orget the records. When you size up Dayton's chances of winning tonight at Massachusetts, disregard the fact that the Flyers are 10-6 and the Minutemen are 4-10.
These teams are not from opposite ends of the spectrum, no matter what the records suggest.
Massachusetts has one of the Atlantic 10 Conference's best players in guard Monty Mack and a strong supporting cast that includes four players bigger and wider than anyone in a Dayton uniform.
"They're more balanced this year," UD coach Oliver Purnell said Wednesday before the Flyers departed on the trip to Amherst. They're getting more out of their other people than they have been."
UMass will have 6-foot-10, 256-pound Kitwana Rhymer and 6-11, 243-pound Micah Brand in the starting lineup against Dayton's 6-7, 220-pound Yuanta Holland and 6-6, 235-pound Nate Green.
The Minutemen played a very difficult nonconference schedule, losing to Providence, Ohio State, Connecticut, Boston College and North Carolina. They brought a 2-9 record into their Atlantic 10 opener with George Washington and trounced the Colonials, 76-60. Then they handed Xavier its first loss at the new Cintas Center, 75-64.
On Saturday afternoon, they nearly won their third in a row at St. Bonaventure, one of the toughest places to play in the league, but lost on a last-second shot.
Dayton had a tough practice Tuesday evening, emphasizing stronger defensive play. Purnell said he could see the improvement in the players' defensive commitment against what he saw in recent losses to Temple and St. Joseph's.
The Flyers worked out again at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning but not because Purnell was punishing them.
"We practiced early so we wouldn't miss classes," said Purnell, who reported that all of the players appeared to be healthy when it ended.
This will be Dayton's fourth trip to the Mullins Center. The Flyers were beaten, 78-58, on Jan. 6, 1996, when Marcus Camby and the Minutemen were ranked No. 1 in the country. They lost, 85-69, in 1988 but won last year at Amherst, 57-52, after trailing, 30-18, at the half. Dayton had some success with a full-court press in the second half.
"They knocked down some shots, and they pressed and we didn't handle it," UMass coach James "Bruiser" Flint recalled. "We have to handle their pressure."
Purnell indicated that UD probably would press the Minutemen at some point during tonight's game but not from start to finish. "I don't think we have the depth to do that for 40 minutes," he said.
Flint said Massachusetts has started to win because Mack and Shannon Crooks, the starting guards, have been playing well.
"Their decision-making was shaky," Flint said. "That's how it was going into January. Monty has played unbelievably well. He's made it easier on everyone else. He wasn't playing the way Monty Mack plays — making curls and coming off screens. In the beginning of the season he was trying to catch and go one-on-one. Now he's using his screens a lot better."
FLYER NOTES UD will try for the third time to get Purnell his 100th victory as UD's coach . . . The Flyers haven't lost three in a row since dropping the last three regular season games to Virginia Tech, Xavier and La Salle in 1998-99 . . .
UD point guard David Morris has only 14 turnovers in the last seven games. . . . The Flyers return home to face La Salle at 4 p.m. Sunday. After that, they are on the road for three of the next four. Dayton is at St. Bonaventure on Jan. 25, home against Fordham on Jan. 27, then at Xavier Jan. 30 and at Duquesne Feb. 3.
MHERST — When a team is struggling in the present, the impact of history holds a reduced level of importance.
Perhaps that's why the historical significance of tonight's men's basketball game between the University of Massachusetts and Dayton remains a footnote, not a headline. But the fact remains that if UMass captures tonight's 7:30 game at the Mullins Center, it will represent victory number 1,000 in the school's 101-year basketball history.
The Minutemen are 4-10 this season, and 2-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and those are the numbers on their minds.
"We might do something small to recognize (1,000 wins)," UMass associate athletic director Bill Strickland said. "We don't plan anything major, though."
First, of course, UMass has to win. The Minutemen nearly reached the milestone Saturday, but lost 66-65 at St. Bonaventure.
After tonight's game against Dayton (10-6, 1-2), the Minutemen play Duquesne Saturday night at the Springfield Civic Center, and coach Bruiser Flint is more concerned with the present and the future than the past.
"Dayton's bench has been getting a little more experience and contributing more," he said. "And they still have good, experienced players like Tony Stanley, Brooks Hall, David Morris and Yuanta Holland. They're used to playing in big games."
The Flyers still rely on Stanley, a 6-foot-4 senior averaging 17.1 points and 4.3 rebounds. Last year, he was one of only seven players in the nation to record at least 50 3-point baskets, 50 offensive rebounds, 50 assists and 50 steals.
But while Stanley does a little of everything, he doesn't do it by himself. Holland, a 6-7 senior, has made the most of increased playing time this season and is averaging 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Freshman reserve center Keith Waleskowski (10.5 points, 7.1 rebounds per game), sophomore forward Nate Green (9.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg), sophomore swingman Hall (8.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg), point guard Morris (7.2 ppg, 5.2 apg) and freshman guard Ramod Marshall (6.0 ppg) have all delivered for coach Oliver Purnell's well-balanced team.
Green is a solid 6-6, 235-pound defender who is also shooting 62.9 percent from the field. Holland (55.8 percent) and Waleskowski (54.4) also don't miss often for a team that made early-season noise at the Maui Invitational, beating Connecticut and Maryland and losing to Arizona.
UMass hasn't enjoyed such balance, and one reason the Minutemen aren't making a fuss about the 1,000-victory milestone is that they had expected to reach it by now.
UMass entered the season with 995 wins, and its all-time record — dating back to a 14-9 win over the Northampton YMCA Jan. 10, 1900 — is 999-889.
Lately, UMass has been lifted by a better showing from senior guard Monty Mack, who is averaging 24.8 points in Atlantic 10 play and 18.2 overall.
After a cold nonconference stretch, is shooting 42.4 percent in league play, which has lifted his season percentage to 32.9. He has also made eight of 17 3-point shots in his last two games.
The 6-3 guard injured his left knee in the final seconds against St. Bonaventure, but has practiced and says he's ready.
Flint thinks Mack's early-season slump was nothing more than a matter of careless fundamentals the guard is now correcting.
"It was his whole approach to coming off screens," Flint said. "We showed him tape, and we talked to him about the things he's got to do. He had gone away from what had made him good."
"I wasn't coming off screens the right way," Mack said. "I wasn't being a threat at all time. I've gone back to doing the things that make me effective."
Even with the improved accuracy of late, Mack is shooting a lukewarm 31.6 percent from 3-point range this year. Point guard Shannon Crooks is second on the team in scoring (10.3 ppg) but is only at 21.6 percent on 3-pointers.
More than shooting, however, Flint says UMass must cut down on its turnovers. It had 17 against St. Bonaventure, including some very costly ones down the stretch.
"We're playing better, but we didn't do the right things at certain times," he said. "We almost made up for it with a comeback at the end, but we still have to make better decisions."
MHERST - University of Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint may never entirely get over missing out on Tony Stanley.
Growing up, Flint used to play pickup basketball games with Stanley's older cousins, since Flint's and Stanley's boyhood homes are just a few blocks apart in Philadelphia.
But Stanley moved to Arlington, Va., early in high school and Flint lost track of him. After Stanley scored 18 for Dayton against the Minutemen in a 59-57 UMass overtime win two years ago, Flint made the connection.
"It was two of his cousins that I used to play ball with growing up," Flint said. "I was upset because they never let me know about him or he might have been in a UMass uniform. But he moved away after his freshman year. I don't let too many kids get out of my neighborhood."
Stanley, now a senior guard, will lead Dayton against Flint's Minutemen Thursday at 7:30 at the Mullins Center.
Had Flint found Stanley early enough and successfully recruited him, Stanley and current UMass star Monty Mack might have been competing for playing time, or sharing the backcourt.
Now, however, Flint said the two enjoy playing against one another.
"That's always been a good battle," Flint said. "Those guys always go hard at each other. It's going to be another good one (Thursday)."
"Playing against him will be a challenge," Mack said. "He likes to rebound, so I have to try my hardest to box him out."
Mack, who injured his left knee in Saturday's loss to St. Bonaventure, said he's OK.
"It's a little stiff when I wake up in the morning, but otherwise it's fine," Mack said.
In the past two years, the battles have been relatively even, with Mack averaging 14.5 points in the two meetings versus Stanley's 14.0 points. Both players have led their teams to one win.
Stanley is the Flyers' leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, while Mack leads UMass with 18.2. Mack enters the game on a tear. He's scored 20 or more in the last five games, the first Minuteman to do that since Jim McCoy did it in the 1988-89 season.
Dayton has had an up-and-down season and enters the game on a bit of a downswing.
The Flyers were the toast of the nation early when they upset Connecticut and Maryland at the Maui Classic. After dropping two in a row, to Cincinnati and Marshall, Dayton won three in a row.
A surprising loss to Old Dominion was followed by a five-game winning streak that vaulted the Flyers to 10-4.
But double-digit losses to Temple (68-58) and St. Joseph's (84-71) bring Dayton to Amherst reeling a bit.
"Now we got to (play) UMass and it doesn't get any easier," Dayton coach Oliver Purnell said. "What they did against Xavier didn't surprise me. They have a solid all-around team and when Mack gets on a tear it takes them to a different level offensively."
Purnell said whichever team executes better defensively likely will win.
"They are as good a man-to-man team as there is in the league. This will be a tough game for us," Purnell said. "We're a little streaky on offense, but we can't let up defensively if we're going to have success."
That's been a concern. Dayton has held second-half leads in all six losses.
For the Minutemen, the key will be avoiding costly turnovers, as Dayton starter David Morris isn't likely to reciprocate if they don't. In the last five games, Morris has had 27 assists and just five turnovers. By comparison, Shannon Crooks had seven turnovers against St. Bonaventure.
"In that Bonnies game, we threw the ball away at crucial times," Flint said. "We gave up a lot of turnovers for baskets."
NOTE: The Minutemen are competing for the 1,000th win in the history of the program after picking up No. 999 last week against Xavier. UMass' all-time record is 999-889.