three of his first-half 3-pointers. "But we knew he couldn't go on like that all night."
Freshman center Keith Waleskowski scored 11 points with eight rebounds for Dayton. His 3-point play that gave the Flyers their last lead (55-53) with 4:13 left.
It was 57-57 when Crooks hit a free throw with 1:15 left, but it wasn't comfortable until Brand's two free throws with 26 seconds to go made it 61-57.
UMass won a 33-25 rebounding battle against a team that had outrebounded its previous opponents by five a game. The Minutemen were also a clutch 11 for 14 from the line, and shot 59.1 percent from the floor in the second half.
Dayton shot 57.1 percent in the first half, and led 32-21 until UMass scored the half's last five points. The Flyers cooled off with 34.4 second-half shooting, when their constant defensive attention on Mack also boomeranged.
"When you play UMass, you can't allow Mack to run around," said Dayton coach Oliver Purnell, defending the plan. "We did a good job recognizing where he was."
The UMass guards shot 4 for 19. Flint said winning behind the post players was good for their confidence, but he also said the Minutemen won't win often if Mack is off.
"Monty was awful, but he also had a bad toothache," Flint said. "We can try to win without him, and tonight we did. But we still need him to step up."
MHERST — In the first half of last night's men's basketball game between Dayton and the University of Massachusetts, the Minutemen went 1 for 7 on 3-point shots.
At halftime, 10-year-old Derek Murdza showed them how it's done, and he had the cheers of the Mullins Center crowd ringing off the walls. They kept roaring until the end of the 62-57 UMass win, but it was a fifth-grader from South Hadley Middle School — an economy-sized athlete even for his age — who had won their hearts.
"I don't know — it just fell for me," said Murdza, who hit three shots — including a 3-pointer — to win gift certificates from two restaurants and also a night at the Colonnade, a fancy hotel in Boston. "I was a little nervous, but once I got out there, I was fine."
Murdza handled the pressure of performing before 4,113 fans like a pro. He made a layup and then a free throw for the gift certificates, then knocked down the 3-point shot for the night at the hotel.
Murdza took one more shot, a half-court heave for a car. He gave it a fine try but fell short, then left to a thunderous ovation.
The 1,000th victory in UMass basketball history drew little notice, and UMass coach Bruiser Flint put it in perspective.
"We've been at it for 92 seasons," Flint said.
The school's first game was Jan. 10, 1900, but there was no team from 1909-16, and World War II also suspended operations.
"Some schools have 1,300 or 1,400 wins," Flint said. "But we're getting there."
When former Dayton coach Jim O'Brien took over the Boston Celtics, his former constituency was happy but not startled.
"It seemed like a foregone conclusion, so nobody was very surprised," Dayton sports information director Doug Hauschild said.
O'Brien was chief assistant to Celtics coach Rick Pitino, and took over when Pitino resigned Jan. 8.
O'Brien's first Dayton team, in 1989-90, went 22-10 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. But after going 10-47 from 1992-94, he was fired.
"He had some bad breaks with a couple of recruits," Hauschild said. "But people in Dayton are happy he's now getting his shot."
Ronell Blizzard made his second start, replacing Winston Smith at small forward. Smith was being punished for what Flint called "immaturity at practice" but was used off the bench and will start tomorrow against Duquesne, the coach said.
The game featured piped-in music, as the UMass pep band, along with the marching band, is participating in inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C. . . . UMass is playing well, but one fan's sign said "Help Wanted: UMass head coach." And the introduction of the coaches has been omitted after the starting lineups have been announced.
MHERST - The line between a lousy team that played a few good games and a good team that had a lousy start continued to blur Thursday as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team took another big step toward resurrecting its season.
Riding the strength of impressive frontcourt play, UMass came from 10 points down in the second half to defeat Dayton, 62-57, at the Mullins Center in front of 4,113 fans.
The Flyers pulled ahead early, bombing away from 3-point land, but UMass patiently delivered the ball inside and eventually took over.
Prior to the game, the Minuteman guards had accounted for 48.5 percent of the team's scoring, but on Thursday they scored just 11 points (17.7 percent), by far their lowest output this season. Leading scorer Monty Mack had just seven.
But the center and power forward spots made up the difference, accounting for UMass' first 21 points and 49 points in the game. The Minutemen game plan called for them to post the ball and they executed it effectively.
Kit Rhymer had a big game against a smaller Flyer defense.
"Obviously, their big people hurt us inside," Dayton coach Oliver Purnell said. "Their big guys really kept them in it. I'm really impressed with them. Rhymer obviously had a big ballgame. Rogers came off the bench and was outstanding."
"This was good for our big guys because they got a lot of confidence," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "It gives you confidence that you can win a game without Monty Mack stepping up."
Tony Stanley led Dayton (10-7, 1-3 A-10) with 23 points.
The Minutemen (5-10, 3-1 Atlantic 10) return to action at 7 p.m. Saturday against Duquesne at the Springfield Civic Center.
UMass overcame its second straight double-digit deficit at home. Leading 32-26 at intermission, Dayton opened the second half with a 6-2 spurt that put the Flyers ahead, 38-28, with just under 17 minutes to play.
That lead flexed from four to nine until midway through the half. With UMass trailing, 48-41, Rhymer caught the ball on the low block, split two defenders, laid the ball in and was fouled in the process. He made the free throw with 9:45 left to spark a game-tying 7-0 run that included two baskets by Rogers.
Two baseline lay-ins by Dayton freshman Keith Waleskowski put the Flyers back in front, 52-48, but the momentum had shifted in UMass' favor. Another three-point play by Rhymer followed a driving baseline floater by Mack to give UMass its first lead since 8-5 at 53-52, with 5:28 remaining.
The teams went back and forth for the next three minutes with neither leading by more than a basket.
Shannon Crooks broke a 57-57 tie, hitting the second of two free throws to put the Minutemen ahead, 58-57, with 1:14 left.
The Minutemen walk off victorious.
A David Morris foul sent Crooks to the line, and again he hit just one of two, nudging the UMass lead to 59-57.
Dayton had a chance to tie it, when Mack was whistled for a touch foul on Morris. But the Flyer point guard missed the front end of the one-and-one and Brand came down with the rebound. He was fouled immediately and made both free throws to clinch the victory.
The Flyers were on fire from long range in the first half, making six of seven 3-pointers and building a lead that reached its peak at 28-17 on Stanley's third 3-pointer of the half.
Tip-ins by Rhymer and Rogers brought UMass within seven at 28-21, but two free throws by Stanley and a lay-in by Nate Green pulled the visitors' advantage back to 11 at 32-21.
Mack's 3-pointer off the glass from the corner with 1:44 left in the half was the first basket in the game by a UMass guard. After the two teams traded turnovers, Ronell Blizzard stripped Green and fed the ball to Crooks for an uncontested layup with two seconds left, making the score 32-26 at halftime.
Despite the deficit, the UMass players knew Dayton couldn't keep up its shooting pace.
"Stanley was hitting every shot. We knew he couldn't continue that all night," Rhymer said.
UMass outscored Dayton, 44-21, in the paint and outrebounded the Flyers, 33-25.
The numbers are more encouraging because the Minutemen enjoy a similar size advantage against most of their A-10 foes.
"We wanted to post ball, because we thought we had an unbelievable size advantage against them," Flint said.
MHERST - The notoriously nasty St. Bonaventure fans set their sights on University of Massachusetts forward Jackie Rogers as he left the court Saturday.
Rogers, who had spurned the Bonnies' recruiting overtures to go to UMass after playing at Barton County (Kan.) Community College, had played just 10 minutes and scored just three points in the Minutemen's 66-65 loss. The Reilly Center crowd was giving him a hard time, telling him he should have become a Bonnie.
After losing his starting job six games into the season and watching his minutes dwindle since, Rogers wondered if they were right. He and coach Bruiser Flint had a heart-to-heart talk Sunday, and both player and coach came away feeling better.
"He was struggling," Flint said. "Since Christmas time, he's been coming up with rebounds and playing better defensively. On Sunday I said, 'You're going to have a breakout game.' This one was it."
Jackie Rogers slams home 2 of his 16 points.
"It gave me a good boost to show Bru what I can do," Rogers said. "Now he realizes I can help the team coming off the bench."
Rogers' first three shots set the tone for his day.
"When I made my first three shots, it gave me a boost," he said. "Coach said go to the hoop strong and I kept making it, so he kept calling my play."
FAVORITE FOE: Since the Flyers joined the Atlantic 10 in the 1995-96 season, the UMass big men have enjoyed playing against them. Marcus Camby's career-high 38 points came against Dayton in 1996, a total that is the fourth highest single-game total by a UMass player.
Lari Ketner had 33 against Dayton on his 21st birthday in 1998 for his second best total in his three-year career (he had 34 vs. St. Joseph's). Thursday, Kitwana Rhymer and Rogers matched and set their respective career highs with 19 and 16 points.
Dayton coach Oliver Purnell said those numbers are more a reflection of UMass' talent than of his defense.
"Marcus Camby and Lari Ketner are good big guys and Rhymer's turning into a good big guy and (Micah) Brand won't be far behind," he said.
Brand, who had 14 points, saw an odd statistical streak end. UMass had been 0-6 in games in which he'd scored in double-figures prior to Thursday's win.
MILESTONE CENTRAL: Regardless of who won the game, the official ball was slated to be saved for posterity.
The Minutemen will put the ball in their trophy case after picking up win No. 1,000 in the history of the program, while Dayton coach Oliver Purnell will have to wait at least one more game to get his 100th career win at Dayton.
BLIZZARD STARTS: Junior Ronell Blizzard made his sixth career start and his second of the season at small forward in place of Winston Smith. Flint said Smith, who played 25 minutes, was briefly benched due to immaturity. Smith will be back in the lineup Saturday against Duquesne. UMass is 3-3 when Blizzard starts.
STREAK SNAPPING: Monty Mack's toothache-plagued seven-point effort ended several streaks for the fifth-year senior.
Entering the game, he had scored 20 or more points in five consecutive games, and had been in double digits in six straight games. He was UMass' leading scorer in all six of those games as well.
In 108 career games, Thursday marked only the 13th time Mack failed to score at least 10. Three of those occasions came this season.
MINUTEMEN VS.: UMass is now 3-5 versus Catholic schools, (with seven left), 2-1 vs. schools from Ohio (two more) and 2-5 vs. 2000 NCAA Tournament teams (four more).
SECOND FIDDLE: The Minuteman band had better places to be than at the game Thursday night. It missed out on the UMass "W" over Dayton to take part in "W's" inauguration festivities Saturday in Washington, D.C.
MHERST - Even though last night's win represented the 1,000th in UMass men's basketball history, the Minutemen were far more concerned with some other numbers: 3-1.
Using solid front-court play and clutch last-minute foul shooting, UMass picked up a hard-fought, 62-57 victory over Atlantic 10 rival Dayton last night at the Mullins Center. With the win, the Minutemen improved their record to a hardly impressive 5-10, but their A-10 mark stands at a spiffy 3-1. The Flyers, a team picked by some to win the A-10 this season, are 1-3 in conference.
The victory was even more noteworthy considering that UMass' leading scorer Monty Mack only contributed seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Picking up the slack were center Kitwana Rhymer, who compiled 19 points and 13 tough rebounds, and Jackie Rogers, who threw in a career-high 16 points off the bench.
The result was the Minutemen's third win in four games and the team's dismal start is beginning to become a distant memory.
``We didn't win these games early,'' coach Bruiser Flint said. ``We missed free throws, we didn't come up with rebounds. But we've been able to make these plays the last couple of games.
``Anyone who looks at the box score and sees that Monty Mack only had seven points is going to wonder how we won the game,'' he added. ``But it gave our other guys confidence that they can get it done without him, when they have to.''
Last night, that especially rang true for Rhymer, Rogers and forward Micah Brand (14 points). All three combined to dominate inside play at both ends of the floor against the Flyers and, ultimately, led the charge that gave UMass a lead with just over five minutes to play - its first since the game's 1:30 mark.
The Flyers (10-7) had taken a 32-26 halftime lead on the power of their uncommonly deep perimeter unit. Tony Stanley was 3-for-3, Brooks Hall 2-for-2 and point guard David Morris 1-for-1 from 3-point range in the first half.
All three cooled off over the last 20 minutes - though Stanley finished with a game-high 23 points - as the Minutemen picked up their perimeter defensive effort.
And with Mack blanketed - he took his first shot of the second half on a layup with 11:40 left - the inside game took charge.
Rhymer grabbed eight of his 13 rebounds in the second half. His three-point play, after sticking back a Winston Smith miss, gave the Minutemen a 53-52 edge with 5:28 to go.
Keith Waleskowski took it back with a backdoor cut for a three-point play of his own, but the Minutemen had found their range. Rhymer, fouled while snaring a defensive board in traffic, hit two free throws to tie the game at 55 with 3:30 left, and Brand broke the tie with a back-cut off Shannon Crooks' bullet pass. Stanley tied the game at 57 with a 15-footer, only for Crooks to hit a free throw for a 58-57 edge with 1:14 left.
Brand then supplied the game's major defensive play, blocking a Morris drive and forcing a Dayton shot clock violation. Crooks followed with a free throw for a 59-57 edge with 32 seconds left, and when Morris missed a free throw after being fouled by Mack in the backcourt, Brand hit two more foul shots.
Rhymer, after grabbing board No. 13 off a Hall miss, sealed this one with a free throw with 15 seconds left.
MHERST - Before the season started, Jackie Rogers was hyped as a major part of the solution for the UMass frontcourt.
And though the 6-foot-6 junior transfer's progress has come at a much slower pace than anyone imagined, the best parts of his game may be finally arriving.
His career-high 16-point performance - combined with 19 points from Kitwana Rhymer and 14 from Micah Brand - helped turn the UMass frontcourt into an overpowering unit during last night's 62-57 win over Dayton at the Mullins Center.
``We had a big talk on Sunday,'' said coach Bruiser Flint. ``Since Christmas, he's been doing some things that make you say, `You know what? He wasn't doing that a couple of games ago.'
``Plus the fans were on him (last Saturday) up at St. Bonaventure, telling him he was a bum, and that he should have gone there,'' he said. ``So this was good for him.''
Rogers, who shot 8-of-9 from the floor, hit his first three shots - something that supplied enough fuel to carry him the rest of the night.
Mack was the target
At least part of Dayton's game plan worked with almost flawless precision last night, as evidenced by Monty Mack's 3-for-10 shooting from the field and seven-point output.
``We decided that no one guy would guard him - that we all would,'' said Dayton coach Oliver Purnell. ``We weren't just going to let him run off screens and get his shot.''
There was a downside to this, for a change. The UMass frontcourt picked up the offensive slack.
``Every time (Mack) got the ball, they had four or five guys going to that side,'' said Rogers. ``I guess they didn't think the rest of us could score.''
Ronell Blizzard, whose markedly improved play has resulted in an important role in the rotation this season, started in place of Winston Smith last night. Flint would only say that he made the decision because of ``immaturity'' on Smith's part during the week.
``But that's it,'' said Flint. ``He'll be back in there (as a starter) in the next game.''
|at the Mullins Center|
DAYTON (57) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Green 26 3-7 0-3 2-3 2 4 6 Hall 34 2-8 0-0 0-2 3 0 6 Holland 24 3-7 0-0 2-4 0 4 6 Stanley 35 8-14 2-2 3-3 1 1 23 Morris 32 2-7 0-1 0-1 7 3 5 Marshall 13 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 Smith 6 0-1 0-0 1-3 0 1 0 Waleskowski 29 5-7 1-1 2-8 1 4 11 Finn 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 23-53 3-7 10-24 15 17 57 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.434, FT-.429. 3-Point Goals: 8-20, .400 (Hall 2-6, Stanley 5-11, Morris 1-2, Marshall 0-1). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 3 (Holland, Stanley, Waleskowski). Turnovers: 8 (Morris 4, Marshall, Smith, Waleskowski). Steals: 4 (Hall 2, Morris, Stanley). MASSACHUSETTS (62) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Blizzard 11 0-0 0-0 1-2 1 2 0 Brand 19 5-8 4-4 1-4 0 4 14 Rhymer 37 7-11 5-6 3-13 3 2 19 Mack 35 3-10 0-0 0-3 1 2 7 Crooks 37 1-7 2-4 1-3 5 0 4 Depina 12 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 Rogers 20 8-9 0-0 2-2 0 3 16 Smith 25 1-2 0-0 1-3 2 0 2 Williams 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 25-49 11-14 9-30 13 14 62 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.510, FT-.786. 3-Point Goals: 1-9, .111 (Mack 1-7, Crooks 0-1, Smith 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 5 (Brand 2, Blizzard, Rhymer, Crooks). Turnovers: 11 (Brand 4, Rogers 2, Blizzard, Crooks, Mack, Rhymer, Williams). Steals: 3 (Blizzard, Depina, Rogers). __________________________________ Dayton 32 25 - 57 Massachusetts 26 36 - 62 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 4,113. Officials: Tom Lopes, Robert Donato, Ed Corbett.