ROVIDENCE - For most of the first half, Monty Mack kept pace with Rhode Island by himself.
Kit Rhymer gets ready to rock.
Mack finished with a season-high 29 points, while Jackie Rogers added 13 and Shannon Crooks scored 10. Zach Marbury led the Rams with 22 points.
The win, their fifth straight, brings the Minutemen within a game of .500 at 9-10. At 7-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, they temporarily stood alone in first place Tuesday, a half game ahead of St. Joseph's. Xavier joined UMass at 7-1 with a win over Dayton later in the evening. St. Joseph's plays St. Bonaventure Thursday.
The game marked the collegiate debut of Amherst native walk-on Dwayne Killings, who had two rebounds in 1:35 of action.
Mack's 47th 20-point game broke a school record, passing Julius Erving, who scored 20 in 46 of his 52 career games.
The Minutemen return to action Saturday at noon when they play host to Fordham.
"We have to put this behind us now," Mack said. "Our concentration is on Fordham for Saturday."
In the first half, Mack looked like he might make a run at Billy Tindall's school record of 41 points in a game (1968) with 21 points in the first half. Had the game been close, he might have done it, as he had a good shooting night, hitting 11 of 19 shots.
But as the Minuteman lead expanded, Mack took his finger off the trigger.
"This was good for us," Mack said. "We went out and played hard and had some fun."
"He's a good scorer," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "Because he's been playing the way he's been playing, it's opened things up for a lot of other guys."
After the Rams kept the game relatively close for most of the first half, the Minutemen went into intermission with a 35-22 lead after an 11-2 run.
Rhode Island wing guard Howard Smith opened the second half with a 3-pointer, briefly exciting the Rhode Island fans in the generously-listed crowd of 4,355.
It didn't last long. The Minutemen answered Smith's trey with a 15-5 run that made the score 50-30. Mack proved he didn't have any ambitions for record setting during that stretch. He passed up a semi-open shot near the foul line and fed an open Kitwana Rhymer on the baseline for a lay-up that turned into a three-point play.
"I was just basically taking the shots that they gave me," Mack said. "If I was open I was going to shoot it."
Flint began emptying his bench, getting seldom-used freshmen Jameel Pugh and Willie Jenkins into the game for most of the final seven minutes. The reserves widened the lead, finishing the game on an 18-6 run to produce UMass' biggest margin of victory this year.
The Rams were as miserable as their 6-16 (1-7 A-10) record and depleted roster suggested. They finished with five assists, while Marbury had six turnovers by himself and Howard Smith and Dinno Daniels had five each.
With starting URI power forward Tiger Womack out with pneumonia, UMass dominated the boards, 45-22.
The two teams play again, this time at the Mullins Center, Feb. 20 at 9:30 p.m.
ROVIDENCE - With the University of Massachusetts' lead over Rhode Island ballooning throughout the second half, the Minutemen began needling Dwayne Killings a little bit.
While the freshman walk-on from Amherst tried not to look too excited as he sat on the bench, his teammates were elbowing him and shaking his shoulders as everyone knew he was going to get into his first college game shortly.
"As time started running out I started getting more and more nervous," Killings admitted.
With 1:35 left in the game and Jackie Rogers at the foul line, UMass coach Bruiser Flint turned and pointed to Killings.
His teammates patted him on the back as he ran past them to the scorer's table to check in, pulling off his shooting shirt to reveal his No. 12 game jersey.
In his short time on the floor, Killings grabbed two rebounds, with his second coming on the offensive end. He tried to put it back in, but Rhody center Andrew Wafula blocked it.
"My teammates said I should have backed that rebound out and shot a 3-pointer instead of going up against him," Killings said. "I must have been thinking I was still over at Amherst High."
Despite the rejection, Killings was all smiles after the game.
"It was fun," Killings said. "I was really excited to finally get out there. The guys were saying all game that they wanted to get me, Jameel (Pugh) and Willie (Jenkins)and chance to play."
Mack said the UMass players tried to build the lead so Flint could empty the bench.
"Guys play a little bit harder to try to let the guys that don't get much playing time get in and have some fun," said Mack, whose 29 points helped that cause.
Flint was happy for Killings.
"He's a great kid," Flint said. "So you really want to see him get into the game. He's been great for the team."
COMINGS AND GOINGS: The Rhode Island roster remained chaotic as it has all season. Tavorris Bell, who had been declared academically ineligible for the last seven games, was reinstated Tuesday but didn't play. He is expected to play Saturday at Temple.
Despite the fact that he was averaging 20.8 points per game when he left, Bell had to convince Providence Civic Center security that he was a member of the team. They questioned him as he came into the building.
Starting power forward Tiger Womack got in the arena fine, but stayed in street clothes, with pneumonia. Lazare Adingono's immigration problems, which kept him out of Saturday's game with La Salle, were cleared up, and the Cameroon native made his home debut for the Rams.
WISHFUL THINKING?: ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi runs a weekly bracket prediction for the NCAA Tournament. Despite UMass' sub-.500 record, he has the Minutemen in the field of 64 as the A-10's automatic bid. If Lunardi is Nostradamus, then the Minutemen will be a No. 14 seed in the Midwest Regional, facing No. 3 Maryland.
MISCELLANEOUS: Former UMass small forward Mike Babul was at Tuesday's game. Currently working in Stoughton, Babul turned down an offer to finish the season in Germany's professional league, likely ending his basketball career... There was a moment of silence prior to the game to remember the victims of the plane crash over the weekend that claimed the lives of two Oklahoma State players and eight other members of the basketball traveling party.
ROVIDENCE - In the process of turning its men's basketball season around, the University of Massachusetts has shown it can be a winning team, if not necessarily a dominant one.
Bruiser didn't have to coach too hard against the Rams, they dug themselves in the hole with 23 turnovers.
Monty Mack scored a season-high 29 points for UMass, hitting 11 of 19 shots and setting a new UMass career record for 20-point games with 47. He passed Julius Erving, although it should be noted that Dr. J's 46 games of at least 20 points came in a brief two-year, 52-game career.
"I was just worried about going out and playing my game, not the points," said Mack, who is 42 points shy of 2,000 in his career. "Our goal was to slow down our offense, but when we had the (fast) break, we took it."
UMass (9-10, 7-1 Atlantic 10) used a 30-12 run to flatten Rhode Island (5-16, 1-7). The spurt over a 15-minute period extended from the first half into the second, and gave the Minutemen a 54-32 lead.
UMass moved a half-game ahead of St. Joseph's (6-1) in the three-way fight for first place in the Atlantic 10. Xavier took a 6-1 record into last night's home game against Dayton.
Jackie Rogers scored 13 points with six rebounds for UMass. All his points, and all but one rebound, came in the second half. Eric Williams' 10 rebounds were a season high.
After sweeping three straight road games, UMass returns home Saturday against Fordham. Rhode Island visits the Mullins Center Feb. 20, by which time the Rams may have a vastly different team as starters Tiger Womack (pneumonia), Brian Woodward (knee) and Tavorris Bell (academics) are expected back.
Last night's Rams included Lazare Adingono, a Cameroon native whose immigration matters were wrapped up yesterday afternoon, and freshman guard Steve Mello of Bristol, R.I., who was given a scholarship in midseason.
The only Rhody scorer of note was junior guard Zach Marbury, who played recklessly but finished with 22 points. Mello provided some first-half excitement with two early baskets, but this outcome was never really in doubt.
"We wanted to cut off their dribble penetration, and force them to shoot jumpers and rebound," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "I think we did a pretty good job."
Marbury had more turnovers (6) than the entire Rams' team had assists (5). Rhode Island's 23 turnovers were hideous, and the Rams were also outrebounded 45-22, the ninth time in its last 13 games that UMass has won the boards.
The Minutemen had a season-high 13 steals and cruised to their easiest victory of the season. The previous best victory margin was 16, against George Washington (a game that required a second-half comeback) and Boston University.
Mack collected 21 points in the first half, when he nearly outscored Rhode Island by himself. UMass led 35-22 at the break, with the 6-foot-3 senior guard running off screens and beating the Rhode Island defenders down the floor off the break, and hitting 8 of 14 shots.
"Guys we've (unsuccessfully) recruited tell me if they could have come off screens and gotten the shots Monty does, they'd have come here," said Flint, who runs much of his offense through Mack. "I tell them it's too late."
ROVIDENCE - Eleanor Roosevelt High School boys basketball coach Glenn Farello likes to tell the story of how Eddie Basden, who is heading to the University of Massachusetts in the fall, tried to explain a tardiness for practice.
"He told me he was walking to practice, ran into a deer that was staring him down, and had to jump up on a wall," Farello said. "Best story about being late I'd heard in a long time.
"Eddie is the funniest kid I've ever coached," Farello continued. "But on the court, he's all business."
Basden, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, is also the premier recruit of the 2001-02 UMass class. He is averaging 20.8 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals for his high school team from Greenbelt, Md.
"Eddie can play the post or point guard, and more importantly, he can defend either position," Farello said. "His best position is on the wing, and getting to the basket is what he does best. He needs to work on his shooting, but he's come a long way."
Basden is projected as a shooting guard at UMass. Farello says Basden can often be found working on his game at a nearby gym that's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"I'm working on my defense, getting my jump shot down, and working on fundamental moves," said Basden, whose passing at the DeMatha Invitational was his most impressive contribution.
"My shooting is improving, and I'm working to get my shot off a little quicker," Basden said. "But I'm proudest when I get everybody involved."
Basden is not yet academically eligible to play as a freshman, but he says he's close and expects to make it.
Freshmen Jameel Pugh, Willie Jenkins and Dwayne Killings saw mopup minutes in last night's 78-46 UMass victory over Rhode Island, which saw the Minutemen allow a season low for points. For Killings, a walk-on freshman guard from Amherst, his entry with 1:35 left marked his UMass debut.
Killings had his only shot blocked, but he also grabbed two rebounds. Jenkins made his first appearance since Dec. 29 against North Carolina, having sat out eight straight games.
"I was happy to see those guys get in," Monty Mack said. "I think we (starters) play a little bit harder, so that they might get in and have some fun."
UMass coach Bruiser Flint doesn't run up scores, but he was reasonably satisfied with the way his team finished off the rout.
"Even the refs said they noticed I didn't get up off the bench," Flint said after the rare breather. "But winning like this sends a message that the Temple win wasn't luck.
Flint was dissatisfied that big leads shrank in the final minutes of victories against Boston University and Duquesne.
"I know it will be a different game when we play Rhody at UMass (Feb. 20)," he said.
Rams' starters Tiger Womack and Brian Woodward are injured, and Tavorris Bell has been academically ineligible, but will return Sunday at Temple.
Bell, the Rams' leading scorer and rebounder, nearly made it back for last night, but some last-minute official paperwork had not been finished in time.
ROVIDENCE - So far, the Atlantic 10 road has been good to UMass.
Rhymer muscles in and snatches the rebound.
And right now, Rhode Island can't help it. The Rams, with three of their top four offensive players on the bench, had little to throw in the way of the Minutemen on their way to their fifth straight win in last night's 78-46 run through the Providence Civic Center.
The 9-10 Minutemen opened up a 35-22 halftime lead, exploded with a 19-7 run over the first 12 minutes of the second half, and spent the rest of the night working on the finer points of their bench.
``It's good for the coach, I'll say that,'' UMass coach Bruiser Flint said of the rare 32-point margin. ``Even one of the refs came over and said, `You didn't even get up off the bench tonight.' And I said, `Oh, so you've called some of my games this year. You should be happy.' ''
The result is a 7-1 Atlantic 10 record that ties UMass for first place with Xavier. St. Joseph's is a half-game behind.
This is all a world removed from the 5-16, 1-7 Rams.
They had no answer for Monty Mack, who scored 29 points in his best shooting performance of the season - an 11-19 effort that moved him past Julius Erving for the most 20-point-plus efforts in the history of the program.
Last night was Mack's 47th 20-point performance in 112 career games.
The Rams, with Tavorris Bell (ineligible) and Brian Woodward (knee) spectating from the end of the bench and Tiger Womack home with pneumonia, couldn't hope to step in the way of progress.
``He's a legitimate player - a first-team all-A-10 player - and when he shoots that well they're tough to beat, because they also defend and rebound so well,'' said Rhode Island coach Jerry DiGregorio.
``And I knew that without Brian, Bell and Tiger, we had to push it up and down tonight.''
The Minutemen initially bought into the pace, resorting to taking quick shots and lapsing into the sloppy play that resulted.
But after a couple of furious timeouts by Flint, they settled down to make the kill.
As a result, the Minutemen shot 49 percent from the floor, out-rebounded the Rams by a 45-22 margin, and forced 23 turnovers.
The Rams, who managed only one assist in the first half - that one off the hand of guard Zach Marbury - finished with five assists for the game.
Though Flint was less than impressed with his team's response to Rhode Island's need to push the ball, he was equally satisfied with the controlled performance that followed in the second half.
``They like to get it and go, and they use three point guards,'' said Flint. ``We just wanted to make them play both defense and offense, and not go for the quick shots. In the second half we ran our offense and made them run their offense in front of us, not behind us.''
The Rams, their wings clipped, never managed much of a threat in the second half - especially after the Minutemen put together that 19-7 run for a 54-32 lead with 11:37 left.
Though the starting tandem of Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand had relatively quiet nights, forward Jackie Rogers and center Eric Williams came in to supply the necessary muscle during the key stretch.
Rogers had six of his 13 points in the burst, and Williams finished with 10 rebounds.
ROVIDENCE - Monty Mack has always said that he's not one for numbers, or top-10 lists.
But a week after passing Lou Roe to move into second place on the all-time UMass scoring list, the senior guard eclipsed an even more worldly figure last night.
Mack's 29-point performance during UMass' 78-46 win over Rhode Island was his 47th 20-point-plus game, giving Mack the most of any player in the 92-year history of the program.
The legendary Julius Erving, the man he passed, had 46.
Only the percentages are slightly different. Mack accomplished his feat over the course of 112 games in a UMass uniform.
Erving, who played during the era when freshmen weren't eligible for varsity ball, and played two full varsity seasons for the Minutemen, only needed 52 games to reach his mark.
And UMass coach Bruiser Flint knows exactly who the guard should send his next card to.
``He should thank me every night when he goes to bed,'' said Flint. ``Do you know how many guys come up to me now and say, `Man, I would have gone there if I had known you were going to run me off screens like that.' ''
URI short on bodies
The Rams have not only been the bottom-feeders of the Atlantic 10 for the last 1 seasons, they are clearly also the most snake-bitten.
Tavorris Bell, the high-octane forward whose academic eligibility was reinstated yesterday after it was revoked two weeks ago, was barely through the door of the Providence Civic Center when another piece of bad news hit.
Tiger Womack, the mammoth center who has actually played well for the Rams this season, was forced to stay home last night after being diagnosed with pneumonia.
Nor was Bell going to be of any help. He is not allowed to put a uniform on again until Sunday. In addition, freshman Brian Woodward, arguably the best player on the team, is out with a sore knee.
``(URI coach Jerry DiGregorio) was a little shorthanded tonight,'' said Flint. ``I know it will be a different game and a different team when they come to UMass.
``I sent my guys out there tonight to check before the game, though: `Is Bell dressed?' ''
Rams can't keep control
The most amazing stat of the night was a Rhode Island team effort as the Rams finished with five assists. Point guard Zach Marbury alone had six turnovers to go along with five by forward Howard Smith and five by point guard Dinno Daniels.
``People who know the A-10 know that there are two teams that really guard you: Temple and UMass,'' said DiGregorio. ``You need to be able to pass the ball against them. But they play like their coach played. They didn't call him Bruiser because he delivered flowers in Philly.''
ROVIDENCE -- It is one thing to know what is coming, entirely another to stop it.
Zach Marbury takes the brunt of Ronell Blizzard's effort.
Rhode Island knew it was coming. It just couldn't do anything to stop it.
Mack, who is nearing the 2,000-point mark for his career, poured in 29 last night as he led the Minutemen to a 78-46 triumph over the Rams at the Civic Center.
With his effort last night, Mack passed Julius Erving for most 20 point night in school history. Mack has 47. Erving had 46 in his 52 game career. Mack nearly outscored the Rams all by himself in the first half. He went to the break with 21 points. His team had a 35-22 lead.
As his teammates totally broke the game open in the second half, Mack took it easy, taking only five more shots and playing only 11 minutes after the break.
The Minutemen (9-10, 7-1) could afford to let others get into the offensive action since they had increased their lead to 20 points, at 50-30, less than seven minutes into the second half, then to 34, at 76-42, with just over three minutes left. Mack made sure it was an easy night for the A-10 leaders.
"He should thank me every night when he goes to bed," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said of his star. After all, Flint inferred, it is not an accident that his team gets the ball in Mack's hands so often.
"He's a good scorer. You've got to get him the ball," Flint said. "Because he's playing the way he has been playing, he's made us a better team."
Mack, a fifth-year senior who is second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring behind La Salle's Rasual Butler, has scored 20 or more points in nine of his team's last 10 games. He is the second leading scorer in school history, with 1,958 points, behind only Jim McCoy, who had 2,374.
He has made a 3-pointer in 101 of the 112 games in which he has played (he had four more last night). He is the second-leading scorer currently playing college basketball, trailing only Ronnie McCollum of Centenary, who has 2,226 career points.
"He's a legitimate player, a first team all-Atlantic 10," said Rhody coach Jerry DeGregorio. "When he shoots the ball that way they are a very tough team to beat because they are going to guard you, they are going to defend you and they are going to rebound."
DeGregorio said his players repeatedly came over to the bench during stoppages in play and spoke about how tough it was to keep up with Mack because of the screens UMass sets in its offense.
"Mack comes off double screens," DeGregorio pointed out. "I said to my guys, 'Why don't you bump him once in a while?' The entire game our kids are coming over saying, 'Coach, they're bumping us, they're grabbing us.' I said, 'I told you, they play like Bruiser played. That's why his name is Bruiser.'
"He got the nickname because of the way he played, not because he was delivering flowers in Philly (Flint played for St. Joseph's). That's just the way it is. That's the way they play, so fight back, compete at that level. When Monty Mack comes off one of those screens, give him a little bump. You get a foul, don't worry about it."
DeGregorio was only upset that Mack picked his team against which to shoot 11-for-19 from the field.
"I even told Monty after the game," DeGregorio said. "Some games, you didn't make a shot. Against UConn and Providence, you were hitting the backboard and popcorn. Tonight, you're hitting shots from everywhere."
After Mack had given his team control, the rest of the Minutemen got to have their fun in the second half. It became far more than just Mack.
Massachusetts dominated in just about every area. One was on the boards, where it had a 45-22 advantage. But that was expected since UMass is so much stronger inside than URI. What upset DeGregorio more was that his team could do so little offensively.
URI shot only 34 percent from the field. It had more turnovers (23) than baskets (16). It had only five assists all night.
"People always say you need shooters to beat Temple and UMass," DeGregorio said. "No, you need to be able to pass the ball without turning it over.
"We had 23 turnovers tonight. Our starting (three point guards) -- Dinno (Daniels), Howard (Smith) and Zach (Marbury, who had 22 points), had 16 turnovers. Inexcusable. I expected to get beat on the boards. I wanted us to compete on the boards. I started the game in our 1-2-1-1 in our full-court pressure because I wanted a transition game. I knew in a half-court game we just can't score . . . It was 24-20, then we didn't score for a while."
|Rhode Island Rams||46|
|at the Providence Civic Center|
MASSACHUSETTS (78) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Smith 17 2-2 0-0 0-1 1 2 4 Brand 20 4-6 1-2 2-3 0 2 9 Rhymer 23 2-4 2-3 0-4 1 2 6 Mack 31 11-19 3-4 2-4 3 2 29 Crooks 26 4-7 1-2 1-6 2 2 10 Depina 25 2-5 0-0 3-3 3 2 5 Rogers 14 5-7 3-4 1-6 0 2 13 Blizzard 10 0-1 0-0 2-2 1 0 0 Jenkins 4 0-1 0-0 0-2 0 0 0 Killings 2 0-1 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 Williams 21 1-4 0-0 3-10 1 2 2 Pugh 7 0-6 0-0 1-2 1 1 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 31-63 10-15 16-45 13 17 78 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.492, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals: 6-17, .353 (Mack 4-8, Crooks 1-2, Depina 1-2, Blizzard 0-1, Jenkins 0-1, Pugh 0-3). Team rebounds: None. Blocked shots: 3 (Rogers 2, Blizzard). Turnovers: 16 (Crooks 4, Rhymer 4, Brand 2, Rogers 2, Williams 2, Depina, Smith). Steals: 13 (Depina 5, Crooks 4, Mack, Pugh, Smith, Williams). RHODE ISLAND (46) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Evans 26 1-8 0-0 2-5 1 4 2 Smith 23 3-8 0-0 0-2 2 1 7 Wafula 28 1-4 0-0 0-3 0 2 2 Daniels 31 2-9 1-3 0-0 1 1 6 Marbury 35 6-9 9-13 1-5 1 1 22 Scott 27 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 3 0 Mello 25 3-7 0-0 0-1 0 0 7 Adingono 5 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 16-47 10-16 3-17 5 12 46 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.340, FT-.625. 3-Point Goals: 4-13, .308 (Smith 1-3, Daniels 1-2, Marbury 1-3, Mello 1-4, Adingono 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 4 (Wafula 3, Scott). Turnovers: 23 (Marbury 6, Daniels 5, Smith 5, Adingono 2, Mello 2, Evans, Scott, Wafula). Steals: 6 (Marbury 2, Smith 2, Mello, Scott). __________________________________ Massachusetts 35 43 - 78 Rhode Island 22 24 - 46 __________________________________ Technical fouls: Massachusetts 1 (Rogers). A: 4,355. Officials: Gene Monje, Mike Roberts, Bryan Kersey.