ARTFORD — It was as grim and depressing as feared, an especially agonizing night for a University of Massachusetts men's basketball team that's getting accustomed to such nights.
|Micah Brand got a lot of good looks at the basket, but only nailed 5 field goals.|
One is having a love affair with its state. The other is ensnared in a public debate about firing its coach. Even a second-half slap-fighting contest between the mascots, which may or may not have been staged, seemed like a sour rip-off from the David vs. Goliath theme.
Massachusetts (1-6) hasn't beaten UConn since 1983, a 10-game streak, and trails the series 65-38. But those are the least of the worries for the Minutemen, saddled with the school's first six-game losing streak since 1986-87.
"We didn't make shots, we didn't defend, and they're not one of those teams you play against and do that," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "When they smell blood, they step on you, and that's exactly what they did. We have a tendency to self-destruct, and that's why we're 1-6."
UMass visits Boston University tomorrow for a game they've been expected to win since it was booked. But nothing can be taken for granted anymore by a team fighting to sustain its confidence, with little tangible evidence to support it.
"We made a lot of mental mistakes, in the post, with turnovers and so on," said forward Winston Smith, who scored nine points. "Those add up against a team like that.
"You can't do it for just one half — that's point one. I don't know. We just have to play ball for 40 minutes because teams think they have us, and you can't blame them."
Eleventh-ranked UConn (8-1) won its seventh straight, and showed no letdown after Saturday's 71-69 win over Arizona. The Huskies ended the first half on a 17-7 spurt to lead 42-26 at the break, and the biggest second-half moment for UMass came when freshman guard Jameel Pugh made his college debut — with his team trailing 70-45 in its seventh game.
His first college foul came 6 seconds later — an offensive foul away from the ball. But Pugh went on to score seven points on 4-for-7 shooting, had four rebounds and two thunderous dunks for a team in desperate need of something to feel good about.
"Sitting out was tough, but if I'm on the sideline, rooting for my team or calling out screens, I'm still in the game," Pugh said. "I really don't worry about playing time. I worry about winning."
Flint didn't promise that Pugh had earned more time. But there were hints.
"We'll see," Flint said. "I think so. The thing I liked about the guys at the end — Jameel, Willie Jenkins, Jonathan (DePina) and Blizz (Ronell Blizzard) was that they kept fighting."
Albert Mouring had 20 points and Caron Butler and Johnnie Selvie scored 14 apiece for UConn, which went 7 from 11 from 3-point range while UMass went 2 for 17. The Huskies shot 53.2 percent to UMass' 35.3.
For UMass, Micah Brand scored 13 points and Kitwana Rhymer scored 12. But UConn put the defensive clamps on Monty Mack, who was 0 for 9 from the field and finished with three points.
It was the first time Mack had gone a full game without a field goal. He had a two-point game with one field goal in 1997-98.
"He's clearly one of the best guards in the area, and for us to hold him to 0 for 9 is a tribute to us," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "At times, this is the best we've looked all year. The Arizona win definitely helped our confidence."
ARTFORD — It was not a stellar effort for the University of Massachusetts backcourt last night at the Hartford Civic Center.
Shannon Crooks gets whacked by Souleymane Wane.
And it wasn't any less painful for the Minutemen guards or for coach Bruiser Flint, whose team suffered through 40 minutes of inept shooting in falling 82-67 to University of Connecticut.
Senior Monty Mack, the school's all-time 3-point shooter with 252, did not hit a 3-pointer in six attempts. In fact, Mack finished with only three points, all from the foul line.
It was the first time in Mack's collegiate career that he did not record a field goal.
Between Mack and junior Shannon Crooks, the starting backcourt produced 11 points, with seven coming from the foul line.
Crooks had two field goals. Both were layups with the game already decided. Jonathan DePina played 23 minutes and produced three points, a 3-pointer, one of only two for UMass.
"Two of our best guys go 2 for 18, you're going to struggle," Flint said. "We weren't even close, that was the thing."
Micah Brand lets this one get away.
Mack was 0 for 9 from the field and went to the bench with eight minutes left in the game and stayed there as Jameel Pugh played his first minutes for UMass and scored five points, four on consecutive dunks.
"The kid was 0 for 9 from the field, I got to try something else," Flint said. "Actually, I was going to put him back in, but Shannon did some things, and Jameel was fine."
Crooks was 0 for 7 from the perimeter but managed to score two field goals by pressing the ball handler and getting steals, which he converted into layups.
Still, it was a bad time for the perimeter game to go south, just when the rebounding (42-41 UMass) was improving, and the team had a season-low turnover count with 12.
"I don't think I put too much pressure on myself," Mack said. "I couldn't buy a bucket. It's just one of those days. I'm a player, and every day ain't going to be a good day."
Mack may have been laying the blame at his own feet, but UConn coach Jim Calhoun said he thought his team may have had a little something to do with it.
"We defended Monty Mack real well," Calhoun said. "Every time he got the ball, we doubled him with a big."
Mack said he wanted to get back on the floor and play, but added he was pleased to see Pugh playing well in the eight minutes he was out there.
As for his shooting touch, Mack said it will be back.
Mack had struggled in his first two games this season, but his next three saw improvement from both the field and the foul line.
Until last night.
"When the ball was leaving my hand it felt good, but it was either long or off the front iron," Mack said. "This is the time we got to knuckle down."
Or if the Minutemen continue to shoot like this, knuckle under.
ARTFORD — Bruiser Flint knows that as he coaches the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team, fans wave signs in the stands, suggesting that Rick Pitino or Bob Knight or someone else replace him.
But Flint said last night that the pain he feels is reserved for good friend Bill Bayno, who was fired as Nevada-Las Vegas' coach in a controversy over recruiting practices.
"I cried when I heard it," said Flint, still emotional when the subject came up after last night's 82-67 loss to Connecticut at the Hartford Civic Center. "For seven years (when both men were assistants to John Calipari at UMass), I spent more time with him than anyone else, except my wife.
"We'd go to movies together," Flint said. "If he had a date, I'd come along. The one thing he told me that made me feel a little better was that this was getting to him, emotionally and physically, and maybe it was time to move on with his life."
Flint sees the sad twist in what is happening to the former roommates who tasted success by becoming head coaches at a young age.
"My whole family is struggling, what with us losing games and Billy getting fired," said Flint, who talked to Bayno by phone. "He was actually trying to cheer me up.
"I'm just disappointed that we're 1-6, but I know what I have to do, and we could still turn it around and make a season out of this," Flint said. "But Billy can't. It came all of a sudden, and he's done."
Jameel Pugh made his UMass debut a night to remember with seven points, two huge dunks, and four rebounds in the final eight minutes. For what it's worth, UMass outscored UConn 22-12 during Pugh's mopup time.
"I just don't want to go out and play and let the game go by the wayside," said Pugh, a 6-foot-5 freshman whose number wasn't called for the first six games. "We want to show teams that if they play us, we're going to play hard. For me, this is just the first step, and next game I hope I can perform better."
Pugh played hard and aggressively, lifting the spirits of discouraged UMass fans in the somewhat skimpy crowd of 9,123. And while Flint has undergone some criticism for not using him sooner, Pugh is standing firm by his coach.
"Bruiser's won-lost record doesn't mean much to me, and I don't worry about playing time," Pugh said. "He's a great guy, he's been working with me, and he hasn't given up on me. And I like him as a coach — Bruiser is OK with me."
UMass won the rebounding battle 42-41, the first time it's outrebounded an opponent all year . . . Kitwana Rhymer scored 12 points, but played only 2:38 in the first half, when he had three fouls . . . Flint and Shannon Crooks picked up technical fouls. Crooks' technical came 10 seconds after he scored his first basket with 13:23 left.
ARTFORD, CT - When a team's leading scorer is unable to hit a single field goal throughout the entire contest, it is usually not a good sign for the success of that team.
For the Massachusetts men's basketball team, the fact that Monty Mack's only three points of the game came from the line, contributed to the 82-67 drubbing the Minutemen took at the hands of the No. 11 Connecticut Huskies last night at the Hartford Civic Center.
|TotalCast game stats|
"We didn't make shots and we didn't defend," UMass Head Coach James "Bruiser" Flint said. "When [UConn] smells blood they step on you and that is what they did."
The loss was the sixth in a row for the Maroon and White, making it the longest losing streak Flint has had during his five years in Amherst. It was also UMass' 18th loss in the last 19 times these two teams have played, and dropped the Minutemen to 1-6 on the year. Connecticut, on the other hand, improved to 8-1 with the victory.
Despite the fact that UConn led by as much as 25 by the time the middle of the second half rolled around, the Maroon and White were able to compete with the Huskies at the beginning of the contest. Micah Brand's hook shot over seven foot Connecticut center Justin Brown with 14:07 remaining, put UMass up by a score of 10-8.
But that was not the only good play of the half for Brand, as he managed to net nine points in the first frame on his way to a team-high 13 for the game. Brand was also game's leading rebounder with nine.
Jackie Rogers busts a move.
He would pick up a solid nine points, four rebounds and a pair of assists by the time the game was over, with seven of those nine points coming in the first half.
"Winston played well and Micah had his moments," Flint said. "But we have got to finish shots. We had some open looks that we didn't knock down, and after a while it becomes self-conscious - you begin to defend yourself a little bit."
By the time the first half ended with UConn's Tony Robertson laying the ball in as time expired, the Huskies had pushed their lead to 42-26, and would not be seriously threatened for the remainder of the contest.
While Brand and Smith were able to keep the Minutemen in the game for most of the first half, eventually the inability of Mack and Shannon Crooks to deliver anything in the way of offensive production spelled doom for the Maroon and White.
The duo failed to score a single point until Mack knocked down a pair of free throws with 2:53 remaining in the first frame, and would total only 11 combined points on the night. In the second half, Crooks would score six points in a span of 43 seconds, but that would prove to be the only outburst either of UMass' two leading scorers would have.
"When two of our best guys go 2-for-18 you are going to struggle," Flint said.
However, it was also the stifling Husky defense that forced Mack into an 0-for-9 shooting night, as well as a game plan designed to stop the sharpshooter from single handedly winning the contest by himself.
"At times it was the best we'd played all year," UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun said. "We defended, and we identified Mack all night. Every time he got the ball we doubled him and then rotated down. Someone was always there when he came off the circle play or stagger screen and we disallowed him to get past us."
In the second half, an Albert Mouring three ball from the corner extended the Husky lead to 24 with 14:21 left. And although the Minutemen used an 11-2 run to close the gap to 15 a few minutes later, UConn's Caron Butler promptly scored seven unanswered points of his own to push the lead back into insurmountable waters.
For the game, Mouring would lead the Huskies with 20 points, while Butler and Johnnie Selvie totaled 14 each.
With the game firmly out of reach, UMass' Jameel Pugh was able to score his first collegiate points and excite the crowd with two thundering dunks, but in the end his seven points did nothing but make the score more respectable.
The Minutemen return to action on Thursday when they take on BU. The game will be at 7 p.m. at Walter Brown Arena in Boston.
ARTFORD, CONN. - By the time the intermission buzzer sounded, the game was over. No. 11 Connecticut dominated the final 3:27 of the first half, turning a close game into a double-digit lead and coasting to an 82-67 blowout of the University of Massachusetts in the UGame at the Hartford Civic Center Tuesday.
Jonathan DePina finds himself trapped in the lane.
Senior guard Monty Mack had his worst career game in a UMass uniform, shooting 0-for-9 with just three points.
"They followed me off every screen," Mack said. "They threw two or three guys at me every time. I couldn't buy a bucket. It was just one of those games. Every day ain't going to be a good day so you just have to put the bad days behind you."
His counterpart, UConn shooting guard Albert Mouring, was impressive, scoring a game-high 20 points. Caron Butler and Johnnie Selvie each added 14 for the Huskies. Micah Brand led UMass with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Kitwana Rhymer added 12. Freshman Jameel Pugh saw his first collegiate action and scored seven points, including two dunks.
The sixth straight loss dropped the Minutemen to 1-6. They take on Boston University at the Case Center Thursday at 7 p.m.
"We have to bounce back and be ready to play Thursday," Flint said.
UMass hung with the Huskies (8-1) for the first 16 minutes of the half before falling apart in a hurry.
During the six-game losing streak, the Minutemen have gone long stretches without a field goal in each of those contests. UMass didn't score from the floor for the final 4:57 of the first half and it sank any hopes of an upset.
Jackie Rogers hit the front end of a one-and-one to cut the Connecticut lead to 29-23 with 3:44 left in the half. After Selvie scored inside and Mack hit two free throws to make it 31-25, UConn unleashed a 9-0 run, capped by two Mouring free throws after a technical on Flint to make it 40-25.
Mack hit another free throw with 7.7 seconds left in the half, but after he missed the second, Tony Robertson hurried the ball up court, drove to the basket against a flat-footed Minuteman defense and laid the ball in for a 42-26 Husky advantage at halftime.
"It went from, like, seven to 15 and that was it," Flint said.
It got worse in the second half.
With Minuteman guards Mack and Shannon Crooks shooting a combined 2-for-18, the Huskies clogged the middle, double-teaming Brand and Rhymer.
"They just stood in the lane, which made it hard for us to post the ball," Flint said.
Led by Butler, who had 12 of his 14 points in the second half, the Huskies built their lead to as many as 25, 70-45 and 72-47 just over halfway through the second half.
With the outcome already decided, Flint emptied his bench, giving minutes to reserves Pugh, Willie Jenkins and Ronell Blizzard. They played pretty well, making the deficit more respectable but never really threatening to get UMass back in the game.
"Those guys kept fighting," Flint said. "Jameel, Willie, Jonathan and Blizz got in the game and dug in and scrapped. The last guys I had on the floor played hard."
ARTFORD, CONN. - With 7:43 left in the game and the University of Massachusetts trailing Connecticut, 70-45, during an official timeout, there was a stir among Minuteman fans as one player broke from the UMass huddle and ran to the scorer's table to check in.
After six games of not getting off the bench, highly touted freshman swingman Jameel Pugh finally got into a game. When he did, he played pretty well.
Jameel Pugh got his shot but drew a quick foul call right away.
Pugh quickly looked over his shoulder to see if Flint was going to yank him, but the coach stuck with him. From there, the Sacramento native began to find a comfort zone.
With 3:58 left, he scored his first basket, draining a short jumper off a Jonathan DePina miss.
Pugh came to UMass with a near-legendary reputation as a dunker. He looked like he would get his first chance to display that prowess when he got the ball on a break with under two minutes to play, but he was fouled by Marcus Cox.
He made the first free throw and missed the second, but Micah Brand got the offensive rebound and missed the followup jumper.
Pugh grabbed the board and slammed it home one-handed, sparking the UMass crowd with 1:16 to play.
DePina quickly picked Cox' pocket at the other end of the floor. He fed Ronell Blizzard, who dished the ball to Pugh. Pugh dunked again, this time with both hands, to finish with seven points.
Senior guard Monty Mack said Pugh has been a great teammate, even when he wasn't playing, so his teammates were glad to see him get some game action.
"Once you come out of the game, he's talking to you, and during the whole game he's cheering for you on the bench. We need that from him. But just to see him get in, everybody was happy for him," Mack said.
Pugh has been among the team's most active supporters from the sideline, so much so that ESPN briefly focused on that topic during the broadcast.
"When I'm on the sidelines rooting my team on, I feel like I'm in the game as long as I can help my team out," he said.
After the game, Pugh showed no bitterness about having to wait so long to get on the court.
"Any time I get in the game, I want to play hard and hopefully continue to get better. Hopefully we can get some wins down the road," he said.
"This is just the first step. In the next game, hopefully I can get better and better," he continued. "I always say luck is not some thing that just happens. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I've been preparing for my opportunity. When I got out there I was ready to go."
Pugh's entry into the game ended the rumor that he might redshirt. He vehemently denied the rumor that he had considered transferring.
"I don't know who started that rumor. If I find out who it was, I'll choke 'em," he said with a smile. "Bruiser is a great guy. He's helping me on and off the court. I know what I have to do to get better. It's not like he's giving up on me. He gave me my first opportunity and I'm thankful for that."
Flint was pleased with the freshman's play.
"Jameel was fine," Flint said. "He's been working a little harder. I wanted to give him an opportunity. I was trying to get somebody on the perimeter that could give me something."
When asked if the eight-minute stint had earned Pugh more time, Flint said, "We'll see. I think so."
After the game, UMass fans near the runway cheered Pugh as he walked off the court, eliciting a smile from him.
"I'm glad the fans have been patient with me, and when I finally got that shot they supported me all the way," he said.
he game between the University of Massachusetts and Connecticut drew only 9,123 fans, well short of the 14,423 that the building holds.
The UGame has sold out in both schools' on-campus gyms, but has struggled in Hartford. It is back on campus for the next two years, but is scheduled to return to the Civic Center in 2003-04. The schools released a joint statement that essentially said they might move the game out of Hartford due to poor attendance and will make a decision over the next two years.
UNLUCKY SIX: The six-game losing streak was the first since the 1986-87 season, when the Minutemen dropped a half-dozen games in succession to Northeastern, Stanford, Yale, George Washington, Penn State and West Virginia from Dec. 13- Jan. 10.
Interestingly, the six-game losing streak prior to that, which began at the end of the 1985-86 season and bridged into '86-87, had UConn as UMass' sixth loss. The skid ended when the Minutemen beat Boston University, 65-62. UMass plays BU at the Case Center Thursday at 7 p.m.
Some UMass "fans" express their First Amendment rights.
The school's longest losing streak ever spanned 29 games beginning in Jan. 26, 1979 to Boston College and ending when UMass finally beat Harvard on Feb. 2, 1980.
THE ANTI-FLINT FACTION was significantly represented at the game and those UMass fans brought signs. There were at least five stands full of people in the end zone closest to the UMass bench begging for the coach's ouster and asking for Rick Pitino or Bob Knight as replacements.
NEUTRAL (sic) SITE: The game was UMass' third of five neutral-site games, but the atmosphere in the Hartford Civic Center was far from neutral.
The Minutemen wore their home white uniforms despite the fact that the Huskies play nine home games in the arena in the mall, enough games that UConn wouldn't be allowed to play in an NCAA Tournament game there if the arena were playing host to a sub-regional.
The Civic Center features a UConn souvenir stand, shows pictures of coach Jim Calhoun, serves UConn bottled water and has the Huskies' national championship banner hanging in one end zone.
ARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut won its fifth of five UGames Tuesday night, and it wasn't close: UConn (8-1), currently ranked 11th in the country, dominated UMass (1-6) from the time Taliek Brown fed Albert Mouring for a 3-pointer and a 13-10 lead, to the final 82-67 count, which was closer than the game looked.
Monty Mack tries to catch up to Tony Robertson.
Still, if you wonder what happened to these two college basketball programs, which were comparably successful at the outset of the USeries, this year you can look no further than their respective point men.
Taliek Brown, a McDonald's All-American from New York City, is UConn's starter at the position. The freshman's second choice, as things turned out, was UMass.
Against his would-be teammates Tuesday, Brown made some excellent plays and decisions, as well as a number of others that prompted coach Jim Calhoun to look away.
He rounded UMass' perimeter defense and made a perfect entry pass to where only Johnnie Selvie could catch it, with good inside position, and Selvie duly converted the hoop. Like every other New York point, he was a magnet for lane penetration, and he lofted several classic runners over UMass' trees in the paint. Brown also was the man who primarily guarded the ineffective Mack.
But he also, on a play designed for his own one-on-one move, drove into the lane and popped an airball. In the second half, he missed two straight foul shots, the second another airball.
"He's a terrific point guard," said Calhoun. "He's just got to learn when to and when not to, and that just takes time."
UMass obviously could have used him, too, but how good would his freshman year in Amherst be? Brown speculated, "I'd be really the go-to guy. They seem like they need a lot of help, but they're a good team. It's tough."
It is tough. UMass' point-guard situation, for years in need of repair, still isn't out of neutral.
Shannon Crooks, who at 6-feet-2, 222 pounds is similar in stature to the rugged Brown, is UMass' de facto quarterback, though he has always seemed better suited to play the same position - shooting guard - as Mack. Three assists per game just aren't much, and neither is his field-goal accuracy, which consistently hovers around 40 percent. He is a junior, and Minutemen fans have to wonder whether the Crooks-as-point guard period already has reached garbage time.
Jonathan DePina is much more the classic floor leader, but has never earned a consistent starting role. On the waiting list is the promising Anthony Anderson, the top-100 scholastic player from Lynn who's sitting out the year due to academic requirements. Anderson eventually may be the solution, but this year he can't even practice with the team.
Tuesday night, Crooks and DePina combined for 11 points, three assists, and two turnovers, while Brown's final tally was six points, five assists, and two turnovers. No great difference.
But this is how one program becomes perennially greater than another one. Brown strongly considered UMass because Bruiser Flint appealed to him ("I like Bru," Brown said. "He's a great coach ... that played the game.")
Understandably, he decided on UConn, which was only a year removed from a national championship, and even closer to his New York home than UMass. He always plays the uptempo style a lightning-quick point guard loves.
Now that he's with the Huskies, he's doing OK, while his team is faring better than that. A nice mix of veterans and young talent make that possible. He can impress and mess up all in one game, and his team still wins, while he simply learns to play better.
"(Playing at UConn) takes a lot of pressure off of me, so I can work on my game," Brown said.
Calhoun said, "(He's) playing with Albie Mouring, who may be one of the best shooters in the country. Caron Butler, who's one of the best freshmen in the country. A couple of seven-footers that are big and experienced. Selvie, who's a junior college All-American. Tony Robertson ... we have some pretty good players. So, some of his life's a little bit easier, because he has guys who have been there before."
UConn is clearly a better team than UMass, but not at the point. But by the time its star shooting guard, Mouring, is gone, point guard will be one spot at which the Huskies outplay the Minutemen.
ARTFORD, Conn. - Coming off a difficult loss to Connecticut, University of Massachusetts basketball coach Bruiser Flint was relatively composed Tuesday - until he was asked about his friend and former colleague Bill Bayno, who was fired as head coach of Nevada Las Vegas Tuesday after the program was put on four years' probation by the NCAA.
Bruiser & company looked for answers against the ranked Huskies.
"I started crying, because," Flint paused to collect himself as his eyes briefly moistened, "for six years, the only person I spent more time with than Bill Bayno was my wife. When you spend a lot of time with someone and you sit around and talk about your dreams and aspirations, it's tough to see. I probably was never closer with anybody else. It hurts when that happens. What do you say?"
The NCAA cleared Bayno of any official wrongdoing, as the infractions stemmed from a booster giving money to former Vegas recruit Lamar Odom. But the school decided to replace Bayno with assistant coach Max Good anyway.
"The institution felt it was my fault," Bayno told the Associated Press. "But I wasn't charged with anything. The NCAA cleared me of wrongdoing."
Bayno reached two NCAA Tournaments in five seasons, but he told Flint the pressure of the NCAA investigation had been wearing on him.
"He told me he was so emotional that physically it was starting to bother him a little bit," Flint said. "He said he just needed to get on with his life, that the whole situation was getting to him."
Flint's own job is under scrutiny because of his team's poor performance, but he said the situations aren't similar.
"I'm disappointed that we're 1-6," he began. "I think we're better than we're playing. I know what I got to do. (Bayno's firing) came all of a sudden. I can still turn this around. I can make a season of this. I can still see the light at the end of the tunnel. He can't. He's done.
"The whole (UMass) family is struggling right now," Flint continued. "We're losing games. Billy got fired. It's tough."
That's what it's all about. Confidence that you can score on your opponent. Confidence that you stop teams from scoring on you. Confidence that your bench can do the job when the starters can't.
Player Of The Game
Deng's major concern is playing time. But for the second straight game he has seen UConn's reserves making the most of their minutes.
"I know,'' Deng said. "Justin is playing real well right now, too. But I still see myself fitting into the rotation. Guys are playing well right now but that's all right.''
On Saturday, after the victory over Arizona, he saw emotion, desire and a will to win. Tuesday after the No.11 Huskies' 82-67 victory over UMass in the fifth annual MassMutual U Game, he saw that his young pups are becoming a confident group.
A few more fans may have had a chance to see that up close and personal, but the Civic Center was half-empty. Only 9,123 showed up for the 103rd meeting between the teams. It was the smallest crowd to see a UConn men's game at the Civic Center since 1987 and the first below 10,000 since 1988.
The Minutemen (1-6), who have lost six in a row, tried early on to hang with the Huskies (8-1), but UConn stood firm and kept knocking UMass back on its heels.
"We can talk about people's defense, but they play,'' UMass coach James "Bruiser'' Flint said. "And then what they do is they say, `OK, you're not knocking down any shots. All right, well, we're going to make it a little bit harder for you.' And then you become self-conscious, actually. You defend yourself a little bit.''
UConn went on 9-1 tear over the final 2:40 of the first half, took a 42-26 lead at halftime and didn't let the Minutemen get any closer than 13 the rest of the way. And that didn't happen until 1:02 remained in the game, when the Huskies' defensive effort fell off a little bit.
But overall, UConn, winner of seven straight with nine days off before its next game, is showing signs of coming together.
They really did it on defense, holding the Minutemen's leading scorer, Monty Mack, to three points and 0-for-9 shooting after coming into the game averaging 19. They did it by putting the clamps on Micah Brand (13 points, nine rebounds) and Winston Smith (nine points).
The Huskies held UMass to 35.3 percent shooting, 29.4 percent in the first half. They buckled it down after Brand and Smith combined for 13 of the Minutemen's first 19 points. Brand scored three straight times to give the Minutemen a 10-8 lead. But his dominance in the middle didn't last long.
The bench did it again. Particularly Justin Brown who had four points and career highs in rebounds (six) and minutes (17). And they did it on offense, too, with Albert Mouring leading the way with 20 points. The Huskies shot 53.2 percent - 58.1 percent in the first half.
"Today I saw some confidence, which I like seeing,'' Calhoun said. "Sometimes too much ... but still I saw some of that, and I think that's important for us. I think the team had a chance by playing some people in Maui, certainly by some home games, which helps us because you do build confidence that way. And obviously, I think the Arizona win did nothing but help our confidence. I was worried we would have a letdown [against UMass]. I don't know if we were as emotional as I would have liked us, but we were very pragmatic, and we were very business-like knowing the fact that we have [nine] days off.''
Caron Butler (14 points, five rebounds) had a tough start defending Smith, in addition to not feeling it on offense, and did some bench time.
"I'm going to let the game come to me, and that's what I did,'' Butler said. "At halftime, [Calhoun] told me to start taking shots and just get off, and that's what I did. Defensively, they said [Smith] wasn't a scorer at all so I kind of just laid off him, and he caught me. He was knocking down outside shots and everything, then I had to respect him a little more. Always expect the unexpected.''
Souleymane Wane had a difficult time against Brand and watched Justin Brown start cutting into his minutes.
"This has been a long time in the waiting,'' said Brown, who helped the UConn bench outscore the UMass reserves, 32-22. "Finally, I'm breaking through. I've still got a long way to go. I know that.''
Brown had a vicious breakaway dunk to end the game.
See, even he has confidence. All the Huskies do.
"That was my little thing,'' he said. "I needed that dunk.''
or one year, anyway, the U in U-Game stood for unattended.
The combination of $35 tickets, a sub-par opponent in the 1-6 UMass Minutemen and a unique ticket dispersal system conspired to keep folks away from the Civic Center in droves Tuesday night. Only 9,123 were on hand to see No. 11 UConn beat UMass 82-67 in the fifth MassMutual U-Game.
Just three days after a wildly enthusiastic Gampel Pavilion sellout helped will UConn to a dramatic upset of No. 5 Arizona, the Civic Center hosted its smallest UConn crowd since February 1987.
"I would not blame the fans for this one," coach Jim Calhoun said. "I know if this game was at Gampel Pavilion, and part of our season-ticket package, it would have been sold out. It had nothing to do with a lack of interest, it just has to be put together better."
Nowhere was the sparseness of Tuesday's crowd more apparent than in the upper sections of the Civic Center. Of the 38 sections that make up the upper bowl, 17 were completely empty and 30 contained about 51 people, based on an eyeball survey late in the first half.
Even before Tuesday's mass no-show, the athletic directors of both schools released a statement addressing the possibility of not playing future U-Games at the Civic Center.
The U-Game is next scheduled for the Civic Center in 2003, after moving to the Mullins Center in Amherst next season and Gampel in 2002. But the statement released Tuesday said the two schools will spend the next two years exploring the logistics of playing neutral site games and splitting the ticket inventory.
"We're going to evaluate it," UConn athletic director Lew Perkins said. "We've had more trouble here than at any other place, so we'll look at it and see what's best for the series."
Beyond the quality of UConn's opponent and the $10 hike in ticket price, the U-Game suffers at the Civic Center because the game is not part of UConn's season-ticket package, unlike the U-Games played on-campus.
The 1999 and '98 games, played at Gampel and the Mullins Center, were sellouts. But neither of the two previous Civic Center games, played in '96 and '97, sold out. The 1997 attendance of 10,797 was the lowest at the Civic Center since a December 1989 game against Maryland. That game was part of the short-lived ACC-Big East Challenge, which, like the U-Games, was not part of UConn's season-ticket package.
Instead of capitalizing on a built-in ticket base comprised of UConn season-ticket holders, tickets are split evenly between the schools, with roughly 8,000 tickets allocated to each school. UConn's season-ticket base is around 11,000.
"If you satisfy your season-ticket holders, you wouldn't have a split building," UConn associate director of athletics Tim Tolokan said. "The next two years, Lew and [UMass AD] Bob Marcum will look at - does it make sense to continue this off-campus, neutral thing, or should it just be Mullins-Gampel, Mullins-Gampel. That might be the way to go."
In the five years of the U-Game, ticket prices have dropped from $75 in 1996 to $35, proof to Perkins that the problem goes beyond the wallet.
"People who say it's the ticket prices, that's not an excuse," Perkins said. "We're concerned about it."
ARTFORD - The dominance for the University of Connecticut men's basketball team in the annual U-Game continued Tuesday night with a 82-67 pounding of UMass before a disappointing crowd of 9,123 at the Hartford Civic Center.
The Huskies led by 25 points with 7:01 remaining before a late UMass rally made the score respectable. Senior guard Albert Mouring led the Huskies with 20 points. UConn has now won 10 straight and 18 of 19 against UMass. The Huskies have also won 72 straight games against non-Big East Conference schools from New England.
The 11th-ranked Huskies (8-1) won their seventh straight game since a loss to Dayton in the Maui Invitational. UConn breaks for exams before returning to game action Dec. 22 against Fairfield at the Civic Center.
"I thought our kids took care of business today," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "At times we might have been the best we've been all year."
The Huskies played even better in stretches than in their emotional 71-69 win over Arizona Saturday. That's something that pleased Calhoun greatly.
"My biggest fear coming off the Arizona game was would we settle in a little bit," Calhoun said. "But we handled it business-like. I'm really happy right now."
UMass lost its sixth straight since winning its season-opener against Iona. The Minutemen had hopes of advancing into the NCAA tournament with a veteran team returning but have fallen on hard times. Coach Bruiser Flint's job has been rumored to be in jeopardy and two UMass students summed up the the program's current state by wearing paper bags on their heads in shame.
"We didn't make shots, we didn't defend, and they're not one of those teams you play against and do that," Flint said. "When they smell blood, they step on you and that's exactly what they did. Next thing you know (the UConn lead) went from seven or eight to 15 or 16 and that was it."
The Huskies also shut down UMass shooting guard Monty Mack, who entered the game leading the Minutemen in scoring average at 19.2. Mack was 0-for-9 from the field - including 0-for-6 on 3-point attempts - and had just three points from the foul line.
"We defended and we identified Monty Mack really well," Calhoun said. "(Freshman guard) Taliek (Brown) did a wonderful job on him. Albie (Mouring) gave plenty of help and Tony (Robertson), the three guys assigned to him, did a good job on him. We always had two guys on him when he touched the ball. For him to go 0-for-9 is a great reflection on what we did."
Caron Butler and Johnnie Selvie chipped in with 14 points apiece for the Huskies and 7-foot sophomore center Justin Brown continued to play well off the bench. Brown had six rebounds, three blocked shots and four points in 17 minutes, a career-high.
"As a team we're coming together" Brown said. "We just have to carry that over and keep working hard."
UMass hung tough until late in the first half when the Huskies began to pull away. The Minutemen had pulled within six points at 31-25 when UConn closed the half on 11-1 run to lead 42-28 at the half.
Selvie started the run with a short banker high off the glass to make it 33-25 with 2:39 left in the half. A short jumper by Mouring, a 3-pointer by Tony Robertson , two Mouring free throws and a Robertson layin just before the buzzer closed the scoring for the Huskies in the half.
The Mouring free throws were courtesy of a technical foul called by Tim Higgins on Flint with 57 seconds remaining in the half. Flint was on the verge on a for the previous five minutes before Higgins blew the whistle.
The Huskies pulled away for good early in the second half. A Mouring 3-pointer gave the Huskies a 56-32 lead with 14:20 remaining in the first half, their biggest lead of the night at that point. UMass would cut the deficit to 15 at 58-43 with a 9-0 run that was capped by two Shanon Crooks free throws with 12:41 remaining.
But the Huskies would quickly get the lead back to 20 points and maxed out with a 25-point advantage at 70-45 on a Caron Butler pull-up jumper with 8:43 remaining.
ARTFORD - Dwindling attendance at the U-Game has forced the administrators at the University of Connecticut and Massachusetts to re-evaluate the future of the Hartford Civic Center as a neutral site.
The programs split the gate for Tuesday's game but a $35 ticket price and the fact that UMass entered with a 1-5 record led to a poor crowd of 9,123 at the Civic Center, which seats 16,249. The crowd was the smallest to see a UConn game at the Civic Center since the 1986-87 season and the first Civic Center crowd under 10,000 since the 1987-88 season.
Both programs were given 7,000 tickets to sell. A source close to the UConn program said the school sold 6,000 of its tickets while UMass sold just 1,000 of their seats.
The series was re-born under the U-Game tag prior to the 1996-97 season when both programs were thriving. UMass was coming off an appearance in the national championship game the prior season while the Huskies had a 30-win season and a Sweet 16 appearance.
But on the day the initial agreement was announced a sign of doom happened as John Calipari announced he was leaving UMass to take the head coaching job with the New Jersey Nets of the NBA. That happened after UMass start Marcus Camby and UConn's Ray Allen announced they were foregoing their senior season for the NBA.
The game was played the first two years at the Hartford Civic Center. The universities split the gate the first year and 14,398 showed up at the Civic Center despite ticket prices being $75 and $50. The next year the ticket prices decreased to $50 and $35 but only 10,797 came to the Civic Center.
The series returned to campus sites the next two seasons and sold out the Mullins Center and Gampel Pavilion the last two seasons as a part of those school's season-ticket packages. The game is scheduled to be at UMass next season and in Gampel in two years but was suppossed to return to the Civic Center in three years.
But UConn athletic director Lew Perkins said that decision will likely be re-evaluated after this year.
"We're going to see how it goes and re-evaluate in two years if we come back to play (at the Civic Center)," Perkins said. "The rivalry will continue but people have to support the game if it is going to be played at neutral site."
All clips in MPEG format.
Bruiser gets a little nuts and takes out Geoff Arnold. (file size = 385k)
Jameel Pugh gives the UMass fans what they've been asking for. (597k)
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|Connecticut Huskies (#11)||82|
|The MassMutual U-Game|
at the Hartford Civic Center
CONNECTICUT (82) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Butler 22 5-8 3-4 2-5 0 4 14 Saunders 28 3-6 2-6 2-7 2 3 8 Wane 13 1-3 0-0 1-2 0 4 2 T Brown 29 3-7 0-2 0-3 5 3 6 Mouring 36 7-14 2-2 2-6 2 0 20 J Brown 17 2-4 0-2 0-6 1 3 4 Hazelton 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Robertson 17 3-8 0-1 1-2 2 1 7 Selvie 22 6-9 2-2 1-6 0 4 14 Cox 15 3-3 0-0 1-2 1 2 7 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 33-62 9-19 10-39 13 24 82 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.532, FT-.474. 3-Point Goals: 7-11, .636 (Butler 1-1, Mouring 4-6, Robertson 1-3, Cox 1-1). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 7 (J Brown 3, Saunders 2, Wane, Selvie). Turnovers: 15 (Cox 4, J Brown 4, Selvie 3, T Brown 2, Mouring, Saunders). Steals: 7 (Butler 2, Cox, J Brown, Robertson, Saunders, T Brown). MASSACHUSETTS (67) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Smith 26 4-7 0-0 1-4 2 1 9 Brand 33 5-14 3-6 3-9 2 1 13 Rhymer 19 4-6 4-8 4-8 0 4 12 Mack 29 0-9 3-4 1-1 2 1 3 Crooks 27 2-9 4-6 1-4 2 3 8 Depina 23 1-3 0-0 1-3 1 2 3 Rogers 17 3-6 2-3 2-2 0 0 8 Blizzard 5 1-2 0-0 1-1 1 1 2 Jenkins 7 0-3 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Williams 6 1-2 0-0 1-1 0 2 2 Pugh 8 3-7 1-2 3-4 0 2 7 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 24-68 17-29 18-38 10 17 67 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.353, FT-.586. 3-Point Goals: 2-17, .118 (Smith 1-1, Mack 0-6, Crooks 0-3, Depina 1-3, Jenkins 0-2, Pugh 0-2). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 6 (Rhymer 3, Crooks 2, Brand). Turnovers: 12 (Brand 4, Smith 3, Crooks 2, Mack, Pugh, Rhymer). Steals: 8 (Crooks 4, Blizzard, Brand, Depina, Smith). __________________________________ Connecticut 42 40 - 82 Massachusetts 26 41 - 67 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 9,123. Officials: Tim Higgins, Tom Lopes, Reggie Greenwood.