Coverage from:
The Springfield Union-News
The Boston Herald
The Boston Herald - notebook
The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Minutemen fall
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 12/31/2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Mercifully, the nonconference portion of the University of Massachusetts men's basketball schedule is over, but not before the Minutemen who once rallied around "Refuse to Lose" again refused to win.

Kit Rhymer gets the outlet pass away.
In dropping a 63-59 Tournament of Champions consolation game to Richmond, UMass (2-9) managed to win the rebounding battle by 10, hit 13 of 17 free throws, and hold the Spiders (8-2) to 32.1 percent shooting. The Minutemen received 20 points from Monty Mack, whose 7-for-15 shooting provided his most accurate night all season, and a career-high 14 rebounds from Winston Smith.

Lastly, Richmond was without 6-foot-5 senior Kinte Smith, a starter who was out with a foot injury. It's not easy to lose with all of that going your way, but UMass managed, anyway.

"I don't know what the problem is, to be honest," said Smith, whose previously rebounding high in a game was seven. "But this is totally frustrating for me. I've never been through anything like it.

"We've got the Atlantic 10 season, though, and hopefully we can win the A-10 regular season," said Smith, summoning all his optimism. The Minutemen open the conference schedule Saturday at home against George Washington.

This tournament marked the first time since the 1986 Hurricane Classic in West Palm Beach, Fla., that UMass had gone 0-2 in an in-season tournament. The Minutemen have lost three straight and nine of 10, and are in the throes of their worst start in 20 years.

Smith, who in some ways has been the team's most consistent player, also had five assists last night. But even his game had a flaw in the form of 1-for-9 shooting.

Richmond will join the Atlantic 10 as a full member next year, and the Spiders showed they are ready for the challenge. Greg Stevenson scored 19 points, Rick Houston and Scott Ungerer had 15 each, and Mike Skrocki 11. Richmond held off UMass with 20-for-24 foul shooting.

"For us, a lot of these kids grew up watching UMass, so this is a good win for us," Richmond coach John Beilein said. The Spiders hit UMass with a deluge of first-half 3-point shots, making seven of 20 before the break and building a 30-25 halftime lead.

They took only nine of their 29 first-half shots from two-point range, and withstood a 12-0 UMass surge that had given the Minutemen a 17-13 lead. Richmond was still leading 60-57 when Ungerer hit one of two free throws with 21.1 seconds left.

After Kit Rhymer's two free throws with 12.3 seconds left made it 61-59, Stevenson was fouled with 11.1 seconds to go. The Richmond forward hit both, making it a four-point game and making Mack's late 3-point miss a footnote.

UMass continued to receive uneven play at point guard, where Shannon Crooks hit two late 3-pointers to keep UMass close, but also committed five turnovers with two assists. UMass had more turnovers (15) than assists (13).

"All three of our guards have struggled, so pick your poison," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "It's not just Shannon, or Monty, or Jonathan (DePina). But our guard play has hurt us this year."

Micah Brand, who scored 13 points for UMass, was as much at a loss as Smith to explain the crushing completeness of this year's disappointment.

"We know we have the talent, but we just have to put it all together," Brand said. "Hopefully, everybody will realize that soon."

UMass denied: Minutemen find little consolation vs. Spiders
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 12/31/2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There is still an image, however faint, of what once existed.

Micah Brand gets swarmed by the Spider defense.
``This team was in the Final Four five years ago,'' Richmond coach Jim Beilein said of the UMass team his Spiders beat last night, 63-59. ``A lot of kids on this team watched UMass on TV when they were growing up.''

What a shock for them, then.

Richmond happened upon a beaten program - a 2-9 UMass team that hasn't had this bad a start since the 1980-81 season.

There was nothing even remotely nostalgic about what UMass put on the floor last night in the consolation game of the Tournament of Champions.

As usual, they didn't play as smart as their opponent. They didn't shoot free throws as well. And they didn't make the plays that win games.

This season, they never do.

``We can't make a play,'' said coach Bruiser Flint, whose faint hope of any sort of postseason survival - as well as another year on the job - is dwindling with every missed layup and bad pass. ``We haven't been able to make a play the entire year. We can't get a rebound, a free throw. Tonight, the problem was that we weren't able to get any key rebounds when it counted.''

That belies the stat sheet. On paper, and only half in reality, the Minutemen outrebounded the Spiders by a 43-33 margin.

But the Spiders grabbed the meaningful boards, especially in the second half when the Minutemen tied the score three times, only to lose hold each time.

The worst stretch came with 2:07 left, after Shannon Crooks drained his second 3-pointer of the half to cut the Richmond lead to 54-52.

Reserve forward Ronell Blizzard made a costly mistake when he bumped Scott Ungerer as the Richmond point guard crossed midcourt.

Ungerer hit both free throws for a 56-52 edge, and after a Monty Mack miss, the Spiders came back for some important padding.

Greg Stevenson, who grabbed three huge offensive boards in the second half, rebounded an Ungerer miss, got fouled, and hit the first of two.

Ungerer came back with a free throw for a 58-52 lead with 54 seconds left, and Richmond's path to victory was thus established.

The Spiders shot 13-of-16 from the free throw line over the final 3:28 - just enough to hold off some late UMass threats.

These included a Micah Brand turnaround in the lane with 39 seconds left, and a twisting, leaning trey from Mack that cut the Richmond lead to 60-57 with 23 seconds left. But as usual, it wasn't enough.

``I didn't get upset with them,'' Flint said of his postgame locker room talk. ``I just told them, you have to decide when you want to win games.''

Right now, though, they don't seem to know how.

A-10 slate offers chance for fresh start
UMass Notebook
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 12/31/2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - UMass doesn't welcome the start of the Atlantic 10 Conference season so much as the Minutemen are making a desperate lunge for that portion of their schedule.

Last night's 63-59 loss to Richmond - an impending A-10 opponent - dropped the Minutemen to 2-9, and sapped their confidence level to a new low.

``No, I haven't ever (experienced this),'' said senior forward Winston Smith, who suddenly sounds like the voice of wisdom on this directionless journey.

``I don't know what's missing,'' he said. ``This is totally frustrating for me. The coaches think we have to start listening better.

``But if we can come together, then hopefully we can win the Atlantic 10,'' added Smith, who grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. ``I think that all of us need to listen better. Everyone gets along. It's just tough. I think the team's confidence is down right now, but we always dig ourselves a hole, and then have to come back out of it.

``We just have to do whatever it takes to win games.''

Right now, that means taking a hearty bite out of the A-10 schedule, which won't be any simpler than the just-completed nonconference gauntlet.

Under the A-10's one-year unbalanced format - until Richmond joins the fray next season - the Minutemen play Temple, Xavier, Dayton, George Washington and St. Bonaventure all twice.

These teams essentially comprise the cream of the conference.

``There's never relief when you're 2-9, but we know we have the conference ahead of us, and we know what to do in the conference. Every game will be tough,'' Smith said.

``But we can't have this low confidence. We won't win any games that way.''

Spiders still lurk

Richmond, which will fill the hole left by Virginia Tech in men's and women's basketball in the A-10 next season, has been penalized by the Colonial Athletic Association for its departure.

The Spiders are banned from competing in this season's CAA tournament. That means that Richmond, widely considered to be the best team in the conference this year, can only qualify for the NCAA tournament on the strength of its regular-season record.

Not that coach Jim Beilein is concerned about such matters. The A-10 represents an increased chance at the postseason.

``There's a lot of reasons why we joined the Atlantic 10, and the (NCAA) tournament is one of them,'' he said.

Mack shoots straight

Monty Mack had his best shooting night of the year, going 7-for-15 from the floor for 20 points. . . . In a season of oddities, here's another - the Minutemen shot 10-for-27 in the first half and 10-for-27 in the second half.

Spiders cut to the chase in victory
By John O'Connor, The Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer, 12/31/2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - This wasn't the split they wanted. Richmond's Spiders lost to the College of Charleston on Friday night, nullifying their shot at 14th-ranked North Carolina in the Tournament of Champions final.

But UR left the Charlotte Coliseum 1-1 after disposing of Massachusetts 63-59 last night in the consolation. How did smallish Richmond, without starter Kinte Smith (sprained foot) for the second consecutive game, beat UMass, which starts 6-10 and 6-11 players and has two 6-8 guys among its first three subs?

The Spiders forced the Minutemen to chase them.

"We tried to make it difficult for them to guard us," UR coach John Beilein said. The Spiders (8-2) were outrebounded by 10 but dropped in nine 3-pointers, moved ahead late behind Greg Stevenson's gritty board work, then hit 13 of 16 free throws in the final 3:28. In all, Richmond made 20 of 24 from the line.

"We had to treat this consolation game like our championship game," said the Spiders' Rick Houston, referring to Richmond's quest for an at-large NCAA tournament bid in a season during which UR can't win a league title. "Every win is so big for us."

That's two UR victories in two tries against Atlantic 10 competition this month. UR, which joins the A-10 in July, also won at George Washington.

Houston, a senior swingman who started in place of Smith, supplied 15 points. Reserve forward Mike Skrocki, a freshman, scored 11. Each presented serious matchup problems for the tall forwards of UMass (2-9), a team of impressive physical parts still seeking cohesion. The Minutemen are off to their worst start since'80-81.

As usual, it was Stevenson who carried Richmond down the stretch. Seven of his 19 points were scored in the last five minutes. As important were his rebounds (5 of 7 came on the offensive end), as the 6-7 senior repeatedly outworked taller Minutemen inside.

"Our listening skills need to get a little better," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint, whose club committed 15 turnovers against very limited UR pressure and made just 37 percent of its field goal attempts. The Spiders shot worse (32.1 percent), but more than half of their field goal tries were 3-pointers, and they experienced their finest game of the season from the foul line (19 of 23 in the second half).

UR's designated sniper, Reggie Brown, suffered through his second dreadful shooting night, making only 1 of 10 after missing 13 of 17 against Charleston. But unlike Friday night, Stevenson received solid scoring support from guard Scott Ungerer (15 points), Skrocki and Houston.

Those three combined to hit eight of UR's nine 3-pointers. Richmond's players suggested the Charlotte Coliseum's rims seemed tight after making only 4 of 18 3-point tries versus Charleston on Friday. Houston discovered the remedy.

"If it goes through the center, the rim doesn't matter," he said.

The Spiders beat Old Dominion early this month to start their final Colonial Athletic Association season. They continue league play Wednesday night at George Mason, the team expected to challenge Richmond for the CAA regular-season title.

Richmond Spiders 63
Massachusetts Minutemen 59
Tournament of Champions - 3rd Place Game
at the Charlotte Coliseum

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Houston         38  5-11   2-2   1-7  3  3   15
Stevenson       37  5-10  9-11   5-7  3  2   19
Faulconer       28   0-6   0-0   2-6  1  4    0
Ungerer         33   3-5   6-8   0-4  2  1   15
Brown           20  1-10   0-0   0-0  2  0    3
Myers            7   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Philips          2   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Kauffman         2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  2    0
Skrocki         23   3-7   3-3   0-1  1  0   11
Zwayer          10   0-2   0-0   0-1  0  3    0
TOTALS         200 17-53 20-24  8-26 12 15   63

Percentages: FG-.321, FT-.833. 3-Point Goals:
9-27, .333 (Houston 3-7, Faulconer 0-1, Ungerer
3-3, Brown 1-8, Myers 0-1, Philips 0-1, Skrocki
2-6). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 5
(Faulconer 4, Stevenson). Turnovers: 9 (Houston
3, Stevenson 2, Ungerer 2, Kauffman). Steals: 3
(Faulconer, Houston, Skrocki).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Smith           36   1-9   1-2  5-14  5  5    3
Brand           26  5-11   3-3   0-4  0  1   13
Rhymer          27   2-4   5-6   3-7  1  4    9
Mack            36  7-15   3-4   1-3  3  3   20
Crooks          25   2-8   1-2   0-5  2  5    7
Depina          23   2-4   0-0   0-0  2  3    5
Rogers           2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Blizzard        24   1-3   0-0   1-2  0  2    2
Pugh             1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
TOTALS         200 20-54 13-17 10-35 13 23   59

Percentages: FG-.370, FT-.765. 3-Point Goals:
6-19, .316 (Smith 0-1, Mack 3-8, Crooks 2-7,
Depina 1-2, Blizzard 0-1). Team rebounds: 8.
Blocked shots: 2 (Rhymer, Mack). Turnovers: 15
(Crooks 5, Brand 4, Rhymer 2, Blizzard, Depina,
Mack, Smith). Steals: 4 (Mack 2, Blizzard, Brand).
Richmond           30   33  -   63
Massachusetts      25   34  -   59
Technical fouls: None. Officials: Larry Rose,
Duke Edsall, Bryan Kersey.

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