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UMass feasts on GW
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 1/24/2002

AMHERST - UMass coach Steve Lappas' all-points bulletin was finally answered last night.

Shannon Crooks pulls up in traffic.
Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand, his two prodigal big men, turned up on the Mullins Center floor, rebounding, blocking shots and even scoring as if there were never a problem.

Granted, the opponent was a guard-dominated George Washington lineup that would have trouble boxing out a team of Tiny Archibald dimensions, but UMass' 73-60 win was an important ice-breaker.

It brought the Minutemen back up to 8-8, including 2-3 in the Atlantic 10, and featured their best all-around play in more than a month.

``It was the best since the North Carolina State game in terms of good perimeter and inside play,'' Lappas said of a Dec. 1 win that gave the Minutemen a rousing 4-0 start.

Life hasn't been nearly as bright for the Minutemen since then, but Lappas now believes that he can once again spot cracks in the clouds.

``It's good to see the big guys come back and I've been on them totally,'' he said. ``Kit takes it and I've been throwing bombs at him. But he says, `Coach, I know.' ''

Rhymer, who hadn't reached double figures since a 16-point performance seven games ago against Maine on Dec. 23, scored 14 last night on 4-of-5 shooting. And Brand, a force in the defensive end with 10 rebounds and four blocks, scored 17 for his first double-figure performance since a 17-point effort against Ohio State on Jan. 9.

The Minutemen also continued to successfully mine the perimeter with eight treys, including four from Shannon Crooks, who scored 14 points in addition to turning in a fine defensive job on the Colonials' Chris Monroe. Although the GW junior finished with 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting, much of it came out of desperation, after the Minutemen had taken control over the last 10 minutes.

``That's not a good name to bring up right now,'' said a disappointed Karl Hobbs, the Dorchester native and first-year George Washington coach.

``I really felt at the start of the game that (Monroe) wasn't ready to play,'' Hobbs said. ``When we got into trouble, he started to play a lot harder. But he has to learn to be ready to play right out of the gate.''

Crooks, and to a lesser degree sophomore forward Raheim Lamb, had a bit to say about that.

``I was shocked when I saw how many points (Monroe) had, because I know Shannon Crooks did a tremendous job on him,'' Lappas said.

Though the Colonials (10-8, 3-4) managed to cut UMass' lead to 50-45 with 7:03 left, the Minutemen dug in, with the big men taking the lead offensively.

A Brand 10-footer kicked off an 11-4 UMass run that included five points from Brand and six from Rhymer, including a press-breaking baseline jumper.

The duo's performance complemented the perimeter crew. Beyond Crooks' four treys, Kyle Wilson and Anthony Anderson each drained a pair from downtown.

Wilson and Anderson also combined for nine assists.

Inside out: UMass takes its best shot
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/24/2002

AMHERST - Some people call it fool's gold.

Jason Smith beats Kyle Wilson and Brennan Martin to the rock.
Others, particularly those who are victory-deprived, will take the riches of the 3-point shot despite any consequences.

Count the University of Massachusetts and coach Steve Lappas among that latter group.

In their best performance since early December, the Minutemen complemented their inside game with outside shooting, outlasting George Washington, 73-60, last night at the Mullins Center.

The victory evened UMass's record at 8-8 and gave them their second Atlantic 10 win (2-3).

''I think it's the best-balanced game we've played since the North Carolina State game,'' said Lappas, going back into his memory bank to a 69-62 victory over the Wolfpack Dec. 1.

Going into last Saturday's game against Temple, Lappas knew he needed to do something to get his team back on course if the Minutemen had any hope of being contenders in the A-10.

One of his first moves was to go to a three-guard offense with Kyle Wilson, Shannon Crooks, and Anthony Anderson. ''A desperation move,'' Lappas conceded last night with a laugh.

The change worked in a 63-53 win over the Owls Saturday and it worked again against GW.

With more perimeter shooters, Lappas hoped the long-range part of the Minutemen's offense would kick in, and somehow jump-start the power part of the UMass game, which includes the inside presence of 6-foot-11-inch Micah Brand and 6-10 Kitwana Rhymer.

Both were big last night. Brand had 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Rhymer added 14 points, his first double-figure effort in seven games.

''Both of us have to get going,'' said Brand. ''And that opens up the perimeter.''

It certainly did last night. The Minutemen made 8 of 15 3-point shots and hit an astounding 14 of 19 shots in the second half as they expanded a 25-20 halftime lead into double digits before fighting off a late surge by the Colonials (10-8, 3-4).

Since GW suddenly had to pay attention to all the commotion from beyond the 3-point line, space opened up underneath, allowing Brand and Rhymer to exert their size advantage (GW's tallest starter was 6-8 Jason Smith).

Rhymer sounded mostly relieved by his breakout game. ''It was a slump,'' he said. ''But, basically, I finally figured it out. I just felt at ease.''

The same could not be said for GW, which struggled all night defensively, especially guard Chris Monroe. He was the Colonials' leading scorer, with 24 points, but he drew the wrath of Karl Hobbs throughout the game for what the first-year coach felt was a lackadaisical attitude on defense.

''We never played with a sense of urgency until the final three minutes,'' said Hobbs.

By then, UMass had established control, much to the delight of the crowd of 4,167.

''If our big guys can do what they can do and we can shoot from the perimeter, we will have something,'' said Lappas, who next takes the Minutemen on the road to St. Bonaventure, which has also been dealing with the fool's gold of successful 3-point shooting.

For Lappas, however, it is something well worth chasing.

Colonials Can't Scale U-Mass.'s Heights
Massachusetts 73, GW Men 60
By Tim Casey, Special to The Washington Post, 1/24/2002

AMHERST, Mass., Jan. 23 -- George Washington's Atlantic 10 struggles continued tonight as the Colonials were unable to contain Massachusetts's inside game and were unable to get themselves on track offensively in a 73-60 loss.

After winning their first two league games, the Colonials (10-8, 3-4 A-10) have lost three straight and four of five.

"We seem to have lost our will to win," said GW Coach Karl Hobbs, a Roxbury, Mass., native, who returned to his home state for a game for the first time since being named head coach in May. "And that's a major concern for me. [Massachusetts] was more eager and desperate."

George Washington, which trailed by 14 in the second half, cut the deficit to 49-43 with 7 minutes 43 seconds remaining.

Kitwana Rhymer and Jason Smith battle for the loose ball.
U-Mass.'s 6-foot-10 Kitwana Rhymer (14 points), 6-5 Raheim Lamb (10 points) and 6-11 Micah Brand (17 points) scored 20 of the Minutemen's final 26 points. In the second half, Massachusetts shot 14 of 19 (73.7 percent), mostly from inside the lane.

"I felt at ease tonight," said Rhymer, who had averaged 2.2 points in the six games prior to tonight. "I felt relaxed. As long as I can keep my focus, I'll be fine."

Chris Monroe, the conference's third-leading scorer, did all he could to give the Colonials a chance at the end. He had 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, including nine of GW's final 15 points. But Hobbs wasn't pleased with his star's defense.

"He has to learn to be ready right out of the gate," Hobbs said. "He's such a good offensive player that he's going to score. But I'm disappointed on the other end of the court."

In order to combat the Minutemen's tall front court, Hobbs switched his rotation. Freshman forward Tamal Forchion, who started the first 11 games of the season, returned to the starting lineup.

After coming off the bench the past three games, the 6-6 Forchion struggled in his new role, scoring just two points before fouling out with 4:25 remaining.

"We're not a physical team, so our margin for error is very, very thin," Hobbs said. "But we've been able to use our energy and quickness to deal with that. We have to regroup and find ourselves."

U-Mass Runs Away From GW – Again
U-Mass 73, GW 60
By Sal Cardoni, GWBlitz! Staff, 1/24/2002

The pattern was eerily, even cookie-cutter, similar.

Its beginning was the same, as was its end.

Its middle was a run only a point less and a margin of victory only three shy.

Its bottom line was that GW still has not won an Atlantic-10 conference game away from Foggy Bottom, falling to U-Mass 73-60 Wednesday night in Amherst.

Five three-pointers fueled a 25 to 5 Minutemen run that spanned both halves; last January at the Mullins Center, U-Mass went on a similar half-spanning 26 to 5 run to defeat GW 76-60.

On this night, GW lead 20-16 with 3:51 left in the first half before U-Mass’ Shannon Crooks made consecutive three-pointers and freshman Kyle Wilson another as the home white went to the half ahead 25-20.

The start of the second half was no better for the Colonials. A Micah Brand (17 points, 10 rebounds) dunk and another Crooks (14 points) three meant that GW trailed by at least sixteen points, 41-25, for the third consecutive game.

In losing twice last week, GW trailed Xavier by seventeen and St. Joseph’s by twenty-two, respectively.

Slowly, though, the Colonials crept back into the game. And just as slowly, U-Mass increased its lead.

Down 49-35 halfway though the second stanza, GW outscored the Minutemen 10-1 over three minutes to pull within five points, 50-45, with just under eight minutes left in the game. During the run, Chris Monroe, who led GW with 24 points, connected on a three-pointer and Jaason Smith (12 points, 7 rebounds) made a lay-up.

But, a Brand lay-up and two Kitwana Rhymer free throws stretched the U-Mass lead back to nine points; GW would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.

In consecutive games, GW has allowed their opponent to shoot 80% from the floor after halftime; tonight, U-Mass shot 14 for 19 and Saturday afternoon, St. Joseph’s shot 18 for 21.

Colonials hit the skids at UMass
By Sean Lee, The GW Hatchet, 1/24/2002

GW's losing streak reached three games Thursday night as Massachusetts handed the visiting Colonials a 73-60 loss at the Mullins Center.

The shooting woes continued for the Colonials (10-8, 3-4), who were led by Chris Monroe and his game-high 24 points. Tamal Forchion, coming off a 16-point turnout against St. Joseph's Saturday, was absent in his 23 minutes. The freshman power forward scored two points and fouled out. Greg Collucci, another absentee, scored three points in his 25 minutes, hitting just 1-of-4 three-point attempts.

Combined, the team was 20-for-55, about 37 percent from the floor. UMass, which struggled early, hit 78 percent of its shots in the second half to put the game away.

Three Minutemen scored in double digits, including forward Micah Brand, who earned a double-double with a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds.

After taking a 25-20 lead into the locker room, UMass (8-8, 2-3), which beat Temple Sunday for its first conference win, out-scored GW 48-40.

This is now the longest Colonials losing streak of the season, and it comes at a particularly lousy time. GW entered the contest coming off two harsh and humbling losses to superior A-10 teams.

Both St. Joseph's and Xavier defeated GW last week and remain atop their respective conference divisions, east and west.

Instead of turning a pivot on the losses, using UMass and the upcoming game against winless Rhode Island to swipe a pair of games from less imposing opponents, the Colonials now face the harsh reality that they are among the sub-.500 teams of the conference.

The Colonials host Rhode Island Saturday afternoon. The Rams are winless in the A-10 and 4-11 overall.

Big men break out for UMass
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/24/2002

AMHERST - Riding the offensive resurgence of its frontcourt, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team on Wednesday turned in its best performance since early December.

Micah Brand brought the inside game back for the Minutemen.
The enigmatic big-man duo of Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds to lift UMass (8-8, 2-3 Atlantic 10) back to .500 with a 73-60 win over George Washington in front of 4,167 fans at the Mullins Center.

"It was the best-balanced game we played since N.C. State where we had a good perimeter and a good inside game," said head coach Steve Lappas said. "It was great to see our big guys come back strong tonight."

Brand led UMass with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, while Rhymer reached double figures for the first time since Dec. 15 with 12 points. Shannon Crooks scored 14, while Raheim Lamb added 10.

After the game, Rhymer said he was happy to break out of his slump.

"I just felt at ease. I felt relieved, to tell you the truth," Rhymer said. "I hit a jump shot on the baseline and I felt like, I'm good. I'm relaxed and things are going well right now."

"I'm pleased for him," Lappas said. "I want to see the kid go out the way he should go out. He's a hard worker. He's a good guy."

Chris Monroe led the Colonials (10-8, 3-4 A-10) with 24.

The Minutemen return to action Saturday at 7 p.m. in western New York against St. Bonaventure.

George Washington grabbed a 12-5 lead less than five minutes into the game.

Lamb accounted for six points of a UMass 8-0 run that put his team ahead, 13-12. The Colonials regrouped and led 20-16 at an official timeout with 3:51 remaining.

UMass used the break to seize momentum. The Minutemen scored nine unanswered points to end the half on two 3-pointers by Crooks and one by Kyle Wilson. They took a 25-20 advantage to the locker room.

Intermission didn't cool off the Minutemen, who widened their lead out of the break.

Kit Rhymer was the focus of the defense again.
Photo - click for larger image photo
Rhymer grabbed an offensive rebound on UMass' first possession of the half and dunked. After Greg Collucci hit a 3-pointer, Brand scored inside and Wilson hit a pull-up jumper.

Thirteen of Brand's 17 points came in the second half. He knocked down a spin hook to make it 33-23 and after two Jaason Smith free throws, he was on the finishing end of one of UMass' prettiest baskets of the season.

From just inside the three-point line, Crooks faked a pass to Anthony Anderson on the wing and instead delivered a bounce pass to Eric Williams on the low right block. Williams quickly whipped the ball to Brand cutting from the left. Brand caught the pass and took off, slamming down a two-handed dunk.

The play epitomized a game filled with good ball movement for the Minutemen, who finished with 18 assists on 23 baskets.

UMass extended its advantage to 14 points three times, but sloppy ball handling sparked a 10-1 GW run that put the Colonials within striking distance, 50-45, with 7:30 to play.

"That's going to happen in a game," Lappas said. "We kept our poise."

The Minutemen big men took over from there. Rhymer had six and Brand added five points of an 11-4 UMass surge that finished off GW.

The Minutemen shot 73.7 percent in the second half and continued their solid 3-point shooting, making 8-of-15 in the game.

"We had too many mental breakdowns," GW coach Karl Hobbs said. "You can't win a basketball game when you allow the other team to shoot 74 percent."

Despite Monroe's 23 points, Lappas was pleased with his team's defense against him.

"I was shocked when I saw how many points he had because I thought Shannon Crooks did an unbelievable job on that guy," Lappas said. "We did a super job defensively on him."

Martin still hasn't scored
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/24/2002

AMHERST - The whistle blew right after Brennan Martin released his shot from behind the 3-point line with 7:56 left in the first half.

Photo - click for larger image
Sooner or later Brennan Martin will get his name into the scoring column. photo
As the ball swished through the net, Martin turned around and saw the referee pointing at the sideline, indicating that Martin had stepped on it, and thus negating his basket.

"I looked at the ref and said, 'You gotta be kidding me,'" Martin said.

It wasn't that Martin disagreed with the call, but 16 games into his college career at the University of Massachusetts, the freshman from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., has yet to score his first points. When he finally scored, the shot didn't count. He's itching to get the monkey off his back.

"Aw, man, you don't even know," Martin said, shaking his head. "I'm just waiting for one to fall."

The primary reason for Martin's lack of points is that he's barely played. On a team with four small forwards and the potential to play three guards, he had been the odd man, playing in just six games prior to Wednesday's win over George Washington.

Photo - click for larger image
Willie Jenkins, Jameel Pugh and Ronell Blizzard (pictured with Brennan Martin and Eric Williams) are suddenly finding PT hard to come by. photo
UMass coach Steve Lappas has juggled the rotation at the small-forward spot all season. Willie Jenkins has started nine games and didn't play at all in three. Jameel Pugh has three double-digit scoring games, but sat out six games. Neither Pugh nor Jenkins played Wednesday.

Raheim Lamb has been the most consistent of the four, and his ability to slide over to the power-forward spot has added to his minutes.

With the Minutemen starting three guards in each of the last two games, all of the small forwards risked seeing their minutes cut. But Martin played two minutes against Temple and a career-high six minutes Wednesday.

"I've been being patient, working hard in practice. That's the main thing," Martin said. "I knew eventually my time would come."

Martin had an assist and a blocked shot and missed the only other shot he took.

"I'm going to continue to shoot when I'm open," he said. "They'll start falling."

NEXT UP: The Minutemen travel to Olean, N.Y. to take on St. Bonaventure Saturday. The Bonnies (12-6, 4-3 A-10) lost to Fordham, 87-81, Wednesday in the Bronx.

CHASE FOR 1,000 - Senior Shannon Crooks moved closer to the 1,000-point plateau. The now needs 72 to crack quadruple digits in his career and 115 to reach the mark in a UMass uniform. He scored 43 points at St. John's as a freshman before transferring to UMass.

He has reached double figures in 14 of the team's 16 games.

New lineup sharp, inside and out
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 1/24/2002

AMHERST - The fact that the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team drew only 4,167 spectators Wednesday night - the third-smallest Mullins Center crowd ever for the team - may be cause for serious concern in the UMass athletic community. Especially considering that this was George Washington - the traditional, strong, Atlantic-10 rival that probably is more of a drawing card than any of UMass' remaining home opponents: Dayton, La Salle, Fordham, Rhode Island and even St. Bonaventure.

But maybe the crowds will return if folks realize that UMass basketball may be in the midst of joining the 21st century, a.k.a. the three-guard lineup, and 3-point shooting. Not to mention, for the second straight game, winning.

"Our perimeter game's coming along, I think," said UMass coach Steve Lappas, after UMass shot 8-of-15 from 3-point land, and a blistering 73.7 percent from the floor overall in the second half, en route to a big 73-60 win over the Colonials.

In their last time out, UMass hit 11 threes, the key to a desperately needed win over Temple. So Wednesday night, for the second straight game and just the second time this year, Lappas started guards Kyle Wilson, Shannon Crooks and Anthony Anderson alongside Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand, whose struggles had continued in the shadows of the Temple win.

The teams fought out a tough, rusty start to the game, but as the first half was closing, UMass came from behind with a 9-0 run. Wilson followed two straight Crooks threes with one of his own, and wham: UMass led 25-20 at the half.

There was halftime for UMass to wait out, but the psychological imprint had been made on GW: the second half was pure joy, inside and out, for the Minutemen.

Brand (who finished with 17 points) and Rhymer (14 points) had only four and three points, respectively, at the half, but in the second they immediately put the Colonials on their heels. A Rhymer dunk, cleaning up a Brand miss, started things off. Then Brand squeezed a layin over Jaason Smith and Tamal Forchion, and soon after he hit a baseline hook for a 33-23 lead.

At this point, it was clear that UMass' big men, too, were ready to reclaim their places in the offense. Two Smith foul shots closed the gap to eight, but the play that followed - Crooks to Eric Williams to a streaking, then dunking, Brand - was as pretty an offensive possession as can be found, and the crowd responded in kind. UMass' lead: 35-25. Passing lanes: wide open.

Now the Minutemen were definitely in the flow, and the fact that Crooks then made two straight 3-pointers, followed by Anderson with two more, was too much for a defense to contend with. Even rolling with a few Anderson/Wilson rookie mistakes along the way, UMass hung with the inside-outside stuff, and shot a scorching 73.7 percent in the second half.

"When Kit and Micah are both going at the same time, I don't really see anybody who'll be playing with us," said Crooks.

GW coach Karl Hobbs was more impressed with his team's defensive shortcomings than UMass' perimeter game. ("Defensively we just had too many mental breakdowns. We have to regroup," he said.) But with these two wins in mind, UMass' rotation should no longer be in question. The three guards and two big men, with Williams and Lamb as the primary bench contributors, is coming up like roses. But for UMass to stay strong, it appears, Crooks and Co. will have to continue to keep defenses honest from the outside.

"If our perimeter guys are going to continue to come around, that's going to bode well," said Lappas, "because I know these guys (Brand and Rhymer) will come around. Those guys (the young guards) don't have track records; these guys have track records."

Video clips

All clips in MPEG format.
Video clip Micah Brand glides in for the hoop. (file size = 470k)
Video clip Kyle Wilson finds Shannon Crooks in the corner. (795k)
Video clip Kit Rhymer collects the pass and finishes. (475k)
Video clip Crooks converts the fast break. (476k)

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George Washington Colonials 60
Massachusetts Minutemen 73
at the Mullins Center

George Washington vs Massachusetts
01/23/02  7:00 p.m. at Amherst, MA(Mullins Center)
VISITORS: George Washington (10- 8, 3- 4)
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
44 FORCHION,Tamal       f  1-4    0-0    0-0    0  2  2   5   2   2  2  0  1  23
31 SMITH,Jaason         c  5-7    0-0    2-3    2  5  7   2  12   0  3  1  2  39
04 MONROE,Chris         g  7-15   4-10   6-6    1  2  3   3  24   2  3  0  1  33
05 THOMPSON,T.J.        g  2-12   1-4    2-2    2  3  5   4   7   5  2  0  2  36
34 COLLUCCI,Greg        g  1-7    1-6    0-0    0  1  1   3   3   0  0  0  1  25
03 ROMA,Albert             0-1    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  1  0  0   2
14 MILLER,Darnell          0-2    0-0    1-2    2  0  2   2   1   1  3  0  0  13
30 CHANDLER,Marquin        3-5    2-3    1-2    1  3  4   2   9   1  0  0  2  17
35 HELTON,Lewie            0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   0   0  0  0  0   2
42 SCOTT,Darrio            1-2    0-0    0-0    1  1  2   1   2   0  1  0  0  10
TEAM ........................................   2  0  2
TOTALS                    20-55   8-23  12-15  11 17 28  23  60  11 15  1  9 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 8-24 33.3% 2ndH: 12-31 38.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 36.4% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 3-9 33.3% 2ndH: 5-14 35.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 34.8% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 1-2 50.0% 2ndH: 11-13 84.6% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 80.0% 4, 1

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts ( 8- 8, 2- 3) 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 40 BRAND,Micah f 6-12 0-0 5-7 2 8 10 3 17 0 2 4 0 34 33 RHYMER,Kitwana c 4-5 0-0 6-8 2 2 4 3 14 1 0 0 0 22 11 WILSON,Kyle g 3-8 2-5 1-2 1 1 2 3 9 4 4 0 0 26 12 ANDERSON,Anthony g 2-6 2-4 3-5 2 3 5 1 9 5 3 0 0 37 30 CROOKS,Shannon g 5-7 4-5 0-0 1 2 3 2 14 3 2 0 1 35 00 MARTIN,Brennan 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 6 21 WILLIAMS,Eric 0-2 0-1 0-0 1 3 4 2 0 3 3 0 1 14 34 LAMB,Raheim 3-6 0-0 4-6 2 3 5 2 10 1 1 1 2 26 TEAM ........................................ 1 1 2 TOTALS 23-47 8-15 19-28 12 23 35 16 73 18 16 6 4 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 9-28 32.1% 2ndH: 14-19 73.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 48.9% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 4-10 40.0% 2ndH: 4-5 80.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 53.3% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 3-4 75.0% 2ndH: 16-24 66.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 67.9% 3

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: Tim Higgins, Bryan Kersey, Mike Roberts TECHNICAL FOULS: George Washington - none Massachusetts - none ATTENDANCE: 4,167 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL George Washington 20 40 60 Massachusetts 25 48 73

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