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UMass drops fourth in row
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 1/13/2002

NEW YORK - Up until yesterday, UMass coach Steve Lappas had stirring memories of Rose Hill Gymnasium.

During the 1991-92 season, one of his Manhattan players hit a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to beat Fordham and the Jaspers went on to win 10 straight games as part of a 25-win season. Lappas took the Villanova job that spring.

As the losses pile up, with UMass' 95-86 loss to Fordham yesterday the latest brick in the wall, the Minutemen are starting to look a lot like Lappas' first Manhattan team, as well as his first Villanova team. That's why the coach didn't sound distressed on a day when the Minutemen dropped to 6-7 with their fourth straight loss.

``I've seen it before,'' he said with a brave smile. ``I've seen this happen in the first year in every place I've been. The good thing is that I've seen it before, which leads me to believe that there are answers.''

Fordham coach Bob Hill juggled his inconsistent lineup enough to discover answers. For the first time this season he started point guard Adrian Walton, an emotional freshman who quit the team twice this season over playing time, and the Rams (5-9) jelled.

Walton split the Minutemen down the middle by penetrating for 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting and overall, the Rams destroyed UMass inside. The Minutemen were outrebounded by a horrid 55-38 margin. Fordham finished with more offensive rebounds (23) than the Minutemen had defensive boards (21) and center Duke Freeman-McKamey turned in his best game of the season with 15 points and 15 rebounds.

Conversely, the bizarre mystery of UMass' disappearing big men continued. Kitwana Rhymer, in scoring two points on two free throws, scored four points, including just one basket, in the last four games. Rhymer, who watched the last eight minutes of Wednesday's loss to Ohio State from the bench, watched the last 10 minutes yesterday from the same spot. He lasted for 12 ineffective, tentative minutes and started for the first time in two games. He once again wasn't alone. Though Micah Brand finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, the 6-foot-11 junior was far from a player capable of turning back the gang-crashing Rams.

Shannon Crooks goes in strong for the bucket.
Beyond another hell-bent performance from Shannon Crooks, who scored a season-high 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting and a career-high 22 from Jameel Pugh, Lappas had trouble finding a hero.

``It was a good game for Jameel, but the only guy who played a real game was Shannon Crooks,'' Lappas said. ``We have one guy who shows up every game and that's Shannon. The rest seem to alternate.''

The rest also have to rediscover their toughness on the glass, an odd weakness on this team.

``They were missing free throws and then getting the tip-backs,'' Crooks said. ``Their guys just really fought out there.''

UMass notes

UMass set a school record by attempting 30 3-pointers yesterday, though the honor was rather dubious. Though trey-shooting momentarily kept the Minutemen within reach and they shot 12-of-30 (40 percent) from downtown, it was the only area where they were able to create open shots.

``It's not so much that we went in looking for those shots, as those were the shots they wanted us to take,'' Lappas said. ``But it's just very tough for us to go inside right now.''

Sophomore Anthony Anderson, who started one game after Lappas benched his starters against Ohio State, was the prime beneficiary. Anderson, who shot 2-of-16 over the previous two games, shot 4-of-9 yesterday, including 4-of-8 from downtown. . . .

Walton's brief Fordham career, including the two times he left the team, in addition to his involvement in a car accident, certainly has tried Hill's patience. The head-strong freshman, who later nominated himself for what he considers the team's vacant leadership seat, finally has made an inroad with the coach.

``He has the personality for it,'' Hill said.

Fresh face plants UMass
By Elliott Denman, The Boston Globe Correspondent, 1/13/2002

NEW YORK - Not all of Adrian Walton's recent adventures have been wonderful. The freshman point guard had quit the Fordham basketball team in the preseason and again after the Rams' seventh game. He was also fortunate to walk away from an auto accident that could have taken his life.

But he put all that behind him with a sensational 25-point, 6-steal, 32-minute performance in his first career start, propelling the previously downtrodden Rams to a 95-86 Atlantic 10 triumph over the University of Massachusetts yesterday at historic Rose Hill Gymnasium.

''You can't scout a kid when you don't know that much about him,'' said UMass coach Steve Lappas. ''You don't know much about him because he's hardly played.''

Walton, a late signee last spring out of Bronx Regional High School, had been a bit player off the bench in Fordham's struggling start to the season. His highs had been 14 points and 22 minutes against Temple Dec. 30.

Something had to give in this match of A-10 foes stuck in reverse. Fordham, which improved to 5-9, had lost five straight.

It was the Minutemen (6-7 with four straight losses) who gave. In a tight first half that saw four ties and nine lead changes, Fordham took a 40-39 edge into the locker room. UMass had been up, 37-33, with 1:17 left, before Fordham went on a 7-2 run, capped by Walton's jumper with two seconds left.

UMass never regained the upper hand, but the game was never out of reach, either, until the closing minutes.

Micah Brand and Kitwana Rhymer put up a wall against William Parker.
Fordham's huge 55-38 rebounding advantage (15 boards from Duke Freeman-McKamey, 10 from William Parker) stalled UMass opportunity after opportunity. Only some horrendous Fordham foul shooting (18 of 39 for the game, 11 of 30 in the the second half) kept it as close as it was.

''My wife could shoot better free throws,'' said Rams coach Bob Hill, the former coach of the NBA's Knicks, Pacers, and Spurs.

Desperate to get back into the game, the Minutemen kept firing from beyond the 3-point arc, hoisting a school-record 30 attempts. But only 12 (four by Anthony Anderson) fell. All told, UMass was an abysmal 26 for 71 (36.6 percent) from the field, while Fordham's 37 for 72 (51.4 percent) kept the fans happy.

Senior guard Shannon Crooks (24 points, 4 assists) and sophomore guard Jameel Pugh (career-high 22 points in 22 minutes) were among the few bright lights for UMass.

After the Rams' 88-58 loss at Xavier Wednesday, Hill resolved to make some changes, and the big one was starting Walton.

Now, he'll be hard to keep on the bench.

''He's definitely a starter of the future and he's got the talent to lead these guys in the right direction,'' said Hill. ''I know he's happy right now, but he's got to remember that this was just one game. I don't want him coming back Monday and thinking he's all-NBA.''

Lappas, meanwhile, promoted 6-foot-10-inch, 256-pound senior Kitwana Rhymer, a graduate of St. Raymond's High School (just a few miles from the Fordham campus) to his starting lineup to bolster rebounding, but Rhymer wound up playing just three minutes of the first half after two early personals, and 12 minutes all told. His bottom line: 2 points, 4 rebounds, 0 blocks.

''We just weren't getting it done inside, and it cost us,'' said Lappas. ''To me, the only guy who played a whole game was Shannon Crooks. One game it's one guy, the next guy it's someone else for us. You don't want to jump off the bridge about these things, though. You know these guys are going to come around sometime.''

He hopes ''sometime'' is Wednesday, when the Minutemen travel to face A-10 newcomer Richmond.

Fordham Rams Minutemen
By Michael Shelton, Correspondent, 1/12/2002

The University of Massachusetts menís basketball team, which came into todayís game against Fordham riding a three-game losing streak which had dropped their record to a mediocre 6 and 6 on the season, was supposed to use this game as a springboard, as an energizer to jump-start their sinking season. After all, this was Fordham, a team UMass had traditionally dominated. The Minutemen came into the game having defeated the Rams in sixteen of the previous eighteen meetings and hadnít suffered a loss at tiny Rose Hill gymnasium since 1982.

Duke Freeman-McKamey gets past Brand and Ronell Blizzard.
Instead of the jump-start they so badly needed, what they got was more frustration and more questions as the Rams defeated UMass 95 to 86 in an ugly, foul-plagued affair in front of 2,917 fans. Questions such as how could UMass, which came into game fourth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense at 64.8 points per game, manage to give up 95 points. And where was the interior defense, which was pasted for an unbelievably high 62 points as Fordham controlled the paint with a 62 to 24 edge. The only thing that saved the Minutemen from giving up 100 was a horrific display of free throw shooting by the Rams. Fordham shot a very Shaquille OíNeal-like 46.2% for the game while missing 21 of 39 shots from the charity stripe, including an embarrassing 11 for 30 performance in the second half.

While UMass, which scored a season-high 86 points, seemed to have found an answer to the offensive void which has recently been such a thorn in their side, the high point total is deceptive. The Minutemen, who are quickly turning into the team that couldnít shoot straight, scored those 86 points while shooting only 36.6% for the game. Of course, whenever you score 86 points there are going to be highlights, and for UMass those highlights came primarily from Shannon Crooks and Jameel Pugh. Crooks, who coach Steve Lappas applauded in the post-game press conference as the only UMass player who really played a good game, scored a team-high 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field (2 for 5 from 3-point range) and 6 for 9 from the field. And as for Pugh, he finally put up the kind of numbers UMass fans had long anticipated, scoring a career-high 22 points, two of which came on a spectacular alley-oop pass from Crooks mid-way through the first half. Pugh was also almost perfect from the free-throw line, draining 10 of his 11 attempts.

Another player who finally lived up to expectations, much to the Minutemenís chagrin, was Fordhamís heralded freshmen guard Adrian Walton, who scorched the nets for a career-high 25 points. Walton, whose previous claim to basketball fame was outscoring Toronto Raptor Vince Carter in a game in the famed Rucker league, may have finally had his collegiate basketball coming-out party. Rams coach Bob Hill, while obviously happy for the troubled guard who has already quit the team this season, tried to downplay Waltonís performance, stating that it was just one game and he didnít want Walton to get a big head and think because he had one good game that heís ready to be All-NBA.

Walton was just one of five Fordham players to reach double figures. Joining Walton was Smush Parker, one of the A-10ís most colorful and talented newcomers with 19, Duke Freeman McKamey, who broke out of a season-long slump to score 15, Jeff McMillan (12) and Michael Haynes (11). McKamey also pulled down a season-high 15 boards, helping the Rams to dominate UMass off the glass to the tune of 55 to 38.

The game started out competitively, with neither team able to generate much of a lead in the early minutes. Then with less than 7:30 remaining in the first half, the two teams went through a series of runs, initially by Fordham. Trailing the Minutemen 23 to 20, the Rams went on a 9 to 0 run to pull ahead 29 to 23, matching their largest first half lead. The Minutemen answered right back with a 9 to 0 run of their own fueled by Pugh, who exploded for 7 of the 9 points. After draining one of his two 3-point shots on the night, he followed up with a spectacular alley-oop dunk on a picture-perfect pass from Crooks. Pugh finished up the run by following a pair of Kit Rhymer free throws with a pair of his own. A clutch Walton jumper as time expired allowed the Rams to go into the break with a one-point advantage.

Post-intermission is when it got really ugly as Larry Lembo and friends whistled the two teams for 33 second-half fouls, including a mind-numbing 17 in the final 4:16 of the game. The two remained close until just under 17 minutes remaining when Fordham used a 9 to 0 run to turn a slim one-point lead into a 56 to 46 advantage from which the Minutemen would never recover. UMass went on an 8 to 2 run of their own to pull within four, but they would get no closer the remainder of the game.

Another question of concern to UMass fans regards the continued disappearance of Rhymer, who pulled a Harry Houdini for the fourth consecutive game. After averaging 11 points per game over the first nine games of the season, Rhymer has scored just four in the past four contests. If UMass hopes to have any impact during the A-10 season, they are going to have to find where Rhymerís game has gone and find out quickly.

Fordham outguns UMass
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/14/2002

BRONX, N.Y. - As it turned out, things could get worse.

The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team arrived at Fordham hoping the 4-9 Rams would represent the end of its three-game losing streak. But brilliant play by Fordham's rookie backcourt and UMass' inability to stay with Fordham (5-9, 1-2 Atlantic 10) offensively in the second half put the Minutemen (6-7, 0-2 A-10) on the short end of a 95-86 result Saturday at Rose Hill Gymnasium.

UMass makes its first trip to the Robins Center to play A-10 newcomer Richmond Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Fordham sophomore guard Smush Parker lived up to his billing with 19 points. His freshman running mate, Adrian Walton, had no such reputation in college. But he does now.

On Saturday, the Harlem native, who once scored 33 points against current NBA player Vince Carter in a playground tournament, scored 25 against UMass, including 14 in the second half.

Walton, who was averaging just 4.5 points per game coming in, did most of his damage slashing through traffic and on the fast break. The Minutemen couldn't counteract his quickness.

"You have to go with what you see," Lappas said. "If you see a guy averaging four or five points, I'm not going to prepare for him like he can score 25. Walton came in and played great, obviously."

Shannon Crooks led the Minutemen with 24 points, while Jameel Pugh scored a career high 22.

"Jameel had a great game for Jameel," Lappas said. "But for me the only guy who had a great game was Shannon Crooks. What else is new? The only guy that shows up every single game is Shannon Crooks."

UMass' Anthony Anderson found his outside shot, hitting 4-of-8 3-pointers for 12 points.

The Minutemen continued to struggle inside as Micah Brand (nine points) and Kitwana Rhymer (two points, both on free throws) again struggled to score. Fordham dominated the glass, 55-38.

"We have not gotten it done inside," Lappas said. "We make other mistakes too, but we're not getting it done inside."

Neither team got ahead by more than six in the first half and the lead changed hands nine times. Walton hit a driving floater at the buzzer to give the Rams a 40-39 lead at halftime.

Fordham never trailed after that. Walton drove to the hoop for a lay-up and then buried a fade-away jumper to open the second half. Shortly after that, the Rams ran off nine straight points.

UMass attempted a school-record 30 3-pointers in the game, 16 of those trying to come back in the second half. They made 12 overall, a good percentage for the Minutemen, but not enough.

Pugh's breakout performance was one of the few reasons that UMass supporters behind the Minutemen bench had to cheer. His leaping ability was on display as his alley-oops and one-handed dunk on an offensive rebound brought admiring gasps from fans of both teams.

He also hit 10-of-11 free throws.

Pugh's strong play was one reason Raheim Lamb played just four minutes, but Lappas said Lamb's lack of minutes went deeper.

"He was not into it at all," Lappas said. "He had this look in his eye from the first moment that he wasn't there."

Notes: Fordham's output was the most points scored by a UMass opponent since Fresno State scored 102 on Dec. 10, 1996. It also was UMass' highest output since it beat George Washington, 86-68, in the 2000 A-10 Tournament ... UMass is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1991-92 ... Kyle Wilson's seven points were a career-high.

Lappas looking for answers
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/14/2002

BRONX - Steve Lappas doesn't know what the answer is. But after coaching for 13 years, he's seen his teams slump before and he's been able to pull them out of it.

"I have to sit and think," Lappas said after his University of Massachusetts's basketball team's 95-86 loss to Fordham Saturday. "I don't want to do something before I think. I've seen this before. My first year at every place I've been I've seen this. I'm looking for answers, but the fact that I've seen this before leads me to believe there are answers."

Those answers, however, might be long-term solutions as the first-year coaching staff recruits players more suitable to its style of play. The question that Lappas might not want to ask himself after Saturday's loss is whether there actually is an answer this year.

This is a team that was last in the Atlantic 10 in scoring last year and graduated Monty Mack, who averaged 19.5 of those points.

If scoring were not part of basketball, UMass would be very good. That seems like a ludicrous statement, but the Minutemen are stocked with players who can do a lot of little things well. For the most part, all of them play hard and play well defensively.

Everyone who plays regularly for the Minutemen could be a solid contributor on most good teams' rosters, provided those teams had other people who score.

A restaurant that makes great appetizers, desserts and side dishes is still going to have trouble staying in business if it has subpar entrees.

The one superb entree for UMass is Shannon Crooks. The Minuteman senior guard has been consistently excellent all season, averaging 15.2 points per game, including 24 against Fordham.

Beyond him, however, nobody else can be counted on for regular offensive contributions. Micah Brand can be brilliant offensively one game and a no-show the next.

Anthony Anderson looks like a future 12- to 15-points-per game scorer, but in addition to being young, he's a streaky outside shooter and hasn't slashed to the basket enough lately.

Jameel Pugh and Raheim Lamb have shown sparks, but they've been inconsistent. Pugh was excellent against Fordham and his confidence may be his biggest attribute on a team that lacks it. But until he scores against a better defensive team - and that may happen -he can hardly be considered reliable.

Kitwana Rhymer presents the most encouraging and discouraging parts of the equation. His recent play has been disastrous and a big part of the team's slide, but it would seem that he plays too hard not to snap out of it eventually.

If his slump continues much longer, though, his minutes will shrink and he might not even get the chance to climb out of his rut.

With the offensive ineffectiveness of his big men, Lappas could consider going to a smaller lineup. He could move Raheim Lamb to power forward, where he could use his athleticism and quickness to counteract any size deficiency. Former Minuteman Chris Kirkland earned all-Atlantic 10 accolades as an undersized power forward.

On the downside, UMass' situation has the potential to get worse. As opponents begin to realize that the team's vaunted frontcourt isn't playing well, they'll focus more on Crooks.

The Minutemen play Richmond next, which may mark a little reprieve, since the Spiders are averaging 61.7 points per game, less than UMass' 65.4. However, the potent attacks of Saint Bonaventure (83.9), Saint Joseph's (78.0) and Xavier (72.9) loom.

Lappas was open to any reasonable solution and said he'd consider using a sports psychologist, a move he's never employed before. The Minuteman players gave Dr. Joe Carr high praise for his work with the team last year, so the players might be receptive to the idea.

While Lappas said he doesn't believe that this year is a lost cause, he knows real solutions lie in future seasons when he's been able to recruit the shooters he so covets.

"We have by no means given up on this year. I still believe we can do damage during the season and certainly in the tournament," Lappas said. "But I don't want to make it so next year becomes year one. This is year one. I've been at year one's before. They're going to learn to play the way I want them to play. It's not like putting a square peg in a round hole. These are things they can do. But for some of them, time is getting on. I have to set this program the way I've set two other programs (Manhattan and Villanova).

"I build for the long haul," Lappas continued. "I'm not a short-term, quick-fix guy. I think I built a couple things that have lasted a long time. That's what our goal is."

Until his team meets his goals, Lappas will keep searching and trying other methods to produce offense. The players want to win and likely would try any system Lappas creates.

But will anything work? Perhaps, but the fact might be that offensively they aren't good enough.

Video clips

All clips in MPEG format.
Video clip Jameel Pugh buries a 3. (file size = 540k)
Video clip Eric Williams throws down the hook. (539k)
Video clip Micah Brand cleans up for Shannon Crooks. (474k)
Video clip Kyle Wilson hits the 3. (506k)
Video clip Pugh comes in out of nowhere to slam home the rebound. (571k)

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Massachusetts Minutemen 86
Fordham Rams 95
at Fordham

Massachusetts vs Fordham
01/12/02  1:00 p.m. at Bronx, NY(Rose Hill Gym)
VISITORS: Massachusetts ( 6- 7,  0- 2)
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
01 JENKINS,Willie       f  1-3    0-1    0-0    2  4  6   5   2   0  2  0  0  13
40 BRAND,Micah          f  3-10   0-0    3-4    3  7 10   3   9   2  2  3  1  34
33 RHYMER,Kitwana       c  0-3    0-0    2-2    1  3  4   2   2   0  2  0  1  12
12 ANDERSON,Anthony     g  4-9    4-8    0-1    1  0  1   4  12   6  5  0  4  35
30 CROOKS,Shannon       g  8-13   2-5    6-9    1  0  1   4  24   4  0  0  1  35
03 BLIZZARD,Ronell         1-2    1-1    0-1    1  2  3   4   3   0  1  0  1  13
11 WILSON,Kyle             2-6    2-4    1-2    0  1  1   4   7   2  0  0  2  12
21 WILLIAMS,Eric           2-9    1-5    0-0    3  3  6   1   5   1  0  1  0  20
24 PUGH,Jameel             5-14   2-6   10-11   5  0  5   2  22   1  2  0  2  22
34 LAMB,Raheim             0-2    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   0   0  1  0  0   4
TEAM ........................................   0  1  1              1
TOTALS                    26-71  12-30  22-30  17 21 38  30  86  16 16  4 12 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 12-35 34.3% 2ndH: 14-36 38.9% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 36.6% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 5-14 35.7% 2ndH: 7-16 43.8% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 40.0% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 10-11 90.9% 2ndH: 12-19 63.2% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 73.3% 4

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Fordham ( 5- 9, 1- 2) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS No. N A M E FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 01 HAYNES,Michael f 4-11 1-3 2-6 0 2 2 2 11 4 3 0 3 29 42 FREEMAN-MCKAMEY,Duke f 6-13 0-0 3-4 5 10 15 2 15 3 1 1 3 37 55 BATEMON,Glenn c 1-1 0-0 2-2 1 0 1 3 4 0 0 2 0 12 03 WALTON,Adrian g 10-15 0-1 5-12 0 3 3 4 25 2 5 0 6 32 21 PARKER,William g 7-14 2-5 3-8 4 6 10 0 19 4 6 0 0 37 04 MCMILLAN,Jeff 6-8 0-0 0-3 3 3 6 2 12 0 2 0 0 20 05 JOHNSON,Teremun 3-7 0-0 1-2 6 3 9 5 7 3 1 0 0 20 11 JARRELL-WRIGHT,Mark 0-3 0-0 2-2 1 2 3 3 2 2 1 1 0 12 23 ACQUAVIVA,Alessandro 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 TEAM ........................................ 3 3 6 TOTALS 37-72 3-9 18-39 23 32 55 21 95 18 19 4 12 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 16-37 43.2% 2ndH: 21-35 60.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 51.4% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 1-6 16.7% 2ndH: 2-3 66.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 33.3% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 7-9 77.8% 2ndH: 11-30 36.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 46.2% 12

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: Larry Lembo, George Watts, John Cahill TECHNICAL FOULS: Massachusetts - none Fordham - none ATTENDANCE: 2,917 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL Massachusetts 39 47 86 Fordham 40 55 95

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