ovember 25, 2000, 1:00 p.m.
at the Worcester Centrum
Head Coach: Ralph Willard (Holy Cross '67), 2nd season
Current Record: 1-1
1999-2000 Record: 10-18 (3-9 in Patriot League)
Returning players: Sr. Jared Curry (F), Sr. Josh Sankes (C), Sr. Juan Pegues (F), Jr. Ryan Serravalle (G), Jr. Guillermo Sanchez (G), So. Tim Szatko (F), So. Brian Wilson (G), So. Mark Jerz (G), Dekker McKeever (F), So. Patrick Whearty (C)
New faces: Fr. John Bucaro (G) Fr. Greg Richter (F), Fr. Jave Meade (G)
Last time UMass met Holy Cross: December 11, 1993, at Holy Cross--UMass won, 97-80
All-time: Holy Cross leads the all-time series with UMass 34-17
Holy Cross is a member of the Patriot League. Last season, the Crusaders finished 6th in the league with a 3-9 record.
Holy Cross returns 9 players who started at least 6 games last year and eleven lettermen overall. The Crusaders are ranked 3rd in the Patriot League preseason poll. They are coming off a 60-55 win over Harvard, after losing their opener 63-57 to Providence. Holy Cross is No. 252 in the Sagarin power ratings. UMass comes in at No. 103.
Sankes was named to the Preseason All-League team after earning a 2nd Team All-League selection last season. He led the team in both scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (11.9 rpg). He finished the season 2nd in the nation in rebounding and 29th in blocks. Szatko averaged 11.9 points last year, while Pegues contributed 10.3. Freshman Meade played over half of the Harvard game.
Holy Cross beat Harvard 60-55 Tuesday night. Tim Szatko scored 23 points and Josh Sankes added 14. Szatko and Sankes each pulled down 10 rebounds as the Crusaders held a 35-25 rebounding edge on the Crimson. Holy Cross held Harvard scoreless over the last 3:12. Szatko scored to break a 55-55 tie, and Sankes added a basket to extend the lead to 59-55.
ORCESTER - It's been like a safe haven. Over the past nine years the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team could count on success at the Worcester Centrum Centre.
Beginning in the 1992 NCAA Tournament, when the Minutemen beat Fordham and upset Syracuse, UMass has gone 8-0 in the home of the Worcester IceCats.
The wins haven't come against cream puffs either, as UMass has beaten DePaul, Louisville, Memphis (ranked No. 3 at the time), Maryland (No. 10) and Boston College, in addition to the two NCAA games and one against Holy Cross.
Here are the results:
March 1992: Fordham, 85-58
March 1992: Syracuse 77-71
January 1993: DePaul 79-69
December 1993: Holy Cross 97-80
February 1995: Louisville 91-76
January 1996: Memphis 64-61
February 1997: Maryland 78-61
December 1998: Boston College 75-45
In hopes of regaining some of the preseason fan optimism that was lost when UMass fell to Marquette on Monday, the Minutemen head to that haven where they will take on Holy Cross at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Crusaders check in at 1-1 after falling to Providence, 63-57, and narrowly beating Harvard, 60-55.
The Crusaders' top weapon is mammoth center Josh Sankes (7-foot-0, 275 pounds), who has prospered in the City of Seven Hills after transferring from Rutgers. He is averaging a double-double with 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.
"Josh Sankes is a big dude. He's like Shaquille O'Neal at 7-foot, 275," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "Although he's not a great athlete, he gets pretty good position and uses his body pretty well for a big kid."
After Sankes, Tim Szatko may be the Crusaders' second best player despite not being a starter. He's averaging 15 points and 7.5 boards off the bench.
With Holy Cross featuring nine players 6-5 or taller, they are much bigger than most teams in the Patriot League or any other mid-major conference.
"Patriot League teams don't usually have that kind of size," Flint said. "They're big."
To counteract that, UMass will need to avoid the foul trouble for their own big men that has plagued them the first two games.
"A lot of the stuff was away from the ball, so a lot of it is positioning," Flint said. "Against Marquette we just got in bad position. Last year they let you get away with a few bumps. This year it's about positioning."
Senior center Kitwana Rhymer has had the most foul trouble, averaging just 11.5 minutes per game while being forced to the bench by the whistles.
"I've got to re-adjust. I can't put my hands on anybody at all. I just have to move my feet," Rhymer said. "I didn't think it was going to be this tight. Players have to be careful how they play now. But I'll be all right."
Flint is aware that people think the Minutemen should win easily Saturday, but he's not thinking along those lines.
'There are some teams getting beat because on paper people think they should be winning these games handily," Flint said. "We have to go out and play."
* * *
Despite their preseason hype, UMass' two freshmen have been non-factors in the team's first two games as Willie Jenkins has played just six minutes in two games, while Jameel Pugh has yet to see action.
Flint was upset with Jenkins in the Marquette game.
"I didn't think he was ready to go into the game. He pulled the 'I'm going to be a cool freshman' coming into the game," Flint said. "I told him to get into the game and he wiped off his hands, got a towel and wiped his face and took his time getting into the game. I said you should be running into the game We talked about it. He understands."
Once he got in, Jenkins traveled right away and Flint yanked him right back out after just a minute of action.
Pugh has struggled in practice, especially defensively, but Flint insisted that he's still part of the picture.
"Jameel will be fine. We were talking to him on the way back from Milwaukee," Flint said. "He needs to focus a little bit more. He came and talked to me and said 'what do I need to do to get in there?' He just has to focus a little bit more."
Flint compared the Sacramento native's situation to that of former Minuteman Chris Kirkland.
"He's just like Chris Kirkland. He was the same way his freshman year," Flint said. "He couldn't focus. Practice was so hard for him, then he turned into an all-league player."
* * *
UMass shooting guard Monty Mack needs 11 points to move into fourth place on the school's career scoring chart past Tony Barbee (1,643).
little harmless hyperbole never hurt anyone.
"For a Patriot League team, Holy Cross is big," University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Bruiser Flint said in sizing up — literally and figuratively — today's game at the Worcester Centrum. "Josh Sankes is like Shaquille O'Neal."
That's quite a statement, and based on the Holy Cross senior center's 7-foot, 275-pound build. But it doesn't change the perception that in this meeting of New England neighbors, UMass is expected to win and win easily.
Flint knows better than to make assumptions shared by most others.
"There are teams being beaten that should have won handily on paper," he said.
And so in today's 1 o'clock game, UMass (1-1) will look for better offense, better free-throw shooting and fewer fouls than the Minutemen encountered in Monday's 68-64 loss at Marquette.
The foul situation continues to dominate early-season college basketball talk, as referees follow an NCAA mandate to call games more closely.
"Last year, I cut down on foul trouble when I stopped pushing guys, but this year is totally different," said UMass center Kitwana Rhymer, who has more fouls (eight) than rebounds (five) in 23 frustrating minutes so far. "I can't put a hand on the guy.
"But I don't blame the refs," Rhymer said. "They're trying to clean up the game. I just have to move my feet better and keep my hands off guys."
"It's pretty different than what I've been used to," forward Jackie Rogers said. "When I was at West Virginia (University) and in junior college, they let us bump. I thought they'd let us bump here."
Flint doesn't want to overdo the officiating aspect, but it's a national issue and hard to avoid.
"A lot of our fouls at Marquette came away from the ball, not just the big guys but the guards," Flint said. "Last year, they let you get away with bumping guys, but now they don't."
It's crossed his mind that the minute his players learn to adjust to the new style, the referees could revert to their old ways.
"TV plays a role in this, and the games are going too long," Flint said. "They might want the see the fouls cut down. Then you're trying not to foul, so you let a guy go through the lane, and it's a layup."
Today's game isn't on TV, anyway, and UMass has other areas to tidy up. In the first half against Marquette, UMass shot 5 for 16.
"I thought we executed better Monday than we did against Iona (a 67-65 win in which UMass shot 54 percent)," Flint claimed. "We're playing hard, with intensity, and it's a matter that if we make our foul shots, we'll win."
The Minutemen are 25 for 48 (52.1 percent) from the line.
Holy Cross is 1-1, losing 63-57 at Providence and beating Harvard 60-55 Tuesday. Sankes (14.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg) leads a cast of nine players standing 6-5 or taller.
Flint is still working freshmen Willie Jenkins and Jameel Pugh into the scheme. Jenkins cost himself time Monday when Flint said "he acted a little too cool" as he casually came off the bench to enter the Marquette game — and wound up playing one minute.
"With me, doing that sits you down," said Flint, who is still high on Jenkins and considers the episode a reminder, not a punishment.
Pugh hasn't played yet, but Flint said the guard, who he sees as a somewhat unrefined but potentially major talent, is handling it well.
"We've talked about it, and he knows what he has to work on," Flint said. "I compare him to Chris Kirkland, who also didn't play much when he first came here, but kept working and became an all-league player."