ecember 7, 2000, 7:00 p.m.
at the Mullins Center
TV Coverage: None
Head Coach: Tim Welsh (Potsdam State '84), Third season
Current Record: 4-3
1999-2000 Record: 11-19 ( 4-12 in Big East)
Roster: Seniors: Erron Maxey (6-6, F), Karim Shabazz (7-2, C), Chris Rogers (6-4, G)
Juniors: John Linehan (5-9, G), Kareem Hayletts (6-0, G), Brian Schnurr (6-7, F)
Sophomores: Romuald Augustin (6-7, F), Abdul Mills (6-3, G),
Freshmen: Maris Laksa (6-9, G), Christopher Anrin (6-7, F), Shieku Kabba (6-2, G), Marcus Douthit (6-10, F)
Providence leads the all-time series 21-5.
Last meeting: Providence 61, UMass 60 (OT), Dec. 30, 1999, at Providence.
Providence is a member of the Eastern division of the Big East. Last season, the Friars finished 12th out of 13 teams with a 4-12 league record.
Senior Erron Maxey is the Friars' leading scorer, averaging 11.4 ppg, and he is also their leading rebounder, averaging 7.1 rpg. Sophomore Abdul Mills is averaging 11.3 ppg, along with 3.1 assists. Junior John Linehan is averaging 10.5 ppg, and sophomore Romuald Augustin is averaging 8.9 ppg. Senior Karim Shabazz is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game. Sheiku Kabba is averaging 3.1 assists per game.
Providence was picked to finish 6th out of 7 teams in the Eastern division of the Big East in the preseason poll. They are currently ranked # 138 in Jeff Sagarin's power ratings. UMass comes in at # 132.
Providence defeated Holy Cross 63-57 in the season opener for both teams. Erron Maxey scored a game-high 16 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. Holy Cross beat UMass 78-65 on Saturday, Nov. 25.
Providence beat the University of Rhode Island 95-72 on Saturday. Erron Maxey led the Friars with 19 points, and a game-high 8 rebounds, and John Linehan added 17 points.
MHERST - It may have been the most frustrating loss the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team suffered all last season.
The Minutemen erased a double-digit deficit in the second half to lead Providence 68-67 late, but a fluke bounce landed in the hands of David Murray with 1.3 seconds left and he sank the short jumper to give the Friars a 69-68 win, leaving UMass crushed.
The season may be only four games old, but the Minutemen are badly in need of reversing last year's result in hopes of putting their season back on the right track.
UMass (1-3) and Providence (4-3) play at the Mullins Center Thursday at 7.
"I watched last year's tape yesterday to see how they guarded some of our plays," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "It was ugly."
Thursday's game begins a stretch of five games in 11 days for the Minutemen. A good showing could help put the team's early-season struggles behind it, while a poor showing could sink UMass.
"Nobody ever needs five games in 11 days. That's somewhat crazy. But we just have to go out and play," said Flint who admitted his team needs a victory. "We need a win because we need to get some confidence. We've been playing hard but we need to get some results from that."
It was a long offseason in Rhode Island's capital city. Three players - Donta Wade, Jamal Camah and Murray - all of whom had played more than 30 minutes against UMass last year, were expelled from Providence after an off-campus incident.
Two more players transferred, thinning the Friar bench considerably. It prompted dour predictions entering the season, but freshman Marcus Douthit and Maris Laksa have played better than expected.
The Friars arrived in Amherst Wednesday night riding a two-game win streak and momentum created by the return of two previously injured starters.
Junior point guard John Linehan had been sidelined with a hamstring injury for five gamesbut returned with senior center Karim Shabazz (knee injury) to help lead the Friars to a 95-72 win over instate rival Rhode Island.
Linehan had 17 points in that game, while Shabazz blocked 10 shots.
Flint said the return of the point guard greatly improves the Friars.
"Linehan organizes them on offense. They have more of a flow when he's out there," Flint said. "Plus he's such a pest defensively. He gets up under you."
Senior forward Erron Maxey has been the Friars' leading scorer with 11.7 points per game.
This is Providence's first true road game this season (four home, three neutral) and its first ever trip to the Mullins Center. It will be UMass' first home game since beating Iona, 67-65, in the season opener.
In light of UMass' early struggles, senior captain Monty Mack is trying to keep his teammates in the right frame of mind.
"I have to do a better job making sure in certain situations in the game that everybody is calm," Mack said.
* * *
Notes: UMass big man Micah Brand and Providence guard Abdul Mills were teammates at Milford (Conn.) Academy ... Mack needs just one 3-pointer to become the school's all-time leader in the category.
oping to keep its modest win streak alive, Providence College will travel to the Mullins Center tonight to face Massachusetts, which will be trying to end its losing streak.
The Friars are 4-3 after a 95-72 win over in-state rival URI on Saturday, a game that featured the return of guard John Linehan after a two-week absence due to a strained hamstring.
Linehan scored 17 points in only 18 minutes of play. Also in that game, center Karim Shabazz, who has been nursing a bruised knee, tied a career record with 10 blocked shots.
Friars coach Tim Welsh pointed out that Shabazz has practiced all week, but is not yet 100 percent. Linehan, on the other hand, has not been on the court with the team since Saturday.
Welsh said that Linehan experienced soreness after playing against Rhode Island, but after therapy this week the junior has been penciled into the starting lineup for tonight.
Providence has won its last two games, while the Minutemen have gone on a three-game losing streak -- including a 78-65 loss at Holy Cross -- since beating Iona in their season opener. The Friars disposed of the Crusaders in their first home game, 63-57.
Last year marked the first time since 1980 that the schools faced each other. In that game, at the Civic Center, Providence won in overtime on a last-second layup by David Murray. Massachusetts guard Monty Mack led all scorers with 22 points.
Welsh said that the 1999 matchup was a "survival game" for the Friars, adding that containing leading scorer Mack, currently third on the UMass career scoring list, is key.
"One of their strengths is their guard play with Mack," said Eelsh. "He's a handful; he's one of the better guards in the country. We'll have to do a good job on him to beat them."
There will not be one player assigned to guard Mack, Welsh said, but it will be a team effort.
The Minutemen have another thing going for them -- their frontcourt play.
"They have a lot of size inside," Welsh said. "It's not a lot of scoring, but they have a defensive presence."
Providence will counter with the 7-foot-2 Shabazz and 6-10 freshman Marcus Douthit, who swatted three shots to go with Shabazz's 10 in the URI win. Douthit also added 14 points.
The Friars have a balanced scoring attack. Senior Erron Maxey and sophomore Abdul Mills are averaging just over 11 points per game, with Linehan adding 10.5.
While the Friars did travel to Kansas City for a Thanksgiving tournament, the trip to Amherst is the first true road game for the squad this season.
In nine years playing at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen have posted a 23-6 mark against non-cenference opponents. Welsh is looking forward to the challenge for his players.
"It's going to be a difficult environment; I'll be interested to see how we react," said Welsh.
After tonight, Providence will travel to Washington D.C. to face George Washington, its third Atlantic-10 foe in as many games. The Friars begin their Big East slate on Jan. 3 at Seton Hall, which is playing one of the best recruiting classes in the nation.
But there are five games to play until then.
"We really haven't thought about it," Welsh said of the impending conference games. "We have a lot of big games before that. But we have five (Big East) teams in the top 25, and I just saw two other ones on TV last night that aren't -- Georgetown and Villanova -- that are very good. Seven of 13 teams are top 30 in the country, so that says our league is very difficult."