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Defensive changes key win
Confusing Minutemen was part of game plan
By John O'Connor, The Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer, 1/17/2002

By now, the word is out. Richmond's Spiders can't go Jimmy Neutron on anybody. They arrived for last night's game versus Massachusetts averaging 61.7 points.

But UR can - and does - make life miserable for the other guys. UMass, frustrated by Richmond's switching defenses, fell 63-54 before 3,628 at the Robins Center in an Atlantic 10 Conference game.

Anthony Anderson gets a hand in the face of Tony Dobbins.
This is how the Spiders (2-1, 8-8), while shooting 38.8 percent, can comfortably win against a bigger, stronger adversary:

UMass (0-3, 6-8), which has lost eight of 10 since winning at N.C. State to start 4-0, knew what to do when the Spiders set up in their trapping 1-3-1 zone. "Penetrate and pitch," UMass forward Willie Jenkins said.

But the offense of first-year Minutemen coach Steve Lappas is without a jump-shooter who could make the Spiders pay on the pitch half of the plan. UMass hit 37.9 percent, and despite its significant size advantage, went to the free-throw line only nine times (four hits).

"We didn't lose it because of our defense, or because of their offense. We lost it because of our offense," said Lappas, the former Villanova coach whose team was averaging 65.4 points.

Familiar chorus, that is. UR held La Salle to 57 in a Spiders win here earlier this month. Cornell managed 41 versus UR in the previous Richmond win, and so on. Richmond opponents average 63.2 points.

"If we're active on defense, it's all about us, not the other team, really," Spiders forward Mike Skrocki said. When UMass got even a tiny bit comfortable against UR's 1-3-1, the Spiders changed the answer. They switched to man-to-man. Either way, the Minutemen couldn't find offensive confidence.

"They kept us wondering," Jenkins said.

With that confusion came UMass turnovers, 15 of them, a bundle in a low-scoring game. That's where Tony Dobbins comes in. The 6-4 sophomore played six first-half minutes, scored two points in that time and got an earful from UR coach John Beilein for poor performance.

"I just tried to remain confident," Dobbins said. "I'm the player. He's the coach. That's his job, to correct me. I'm just glad he gave me a chance in the second half."

The Virginia Tech transfer scored 17 in the second period, when he caused UMass turnovers as the point man on UR's 1-3-1 and finished with his left (off) hand on a few fast breaks that resulted from the Spiders' four steals after halftime.

Richmond led 37-34 with 11 minutes left. UMass turned it over on three straight possessions, and Dobbins cashed in with nine consecutive points as the Spiders advantage became 46-37 in two minutes. With UMass struggling to score, all Richmond had to do from then on was hit a decent percentage of its free throws. It dropped 14 of 18 in the second half, with Dobbins canning 9 of 10.

"Really, our defense did our scoring for us," Beilein said.

Even when it wasn't causing turnovers as UMass dribbled into traps, UR's defense made a major difference. The Spiders collected a season-high seven blocks, with 6-9 Johnathan Collins supplying four rejections.

Richmond plays at Dayton on Saturday night, then visits Temple Wednesday in a game that will be locally televised.

UR holding its own, but who's watching?
By Bob Lipper, The Richmond Times-Dispatch Columnist, 1/17/2002

Two things we've learned so far about the Richmond Spiders' maiden voyage in the Atlantic 10.

One, finesseball works when you entertain semiclueless squads from the conference's sub-basement.

And two, witnesses are optional.

The pertinent numbers last night for the arach nids were 63-54 and 3,624. The first set represents the margin by which the Spiders whacked Massachusetts. The second was the turnstile count. If you're Jim Miller, this was a good news/bad crowd situation.

Miller is Richmond's athletic director - the guy who played footsie with A-10 boss Linda Bruno two springs ago and then - along with the school's heat-seeking president, Bill Cooper - announced UR was divorcing the Colonial Athletic Association and getting hitched to a new league. The CAA was snug and familiar, the A-10 had more sex appeal. Broken-in penny loafers or brand-new Guccis? Cooper made the call.

So let's take stock. Prodded by the A-10 to front-load its schedule with nonconference bullies - Cincinnati, Wake Forest, UNC Charlotte, Mississippi State - Richmond is batting .500 at 8-8. And now - starting last week - they're on a steady diet of A-10 fare at 2-1, with home wins over La Salle and UMass sandwiching a road loss to conference heavyweight Xavier.

So far, so . . . umm, OK.

Unless you're counting the house and paying the bills.

Not that the Spiders were a raging success at the gate as CAA members. They've been soft in that department for some time, if you want to know the truth, slipping to an 18-year low of 5,184 per game in 2000-2001. Can't get much worse than that, you say? Try 4,134 per outing, I answer - and the top two crowds came out for games against in-state rivals Virginia Commonwealth and VMI.

Not-so-trivial footnote to the above: Of the 20 highest-drawing games in Robins Center history, 12 were against state opponents - and three others against Navy when the Middies belonged to the CAA. Will the A-10 eventually put beaucoup fannies in the building? Is this a marriage made in fiscal heaven? Only time will tell. But for sure, there's no going back to budget-friendly bus trips and old haunts.

"We loved the CAA," senior guard Scott Ungerer said. "The rivalries were great. But you look at where we are now. You're playing great teams. You're playing teams that are ranked in the Top 25. There's no way not to get excited about it."

Actually, the latest rankings include no A-10 members, but Ungerer's thrust is valid. The A-10 normally sends multiple entries to the NCAAs, has more sizzle than the CAA, is a tougher league. That's all that matters to the guys in uniform. They're not bean counters. They just play.

"This is big-time basketball," junior guard Jeff Myers said. "I remember watching UMass when they had Marcus Camby, and they got to the Final Four. Beating them us a real thrill for someone who watched'em on TV when he was 14."

The flip side is that this Minutemen entry in no way, shape or gene pool resembles the 1996 bunch that went 35-2 and made John Calipari a household fashion statement. UMass has dropped seven of its past nine starts and last night looked more like UMiss (37.9-percent marksmanship) and UMess (15 turnovers). Richmond passed and defended this bunch to death. Saturday's visit to Dayton figures to be more strenuous.

The Spider will be confronted by about 13,000 red sweaters at Dayton Arena. After that, they'll get their first exposure to John Chaney's matchup zone at Temple. Later on, they'll meet the rowdies of St. Bonaventure for the first time. And so on and so forth.

There's so much to learn about Ms. Bruno's Neighborhood. Best Italian food in Olean, N.Y.: Angee's (and leave your credit cards at home - they don't take 'em). Worst visiting-team locker room: Rose Hill Gym, Fordham. Jazziest pep band: Duquesne. Tastiest steaks in Dayton: The Pine Club (no reservations accepted; even George Bush the elder couldn't crack the waiting line). Only mascot given special dispensation by cost-cutting A-10 to make road trips: the St. Joe's Hawk.

Newest kid on the block: Richmond.

It'll take time, but the Spiders might just warm up to their new surroundings.

Whether Joe Fan goes along for the ride is the question.

Richmond extends UMass losing streak
By Matt Vautour, The Boston Herald Correspondent, 1/17/2002

RICHMOND, Va. - An end to the misery?


Just more of it.

UMass' offensive struggles and losing streak continued as the Minutemen dropped their fifth straight, 63-54, to Atlantic 10 newcomer Richmond last night at the Robins Center.

In each game of its losing streak, UMass has suffered long scoring droughts in the second half. Last night's came midway through the second half as Richmond's 14-5 run turned a two-point game into a 48-37 Spiders lead, which was far too much for the offensively challenged Minutemen to overcome.

``We couldn't score again,'' UMass coach Steve Lappas said. ``I'm gettting tired of saying that. And we had some turnovers that really hurt us. I thought we played solid defensively.''

Ex-Virginia Tech Hokie Tony Dobbins killed the Minutemen in the second half as he scored 17 of his 19 points after intermission to help the Spiders pull away. Reggie Brown added 14 points.

Anthony Anderson led UMass with 15 points, while Raheim Lamb added 10. Kitwana Rhymer had seven points and nine rebounds. Senior Shannon Crooks had just six points in a foul-plagued 29 minutes.

``He was sick. He missed shoot-around today,'' Lappas said. ``Judging by the way he's played the rest of this year, I have to think that affected him. But someone has to step up.''

The Minutemen are 0-3 (6-8 overall) in league play for the first time since 1988-89, former coach John Calipari's rookie year. That team went 0-5 before winning a league game. UMass will return to action Saturday when it plays host to Temple at noon.

The Minutemen trailed 23-21 at halftime, surviving foul trouble by leading scorer Crooks, which limited him to just nine minutes and three points.

The previously slumping Micah Brand and Rhymer picked up the slack, combining for 11 points and 10 rebounds.

A three-point play by Willie Jenkins put the Minutemen ahead 24-23 to start the second half, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Brown and Scott Ungerer, plus a 15-footer by Jonathan Collins, gave the Spiders their biggest lead to that point at 31-24.

The Minutemen answered with a 9-2 run capped by a Crooks floater that brought them within two at 34-32, setting up Richmond's back-breaking 14-5 stretch that ended the suspense.

UMass notes

Crooks' six points brought him within 106 of 1,000 for his career and within 146 of 1,000 as a Minuteman. . . .

All eight of Richmond's victories have come when the Spiders have allowed 61 or fewer points. UMass scored under 60 for the fourth time this season. . . .

Despite UMass' recent struggles, the Minutemen are still ahead of last season's pace as they didn't win their seventh game until Jan. 25. . . .

The five-game losing streak is the Minutemen's longest since they dropped six straight last year bridging the months of November and December. . . .

Richmond joining the Atlantic 10 hasn't drastically increased the interest in the team. Including last night's crowd of 3,628, the 9,171-seat Robins Center has been less than half-full for five of the Spiders' six home games. . . .

While Rhymer continued to struggle on offense, his seven points marked the first time he's had more than two in 2002.

UMass caught in web
By Mike Hanzel, The Boston Globe Correspondent, 1/17/2002

RICHMOND - A trip south could not cure the University of Massachusetts's basketball woes.

Tony Dobbins scored 9 straight Richmond points midway through the second half, and five Spiders hit 3-pointers as Richmond defeated UMass, 63-54, last night before a Robins Center crowd of 3,628.

Dobbins, who sored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, came off the bench to give Richmond a credible balance to its simmering outside game. His drives resulted in several UMass fouls, and Dobbins made the Minutemen pay, going a career-best 11 of 12 from the free throw line.

Meanwhile, the Spiders (8-8, 2-1 Atlantic 10) shot 45 percent from 3-point range.

''I was able to give the team that spark they needed,'' Dobbins said. ''Sometimes all it takes is a spark from whoever it is to get everybody going.''

UMass (6-8) and first-year coach Steve Lappas lost its fifth straight game, falling to 0-3 in the A-10 for the first time since 1988-89, John Calipari's rookie year as coach.

Richmond's 1-3-1 defense held Shannon Crooks, the Minutemen's leading scorer, to a season-low 6 points. ''We obviously struggled to score,'' Lappas said.

''We struggled to find offense. If Shannon Crooks doesn't score, that just adds to it.

''I always say that when you don't shoot well, it's part us and part them. They're pretty quick. They're not big, but they're quick. And they play good defense.''

The Spiders, who often go with four guards, countered UMass's significant size advantage inside by converging on Minuteman big men Micah Brand (6 feet 11 inches) and Kitwana Rhymer (6-10) whenever they got the ball.

The Minutemen, meanwhile, could not counter from outside. UMass's best 3-point threat, Anthony Anderson, picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes left in the game and missed much of the second half. He finished with a team-best 15 points, but much of his scoring came after Richmond had taken an insurmountable lead.

''We really were trying to penetrate and pitch,'' UMass guard Willie Jenkins (6 points) said. ''They kept changing defenses on us, so that kept us wondering.''

Lappas did see some positives from his team's play.

''I think our guys did a really good job of defending their half-court offense, so that's good,'' he said.

However, turnovers (15) cost UMass, Lappas said.

UMass drops fifth straight
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/17/2002

RICHMOND - The story line remained repetitive. The University of Massachusetts didn't score and as a result didn't win. On Wednesday, the Minutemen dropped their fifth straight game, a 63-54 loss to Richmond at the Robins Center.

UMass big men Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand, who appeared to have shaken their offensive problems in the first half, all but disappeared in the second as the Spiders pulled away.

Ex-Virginia Tech Hokie Tony Dobbins hurt the Minutemen in the second half, scoring 17 of his 19 points in that frame for Richmond (8-8). Reggie Brown added 14 points.

In each game of its losing streak, UMass (6-8) has suffered long scoring droughts in the second half. Wednesday night's came midway through the second half as Richmond's 14-5 run turned a two-point game into a 48-37 Spider lead. That margin proved to be far too much for the offensively challenged Minutemen to overcome.

"We couldn't score, obviously, and we had some turnovers that hurt us," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "We do all the work in the halfcourt defensively and then we give the ball away."

The Minutemen (6-8, 0-3 Atlantic 10) will try to begin digging themselves out of the significant hole they've dug themselves in the conference beginning Saturday at noon when they play host to Temple.

Rookie sophomores Anthony Anderson and Raheim Lamb were bright spots for UMass, with 15 and 10 points, respectively. Six of Anderson's points came on two pull-up 3-pointers in the last 38 seconds. Lappas wants him to shoot even more.

"I basically told the kid to shoot whenever he wants," Lappas said. "I don't care what shot he takes. He's probably the only guy on the team that hasn't taken a bad shot all year. He has to be more aggressive offensively."

"I've been staying after practice shooting a lot more," Anderson said. "I have to start putting it up more in games."

The Minutemen missed the regular offensive output of Shannon Crooks, who had a season-low six points, well below the 15.2 points per game he was averaging entering the game.

"That hurt," Lappas said. "He was sick today. He had a stomach problem. The way the kid has played all year you have to assume that had an effect on him. That was his worst game of the year, but still, somebody has to step up."

"It was kind of tough without him in there," Anderson said. "He does kind of get us going on offense."

The Minutemen trailed 23-21 at halftime, surviving foul trouble by Crooks, which limited him to just nine minutes and three points. Brand and Rhymer picked up the slack, combining for 11 points and 10 rebounds.

A three-point play by Willie Jenkins put the Minutemen ahead, 24-23, to start the second half, but back-to-back threes by Brown and Scott Ungerer, and a 15-footer by Jonathan Collins, gave the Spiders their biggest lead, 31-24.

The Minutemen answered with a 9-2 run capped by a Crooks floater that brought them within two, 34-32. That set up Richmond's back-breaking 14-5 stretch.

After back-to-back losses to sub .500 teams, the Minutemen's road gets tougher. The matchup with always-difficult Temple will be followed by three consecutive games against teams with winning records.

Lamb recruited for power post
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/17/2002

RICHMOND - After playing only four minutes against Fordham Saturday, Raheim Lamb returned to the University of Massachusetts' rotation Wednesday in a big way.

Lamb was the team's second-leading scorer with 10 points and grabbed a career-high-tying six rebounds in his team's 63-54 loss to Richmond. But maybe the most significant part of the 6-foot-5 sophomore's night was his stints at power forward.

In an attempt to counteract Richmond's four perimeter players, Lappas moved Lamb in from the perimeter, a move he might try again against Temple on Saturday.

"In a game like this it was good because they play, like, four perimeter guys," Lappas said. "Temple has the two big guys but they play the four perimeter guys at times, too. That's something we may have to look at again on Saturday"

Lamb said he didn't mind playing power forward, but he hoped the move isn't permanent.

"It was kind of different, but the way the matchups were, coach threw me in there," Lamb said. "It worked a little bit. I'm not really used to playing it, but if I have to, I will.

Lappas was not as pleased with sophomore Jameel Pugh, who played just seven minutes after scoring 22 Saturday. Upon taking him out at one point in the second half, Lappas was visibly angry, shouting at Pugh from close range. He walked away frustrated and then went back and blasted him again.

SLOW STARTING: The Minutemen are 0-3 in league play for the first time since former coach John Calipari's rookie season in 1988-89. UMass lost five straight before winning a game that year.

NEXT UP: The Minutemen will face a fired-up Temple team, which was routed, 93-74, at St. Bonaventure Wednesday. The Owls are 6-9.

NO EXCITEMENT: The Spiders hoped that moving to the Atlantic 10 from the Colonial Athletic Association would bring more fan interest. That hasn't happened so far in Richmond's first season. Including Wednesday's crowd of 3,628, the 9,171-seat Robins Center has been less than half full for five of the Spiders' six home games. The best crowd was 5,775 and came against crosstown rival Virginia Commonwealth.

MISCELLANEOUS: All eight of Richmond's wins this year have come when the Spiders have held opponents to 61 or fewer points. They've won 15 straight when they've done that, dating back to last year.

Former Minuteman and Amherst native Dwayne Killings, who transferred to Hampton, made the just-over-an-hour drive to see his former teammates play. Killings is not playing basketball for the Pirates.

Massachusetts Minutemen 54
Richmond Spiders 63
at Richmond

Official Basketball Box Score -- GAME TOTALS -- FINAL STATISTICS
Massachusetts vs Richmond
1/16/01 7:30 p.m. at Richmond, Va. - The Robins Center
VISITORS: Massachusetts 6-8, 0-3
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
01 JENKINS, Willie..... f  2-6    0-1    2-2    3  1  4   1   6  0  2  0  1  21
40 BRAND, Micah........ f  4-10   0-2    0-0    1  6  7   2   8  2  1  0  0  30
33 RHYMER, Kitwana..... c  3-7    0-0    1-3    4  5  9   4   7  0  2  1  0  32
12 ANDERSON, Anthony... g  5-8    5-8    0-0    0  3  3   4  15  1  3  0  0  34
30 CROOKS, Shannon..... g  2-11   1-5    1-4    1  1  2   5   6  3  1  1  1  29
00 MARTIN, Brennan.....    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   1
11 WILSON, Kyle........    1-6    0-0    0-0    2  0  2   1   2  5  3  0  0  17
21 WILLIAMS, Eric......    0-2    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   1   0  0  0  0  0   9
24 PUGH, Jameel........    0-2    0-2    0-0    0  0  0   1   0  0  1  0  0   7
34 LAMB, Raheim........    5-6    0-0    0-0    1  5  6   4  10  0  1  0  0  20
   TEAM................                         3  1  4             1
   Totals..............   22-58   6-18   4-9   15 23 38  23  54 11 15  2  2 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 9-26 34.6% 2nd Half: 13-32 40.6% Game: 37.9% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-6 33.3% 2nd Half: 4-12 33.3% Game: 33.3% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 1-5 20.0% 2nd Half: 3-4 75.0% Game: 44.4% 1

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Richmond 8-8, 2-1 TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 32 SKROCKI, Mike....... f 4-9 3-4 0-3 0 5 5 1 11 2 5 0 1 36 33 COLLINS, Johnathan.. c 2-3 0-0 1-2 1 4 5 3 5 0 1 4 0 24 03 UNGERER, Scott...... g 2-6 2-5 0-0 0 3 3 3 6 1 0 1 1 38 04 MYERS, Jeff......... g 1-3 1-2 0-0 3 3 6 2 3 4 0 0 0 31 12 BROWN, Reggie....... g 4-17 2-6 4-4 0 2 2 0 14 4 3 1 1 34 01 DOBBINS, Tony....... 4-7 0-1 11-12 2 0 2 1 19 0 1 0 3 17 14 LAY, Justin......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+ 21 FAULCONER, Tim...... 0-1 0-0 0-0 2 3 5 2 0 0 1 0 0 13 25 O'MALLEY, Patrick... 2-3 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 1 0 7 TEAM................ 2 5 7 Totals.............. 19-49 9-20 16-21 10 25 35 12 63 11 11 7 6 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 8-24 33.3% 2nd Half: 11-25 44.0% Game: 38.8% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 5-12 41.7% 2nd Half: 4-8 50.0% Game: 45.0% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 2-3 66.7% 2nd Half: 14-18 77.8% Game: 76.2% 2

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Officials: Ron Tyburski, David Day, Joe DeMayo Technical fouls: Massachusetts-None. Richmond-None. Attendance: 3628 Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total Massachusetts................. 21 33 - 54 Richmond...................... 23 40 - 63

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