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Minutemen batter Rams
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 2/4/2001

AMHERST — The overall record is a modest 10-10, but the way it has been achieved makes it seem so much better.

Photo
Monty Mack breaks for a clear path to the basket.
Ten weeks after falling below .500, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team is back at that level. The Minutemen got there with yesterday's 85-59 rout over Fordham, extending their winning streak to six before a cheering crowd of 6,722 — the best this season at the Mullins Center.

The crowd's supportive mood was another indicator that good things are happening at UMass again — and that this team, a first-place club in the Atlantic 10 Conference, seems to have the momentum and staying power to keep it up.

"I forgot what our old record was," said shooting guard Monty Mack, who scored 22 points.

Forward Micah Brand agreed that reaching .500, where UMass hadn't been since Nov. 25, wasn't really the main priority.

"It's a big step, but now we've got to go from here," said Brand, who scored 10 points. "I don't think anybody was looking at .500."

UMass improved to 8-1 in the A-10, matching the 1997-98 start as the best in conference play under Bruiser Flint. Fordham (11-10, 3-6) lost its fourth straight, showing little of the improvement the Rams have displayed under second-year coach Bob Hill.

UMass, whose last two wins have come by an average of 29 points, is tied in the A-10 race with Xavier, which beat George Washington in overtime last night. St. Joseph's (7-1) is a half-game behind.

Mack scored 11 points in the first 6:11, and UMass led 18-2 after nine minutes. The Minutemen never lost control.

"When we have a chance to take a team down, we know we have to concentrate and execute," said Mack, who is within 20 points of 2,000 in his career.

Forward Jackie Rogers came off the bench to help, scoring 16 points to tie his career high.

"I feel like I fit in now, coming off the bench to give us a lift," said Rogers, who began the season as a starter. Yesterday, he also had a career-high nine rebounds.

The Minutemen shot a season-high 53.3 percent (8 for 15) on 3-pointers, and 52.4 percent overall. Nine different players had assists, and UMass didn't neglect the defensive end, holding Fordham to 31.3 percent shooting.

Rams point guard Bevon Robin scored 21 points, but had no assists for a team that only managed six. Hill tried Teremun Johnson at the point and Robin at shooting guard in the second half, but UMass had all the defensive answers.

"I'm also not sure I believe those rebounding stats," said Hill, reviewing UMass' 40-39 edge. "We got our butts kicked at both ends. We had no board presence."

UMass had plenty of presence. Kitwana Rhymer jammed down a second-half dunk despite being fouled on the play. And a putback dunk by Ronell Blizzard had the Mullins Center rocking.

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Micah Brand tries to clear more space to shoot.
It was 42-24 at halftime, and UMass seemed to take special pride in its defense, even though the 85 points were its highest total this season.

"The coaches said to get all over their shooters and force them to do things they're not used to doing," Mack said. Fordham shot 2 for 18 from 3-point range.

The Rams were equally frustrated in the paint, where power forward Jeff McMillan — one of the best freshmen in the Atlantic 10 — had 10 rebounds but also shot 1 for 12. Center Duke Freeman-McKamey managed 12 points and eight rebounds.

Eric Williams had eight points and five rebounds for UMass, which faces a rigorous stretch that begins Tuesday at Dayton, followed by home games against Xavier Feb. 14 and Temple Feb. 17.

It's a wide-open A-10 race, but Flint said UMass controls its own fate.

"If the players want to watch how everybody else is doing, that's fine, but I don't worry about scoreboard watching," he said. "Our focus is on us. If we handle our own business, we'll be all right."


Oklahoma State tragedy hits home at UMass
UMass notebook
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 2/4/2001

AMHERST - The University of Massachusetts considered Will Hancock, an employee with the Oklahoma State sports information department, for its open sports information director's job last year. Hancock was among those killed in a plane crash last week. The victims also included two Oklahoma State players, Nate Fleming and Dan Lawson.

The UMass job went to Nick Joos, and according to UMass associate athletic director Bill Strickland, who headed the search committee, Hancock never applied.

But Strickland said that early in the process, before Joos became the frontrunner, he was interested in recruiting Hancock for the job.

"I'd heard so many good things about him,'' Strickland said. But Hancock's wife coaches women's soccer at Oklahoma State, and Strickland said he doubted Hancock would have seriously considered leaving for the UMass job.

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Mack gets attacked from all sides.
WELCOME BACK: Former UMass stars Jim McCoy, Dana Dingle and Chris Kirkland attended yesterday's 85-59 win over Fordham. With 2,374 career points, McCoy is the only UMass player ever to reach 2,000, though Monty Mack (1,980) may join him Tuesday at Dayton.

"I checked when Monty had 1,909, and I had a sigh of relief,'' said McCoy, who is doing United Way fundraising in Boston. "If he could get (more than) 400 points in a half a season to catch me, he deserves it. But I'm proud of Monty - he's made great strides.''

The UMass media relations department announced a correction Friday, crediting McCoy with the all-time school record for 20-point games with 57. Originally, Mack was declared the new record-holder after his 47th Tuesday at Rhode Island.

HONORS: McCoy was among the UMass athletes honored at halftime with achievement awards from the Atlantic 10, which is celebrating its 25-year anniversary.

Others were Danielle Henderson (softball), Hilary Rose (field hockey), Brianna Scurry and Erin Lynch (women's soccer), Jill Meyers (volleyball), Tammy Marshall (gymnastics) and Elaine Sortino (softball coach).

NAME FOR HIMSELF: UMass freshman walk-on guard Dwayne Killings scored his first college points yesterday. The Amherst Regional graduate hit a 3-point shot in the final minute.

Killings' uniform has a number (12) but no name, since the jerseys were ordered before his spot was secure. He made his playing debut Tuesday at Rhode Island.

BEST DRESSED: UMass coach Bruiser Flint is still getting feedback from his selection as the nation's best-dressed coach by CollegeInsider.com.

"If you see Bruiser, tell him his tie was ugly,'' Fordham coach Bob Hill said after the game. "He may have a point,'' Flint said. "But he's one of the few who can give me that type of advice.''

RECRUITING UPDATE: Senior guard Jeremiah King has enrolled at Philadelphia Christian High after leaving Winchendon School because of personality differences with coach Mike Byrnes. King still expects to be eligible when he enters UMass this fall.

LAST WORD: Flint said he received a memo from the Atlantic 10 after his criticism of the referees in a 66-65 loss at St. Bonaventure Jan. 13. In it, Flint said the A-10 conceded he might have been right in protesting a non-call over possible goaltending that cost UMass a basket.

But the conference defended its officials for not calling a foul on the final play, in which Mack was sent sprawling.

ET CETERA: UMass forward Winston Smith's roommate, senior Jesse Austin of Dennis, won two airline tickets after hitting a foul shot, layup, 3-point shot and halfcourt shot in a halftime promotion. Court Club president Ron Nathan said Austin, 21, is believed to be the first contestant ever to win the grand prize, either airline tickets or a car ... Former UMass forward Mike Babul was offered a spot on a pro team in Germany for the remainder of the season, but says he declined because he saw little long-term prospects.


Their fine play demands respect
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 2/4/2001

AMHERST — The coach was under so much fire that his name was dropped from the pregame introductions, a change that even a six-game winning streak has yet to reverse.

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Micah Brand tries to overcome the defense.
The players have grown up in a sports environment where the words, "Nobody respects us," have become a cliche, a mantra and a rallying cry. The program whose supposed demise was a national story is now flattening everybody in sight, yet an element of University of Massachusetts men's basketball fandom still roots against victory, fearing success might block the sweeping changes they demand.

Not once has Bruiser Flint or his players taken up the no-respect chant you hear from other characters on SportsCenter each night. Perhaps that is why, after yesterday's 85-59 laugher over Fordham, this team deserves more respect than almost all the sports crybabies who whine about not getting it.

"We knew we had a good team coming in," said guard Jonathan DePina, whose play has always been examined under an unusually powerful microscope. "Even when we were struggling, we thought we could win if we put the little things together."

Not everyone agreed. In the public's mind, for one thing, this program has become all about the coach, which is not how college sports are supposed to be. Every success was judged as short-term, while every failure was awarded far greater meaning.

But we can exhale. The team is playing great, you know. Or maybe you don't know, although yesterday's crowd of 6,722 — a Mullins Center best this season — suggested that a few more passengers, thankfully, are flagging down the bandwagon and hopping on.

Even the loyalists sound more relieved than excited.

"They're a lot better than the last time I saw them," said Dana Dingle, a lion of the glory days. Asked when that was, Dingle said he'd seen a few games on TV, and wound up turning off the set in dismay.

As the Minutemen have emerged, you couldn't blame these players for saying "So, there." You are dealing with players, age 18 to 23, who spent the Christmas season hearing how bad they were. Yet not once have they complained. at least to the outside world, about how they've been judged.

And no coach in America gets it more than Flint, whose career has been analyzed on almost a possession-by-possession basis, but whose 81 career victories ties him with Robert Curran for fourth all-time at UMass.

No one is out of the woods by any means. Not Flint, not the legacy of this team, which after all is still only 10-10.

But this is also a three-part season, as UMass athletic director Bob Marcum often says. Part 1 was nonconference play, an unmitigated 2-9 disaster. But Part 2 is Atlantic 10 play, which is turning into something special.

Part 3 is postseason play, including the A-10 tournament. Only after all precincts have reported will we be able to determine what 2000-01 ultimately represented.

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Mack drops a finger roll for an easy bucket.
What we already know is that more than most teams, this one has a strong case to look at the cameras and say, "Nobody respected us." But this team doesn't — not even today, when a few I-told-you-so's would be premature but tempting.

Only when asked directly about the respect issue did forward Jackie Rogers, after a pause, suggest that people might have been passing final judgment a little too soon.

"Yes," Rogers said. "We had a lot of new guys, and we got off slowly. But people could have been a little more patient."

That's not human nature, of course, and plenty of skeptics and critics remain. They're missing the fun, although the fun for some of them is to be skeptical and critical.

The Minutemen are far from flawless, but they're getting better, and they've never given up. That alone should be worth some respect — even if the players and coaches have been classy enough not to demand it. In this day and age, in fact, that might be the best reason of all.


UMass has 6th sense
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 2/4/2001

AMHERST - The road from 2-9 to 10-10 has carried UMass somewhere so different, it's too enthralled with the results to check the numbers.

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Kit Rhymer looks to create some space for a clean shot.
``Once the New Year started, I forgot what our record was,'' Monty Mack said after the Minutemen ran off with their sixth straight win and second straight blowout with yesterday's 85-59 laugher over a reputable Fordham team. ``I'm just concerned with our Atlantic 10 record now. To be honest, coming in today, I didn't even know that we could reach .500.''

The Minutemen are 8-1 in the conference, a half-game ahead of St. Joseph's (7-1), and clearly playing their best basketball of the season.

The stakes are certainly apparent enough. For the first time since early November, postseason talk is legitimate.

The Minutemen have a shot to win the conference title, and their next three games will help clarify the picture.

UMass plays at Dayton (12-9, 3-5), then hosts Xavier (16-3, 7-1) and Temple (12-10, 6-2).

``They're big, huge,'' coach Bruiser Flint said of the next three games. ``We have a chance to keep ourselves in the race, or to lose distance.''

Yesterday had everything to do with accelerating the pace.

Photo
Micah Brand jams home 2 of his 10 points.
UMass attacked the Rams (11-11) on every front, clearly winning their battles inside against Fordham's much-improved front line, and defending the perimeter well enough that the deep threats of Bevon Robin and a struggling Jason Harris never hit stride.

Robin finished with a forced 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting, and Harris stumbled to a 2-of-7, four-point finish.

Mack led the Minutemen with 22 points, but his support was virtually bottomless. Center Kitwana Rhymer fell into early foul trouble, played only 15 minutes, and reserves Jackie Rogers and Eric Williams stepped in without UMass losing any effectiveness inside.

Williams crashed for eight points and five rebounds, and Rogers settled in for a career-high 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.

``Rogers was terrific. He really came off the bench and maintained presence for them,'' said Fordham coach Bob Hill.

``I know the (stat sheet) has both teams pretty close in rebounding, but I don't believe that. We got our butts kicked at both ends.''

The Minutemen went easy on themselves, too.

They pushed out early, taking a 42-24 halftime lead that included a 14-point first half from Mack, and hovered around a 20-point margin the rest of the way, while limiting the Rams to 31 percent shooting.

UMass, on the other hand, shot 52 percent from the floor - a rare number from a surging team.


Bruiser makes sure Rogers knows score
UMass Notebook
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 2/4/2001

AMHERST - Bruiser Flint's message to Jackie Rogers has been simple.

``Work hard in the gym and you'll score. Score and your role will increase.''

The junior transfer forward had difficulty making that equation work over the first half of the season. But now, as Fordham coach Bob Hill noted after yesterday's 85-59 UMass win, the Minutemen don't lose even a drop of inside presence when the 6-foot-6 forward replaces either Micah Brand or Kitwana Rhymer.

Indeed, yesterday the Minutemen gained power. Rogers finished with a career-high 16 points to go along with nine rebounds that included six offensive boards.

This is the sort of performance many expected when Rogers was brought in this fall as a much-hyped transfer from Barton Community College in Kansas.

What he needed the most was a comfort zone.

``It's always an adjustment for a kid coming in like that,'' said Flint. ``With all of the stuff that's out there on the Internet these days, it's tough for some of these kids to match expectations.''

Said Rogers: ``I feel like I'm fitting in. Right now I'm a lot more comfortable, because I'm working hard in practice.''

Photo
Jameel Pugh wants to work his magic along the baseline.
Flint climbs higher

Yesterday's win was the 81st of Flint's career, tying him for fourth on the all-time UMass list with Robert Curran, who coached the Minutemen from 1952-59, and had an 81-80 career record. Jack Leaman (1966-79) heads the list with 217 career victories, followed by John Calipari (1988-96) with 193 and Harold M. Gore (1916-17, 1918-19, 1920-29) with 85.

Flint's fashion has won honors. CollegeInsider.com recently listed Flint at the top of its so-called Fashion Power Index among college coaches, thus beating out such heavy dressers as Cincinnati's Bob Huggins, Kentucky's Tubby Smith and, of course, Memphis' Calipari.

``If Bruiser comes in here wearing what he had on during the game, tell him that I think his tie is ugly,'' cracked Hill.

But Flint just laughed.

``This thing has taken on a life of its own,'' he said. ``But Bob Hill is one of the few guys who can critique me that way.''

Mack attacks

Monty Mack, with 22 points, hit double figures for the 100th time in 113 career games. It was also his 10th 20-point performance over the last 11 games.


Minutemen charge past Rams
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 2/5/2001

AMHERST - Following his team's narrow 62-58 win over La Salle last Thursday, University of Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint criticized his team's lack of killer instinct.

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Mack and Micah Brand don't make things easy for Bevon Robin.
"When you get ahead of a team like that, you have to step on their neck," Flint said.

Saturday after the Minutemen got ahead of Fordham early, they stepped on the Rams' necks and kicked them a few times for good measure, emerging with an 85-59 rout at the Mullins Center.

"Coach told us that when you have a team down, that's when you really have to execute," senior guard Monty Mack said.

"We have to finish off games," Flint said. "Don't get sloppy. Don't let them have the opportunity to get back in it. We have to stay disciplined."

They did Saturday and the win brought the Minutemen back to .500 overall (10-10) for the first time since Nov. 20. But after the game, the UMass players and coaches were more interested in their 8-1 Atlantic 10 Conference record, which has them tied for first place (with Xavier), than being .500.

"Once the new year started, I forgot what our other record was," Mack said. "I was just thinking about the A-10. I didn't realize this win made us .500. I just knew we were 8-1 in the league."

Flint echoed Mack's sentiments.

"As long you keep winning games, you go past .500, but we're 8-1 in the league and we're playing much better basketball, and that's the most important thing."

While agreeing with Flint and Mack about the importance of the conference record, sophomore big man Micah Brand said he likes the idea of being .500 overall.

"It's a big step," Brand said. "We were 7-1 in the conference, but we were still under .500. So it's a big win for us and we just have to go from here."

The crowd that viewed the Minutemen's return to .500 (10-10, 8-1 A-10) was much different than the one that saw UMass beat Dayton on Jan. 18. Against the Flyers, just 4,113 fans witnessed first game of the Minutemen's current winning streak.

Two-and-a-half weeks later 6,722 fans watched the sixth game of that winning streak, the largest Mullins crowd since 8,145 saw UMass lose to Texas (Feb. 5) last year.

The fans were as positive as they've been in a long time, as the anti-Flint jeers and signs had disappeared. Instead, fans busily heckled Fordham, as the Rams (11-10, 3-6 A-10) gave them plenty of ammunition.

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Eric Williams goes to work in the paint.
"It was a good crowd," Flint said. "We're playing better and we have some big home games coming up and we need people to come out and support us."

Those games include Xavier (Feb. 14), Temple (Feb. 17) and Rhode Island (Feb. 20).

The Minutemen played great defense out of the gate and put the game away early. Taking advantage of Fordham's turnovers, UMass opened the game with an 18-2 run. Its lead never dipped below 14 points.

Riding impressive play by backup big men Rogers and Eric Williams, UMass stretched its advantage to 20 at 42-22 with 42 seconds left in the first half before Fordham's Bevon Robin hit two free throws to make it 42-24 at intermission.

With the outcome no longer in doubt, fans stayed enthusiastic, watching the Minutemen dunk midway through the first half. Ronell Blizzard had the highlight as he leapt over a Fordham defender to slam in a Mack miss.

Flint began emptying his bench with just over three minutes left, inserting Jameel Pugh, Willie Jenkins and eventually Amherst native Dwayne Killings.

Mack led the Minutemen with 22 points, while Jackie Rogers added 16 points and nine rebounds, both career highs. Bevon Robin led Fordham with 21.

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Dwayne Killings was walking on air after he nailed a 3.
Eleven UMass players scored, including Amherst native Dwayne Killings, a freshman walk-on. He buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 49 seconds left to punctuate the rout.

Other than Robin, the Minutemen did a good job shutting down Fordham's other weapons. Touted freshman center Jeff McMillan struggled against UMass' big front line. His 1-for-12 shooting performance at times looked like a drunken game of pin the tail on the donkey as many of his attempts were nowhere near the rim.

"Jeff has a lot to learn," Fordham coach Bob Hill said. "There were times today when he was impatient. He learned a lot about UMass today. They did a good job on him."

The Minutemen return to action Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Dayton.


All-time top gun admires Mack
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 2/5/2001

With 1,980 career points, University of Massachusetts senior guard Monty Mack is rarely in the company of anybody with more career points than he has.

Photo
Monty Mack will reach 2,000 career points easily, catching Jim McCoy at #1 all-time is another story.
But during Saturday's home game against Fordham, a man with 2,374 points on his hoop resume sat in the second row at midcourt dressed in a suit. Jim McCoy is UMass' all-time leading scorer. The Pittsburgh native led the upstart Minutemen back to the NCAA Tournament during the 1991-91 season.

He watched Saturday as Mack edged closer to joining him in the school's "Two-Grand Club."

McCoy, who lives in Boston and does fund-raising for the United Way, was comfortable that his record was safe.

"I looked at it the other day and I took a sigh of relief. If he scores 400 points in half of a season, then he deserves it," said McCoy, who said he's a fan of Mack. "I'm really proud of him. That's a big accomplishment for him to even push the record."

McCoy is right not to worry. Even in the extremely unlikely event that UMass wins the Atlantic 10 Tournament and makes it all the way to the NCAA championship game, the Minutemen could play only 16 more games. Mack would need to average 24.75 points in that stretch, seven points above his career average.

McCoy, who played in Europe after college, has enjoyed following his Alma Mater this year.

"They've been doing a great job," McCoy said. "In the beginning they had a tough schedule, which is tough when you have new players. But they have a great chance of winning the A-10 Tournament."

McCoy was in Amherst as part of a halftime presentation honoring several UMass athletes for their achievements in the A-10. The festivities were part of the league's 25th anniversary.

Other honorees on hand included Tammy Mashall (women's gymnastics), Danielle Henderson (softball), Hillary Rose (field hockey) and Elaine Sortino (softball).

Basketball players Harper Williams, Lou Roe, Marcus Camby and coach John Calipari, pitcher Ron Villone and soccer players Erin Lynch and Briana Scurry also were honored, though they were not present.

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Kit Rhymer was limited to 15 minutes with some early foul trouble.
MORE MACK: Mack's 22 points gave him 100 double-digit scoring games in his career and 48 of 20 or more. He's scored 20 or more in his last five games.

FLINT(mile)STONE: Bruiser Flint moved into a tie for fourth place on the UMass coaching career victories chart. Saturday's win was the 81st of his career, tying him with Robert T. Curran, who went 81-80 from 1952-59. Next up is UMass hall-of-famer Harold M. "Kid" Gore, who went 85-53 from 1916-29.

MISCELLANEOUS: The 85 points UMass scored against Fordham are the most the Minutemen have scored in a single game this season. It's only the second time the Minutemen have cracked 80.

The Minutemen are 2-0 against teams with the nickname Rams (the other one is the University of Rhode Island). The Minutemen have won those games by an average of 29 points.

UMass is now 5-6 against Catholic schools, with a chance to even that record Tuesday at Dayton. The Minutemen have four games left against schools affiliated with the Vatican.


UMass rolls over Fordham
By Jesse Greenspan, The Mass. Daily Collegian Staff Writer, 2/5/2001

When Fordham guard Bevon Robin drove in for a layup two minutes into last Saturday's game, it tied the score at two.

Unfortunately for the Rams, that would be about the only time throughout the whole game in which it looked like they actually had a chance of winning, as the Massachusetts men's basketball team absolutely destroyed Fordham, 85-59 at the William D. Mullin's Center.

It was the most points in a game the Minutemen have scored all season, and it improved their record to 10-10 (8-1 Atlantic 10), making it the first time since November 25 that the Maroon and White have been at or above the .500 mark. This was in sharp contrast to the struggling Rams, who once had a good record but who are now only at 11-10 (3-6 A-10) on the year.

"It's a big step [getting to .500]," said UMass forward Micah Brand, who dropped 10 points and five rebounds to go along with excellent defensive play throughout the contest. "This is a big win for us. We are back even and we just have to go from here."

With the score tied at two, Minuteman shooting guard Monty Mack drilled a three to put his team up for good. Forty seconds later, Kitwana Rhymer showed why he is one of the top shot blockers in the nation by swatting Fordham big man, Duke Freeman-McKamey, from behind. Shannon Crooks then picked up the loose ball, drove the length of the floor, and made a beautiful dish to the streaking Mack for two.

When Rhymer hit a jump hook with 16:41 remaining, it extended the lead to 9-2. This was quickly pushed to a 13-point lead when Mack drilled one three from the top of the key, and then hit another trifecta on the next possession from the right elbow.

All of this mκlee forced a Rams timeout, but it failed to work, as Fordham would be unable to close the gap into single digits for the remainder of the game.

"Today we didn't play well on either end of the court," said Fordham coach Bob Hill. "We didn't have any presence rebounding and when it was in the balance, we could not make a shot. We are not a very good team right now."

Toward the end of the first half, the Rams began to press the Minutemen, but it failed miserably, as UMass consistently broke down the pressure defense with ease and converted a number of easy baskets. Maroon and White forward Jackie Rogers especially benefited from the change in the defensive scheme, as he sandwiched two layups around a Winston Smith foul line jumper to extend his team's lead to 33-15.

By the end of the half, this lead would be pushed up to 42-24, and despite the fact that Mack continued his good play of late with 14 first half points, it was mainly the big men that seemed to ignite the team and send the Minutemen into the locker room with a very comfortable advantage.

For one thing, the big men were patrolling the paint inside. Fordham's leading scorer Robin was the only player who could solve the UMass defense, as he totaled 13 points in the frame on his way to 21 for the game, but no other Ram could muster more than a basket in the first half. Jeff McMillan and Freeman-McKamey especially struggled, going a combined 6-for-23 from the field in the contest.

It was not just bad shooting that forced them into this atrocious field goal percentage, however, as Rhymer, Brand and Ronell Blizzard all picked up three blocks on the game, and altered countless other shots on the inside. Meanwhile, Rogers and Eric Williams were doing their part on the offensive end, as they totaled 16 and eight points respectively.

"At the beginning of the year a lot of shots were being missed and a lot of rebounds were not being gotten," said Brand. "Now if myself and Kit don't have a good night, we know Jackie and Eric are going to come down and knock in shots and get some rebounds."

"If someone gets into foul trouble we are not losing a beat when [Rogers] comes into the game," added head coach James "Bruiser" Flint. "And with Eric it is the same thing."

In the second half, the Minutemen kept their lead around 20 for most of the frame, but the highlight of the half came in the last minute when walk-on Dwayne Killings came off the bench and calmly canned a three from the left corner for his first collegiate points.

Monty Mack led all scorers with 22.


Basketball team abducted; New Minutemen tough to top
By Adam White, The Mass. Daily Collegian Columnist, 2/5/2001

Who are you, and what have you done with the Minutemen?

It is as if an alien ship swooped down during one Mullins Center practice and abducted each and every member of the Massachusetts men's basketball team. They were replaced by a squad of tenacious roundball warriors, capable of functioning as one on the court and dissecting each and every opponent with otherworldly precision.

Capable of going 8-1 in the Atlantic 10 to claim a share of first place, all but erasing the 2-9 debacle composed by their Earthly predecessors.

The Rams of Fordham were left rubbing their eyes in disbelief after Saturday's not-so-close 85-59 encounter with UMass at the Mullins.

Their defenses had been useless against an aggressive Maroon and White squad that shot over 50 percent from the field scored 20 of the game's first 24 points.

They were stunned repeatedly by UMass' deadly accurate fire from deep space (8-of-15 from three-point range).

Their resistance was futile against the Minutemen's reserve army of Jackie Rogers, Ronell Blizzard and Jonathan DePina (a combined 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks off the bench).

UMass employed some sort of cloaking device against two of FU's biggest weapons, making guard Jason Harris (four points) and forward Jeff McMillan (five points) all but disappear.

Is this a different group of athletes hitting the hardwood for coach James "Bruiser" Flint? The numbers would certainly support the whole abduction-conspiracy theory. Take the stats of the 2-9 pre-conference squad versus the 8-1 Atlantic 10-leading current group and even the most Scully-esque skeptic would have to consider that these aren't the same b-ball beings.

Return of the Jedi: First and foremost, the team's leader and biggest scoring threat has finally become just that, after enduring a miserable early-season funk. Monty Mack appeared to be under some sort of mind control against teams like Connecticut (three points) and Boston University (seven points) in December when he struggled to get open looks against straight box-and-one defenses that he had seemingly mastered last season.

The preseason A-10 Player of the Year shot a horrendous 29 percent (46-of-157) from the field during the team's 2-9 stretch, including a vile 0-for-9 outing against the Huskies and a forgettable 6-of-23 showing against North Carolina.

Flint sat down with his young Jedi over winter break and implored him to "use the force," i.e. the many picks and screens of his teammates, to get the open shots that he'd need for his offense to come alive. The results in the second-half of the season have been nothing short of extraordinary: Mack has averaged 22 points per game on 46 percent shooting from the field (71-of-156) with mostly wide-open looks off screens and curls.

The Predator: He came from a distant land, looking to beat the biggest and best he could find and prove he was the indeed the king of the frontcourt. He's Kitwana Rhymer of the Virgin Islands, of course, but this 6-foot-10 paint predator had an equally sizeable problem in the team's first 11 games: he couldn't stay on the floor. Rhymer averaged only 22 minutes of play over that span, including 37 minutes total against Iona, Marquette and Ohio State.

Though Rhymer's numbers over that span looked promising (8.6 points, 6.5 rebounds per game), it became obvious that he'd have to stay on the floor longer if he was to become a force in the Atlantic 10 jungle.

Well, four double-doubles later it has become obvious that No. 33 must be stopped when teams are designing their defensive game plans against the Minutemen. Rhymer used his out-of-this-world strength to dominate Dayton (19 points, 13 rebounds) and destroy Duquesne (15 points, 12 boards) and has drawn countless double-teams in the process that has helped long-range gunners like Mack and Shannon Crooks "stay on target."

Space Jam: His weird multi-colored "space shoes" draw as much attention as his 6-foot-8 frame when he checks into games. But watch his feet too long, and Eric Williams will blow right by you for an easy put-back. The burly transfer spent much of the early season as a silent member of the Maroon and White bench corps, but he has stepped up recently and played a huge part in the team's resurgence.

"Space Jam" ripped down a game-high 10 rebounds against Rhode Island on Jan. 30, after totaling 10 points and nine boards in wins over George Washington and Xavier. UMass' six-game win streak has seen Williams shoot 57 percent (8-of-14) from the field with 22 rebounds in only 61 total minutes of play. Prorate those stats over six full games, and man his teammates call "E" is a huge part of the "W's" that his team is enjoying.

Men in Black: The officials seemed to play as big a part in UMass' nine early-season laws as any single player: opponents attempted a staggering 302 foul shots in the Minutemen's first 11 games, for an average of 27 per game. New rules about contact in the paint and hand checking befuddled Flint's troops, especially in their first four games (39 free throws attempted by the opposing team per game).

After the team's 91-76 loss to Oregon on Dec. 2, both the players and the coach of the Ducks admitted that the barrage of whistles made the game less of a basketball contest and more of a charity stripe shoot-off. And a snowball effect occurred from there, as frustration over calls led to sloppy play defensively for the Minutemen.

The officials seemed to have settled down tremendously since the onset of conference action, allowing a freer flow to the game without turning into a hack-a-thon in the process. Though the overall numbers don't reflect that huge of a difference (opponents have averaged 21 foul shots per game over the last nine games) the games themselves have been much more basketball-centric: Rhode Island's Zach Marbury attempted 13 of his team's 16 freebies on Jan. 30, and Dayton attempted only seven foul shots total in its Jan. 18 loss at the Mullins Center.

Temple's John Chaney, however, would probably beg to differ with the argument that the refereeing has gotten better. His 20-minute tirade after the Owls' 65-64 overtime loss in Philadelphia included several choice comments about "three blind men," "policemen beating people with sticks" and "courage."

Losing gracefully? Clearly an alien concept to the aging Chaney. Maybe he'll be the next one taken up by whatever interstellar beings have taken control of UMass.


Video clips
©2001 UMassHoops.com

All clips in MPEG format.
Video clip Jackie Rogers takes the quick pass and slams it home. (file size = 144k)
Video clip The D collapsed on Rogers, so he found Micah Brand for the easy jam. (240k)
Video clip Jameel Pugh couldn't get his dunks going, so he did a little reversing under the rim. (208k)
Video clip Rogers steps way out and drops the hook shot. (232k)
Video clip Monty Mack was fouled on the drive so Jackie's putback doesn't count. (160k)
Video clip ...but this one from Ronell Blizzard does. (256k)


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Fordham Rams 59
Massachusetts Minutemen 85
at the Mullins Center

FORDHAM (59)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Mcmillan        27  1-12   3-5  7-10  1  0    5
Johnson         21   1-3   1-4   1-3  1  1    3
Freeman-mckame  18  5-11   2-2   5-8  1  4   12
Haynes          20   0-3   0-0   0-2  0  3    0
Robin           37  6-14   8-9   0-2  0  0   21
Harris          27   2-7   0-0   1-1  2  2    4
Stallings        1   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Aponte           1   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Duckrey          3   2-2   0-0   0-0  0  1    4
Acquavivi        1   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Canal           12   1-2   0-1   0-2  0  0    2
Kuchinsky       18   1-4   2-2   0-3  1  3    5
Tetimadingar    14   1-3   1-2   2-5  0  3    3
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 20-64 17-25 16-36  6 17   59
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.313, FT-.680. 3-Point Goals:
2-18, .111 (Johnson 0-1, Haynes 0-2, Robin 1-5,
Harris 0-3, Stallings 0-1, Acquavivi 0-1,
Kuchinsky 1-4, Tetimadingar 0-1). Team rebounds:
3. Blocked shots: 2 (Haynes, Tetimadingar).
Turnovers: 19 (Haynes 4, Johnson 4, Harris 3,
Mcmillan 3, Canal, Duckrey, Freeman-mckamey,
Kuchinsky, Robin). Steals: 11 (Freeman-mckamey 2,
Johnson 2, Mcmillan 2, Canal, Harris, Kuchinsky,
Robin, Stallings).

MASSACHUSETTS (85)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Smith           17   3-4   0-0   0-1  1  3    6
Brand           24   4-6   2-4   3-5  2  1   10
Rhymer          15   2-2   3-5   1-4  2  4    7
Mack            37  8-21   2-2   1-5  3  1   22
Crooks          21   1-3   0-0   0-4  3  4    3
Depina          20   1-3   0-0   0-4  3  4    3
Rogers          22  7-12   2-4   6-9  1  2   16
Blizzard        20   1-3   0-0   1-2  2  2    2
Jenkins          2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Killings         1   1-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    3
Williams        18   3-5   2-2   1-5  1  0    8
Pugh             3   2-3   0-2   0-0  0  2    5
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 33-63 11-19 13-39 18 23   85
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.524, FT-.579. 3-Point Goals:
8-15, .533 (Mack 4-8, Crooks 1-2, Depina 1-3,
Killings 1-1, Pugh 1-1). Team rebounds: 1.
Blocked shots: 9 (Brand 3, Rhymer 3, Blizzard 3).
Turnovers: 19 (Depina 5, Brand 3, Mack 3, Crooks
2, Rhymer 2, Rogers 2, Smith, Williams). Steals:
7 (Mack 2, Smith 2, Brand, Depina, Killings).
__________________________________
Fordham            24   35  -   59
Massachusetts      42   43  -   85
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 6,722. Officials: Joe
Demayo, Bill Pugh, Carl Bullard.

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