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UMass blocks URI
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 2/28/2002

AMHERST - Shannon Crooks could remember the emptiness that escorted friends and teammates such as Monty Mack and Jonathan DePina out of town. A year earlier, it was Chris Kirkland and Mike Babul who left without winning on Senior Night, with their parents and friends in the stands.

Shannon Crooks splits the D and has an easy target.
As he split Rhode Island down the middle last night on the way to 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists, Crooks vowed that his final night in the Mullins Center would be different.

``To finish with a win on Senior Night was a big thing, because I remember that feeling from those other nights,'' Crooks said after UMass (12-14, 6-9 A-10) finished off a 79-69 win over Rhode Island (7-19, 3-12). The win marked the first time since a Feb. 26 victory over St. Bonaventure that the Minutemen won consecutive games.

Kitwana Rhymer, who has struggled with inconsistency for much of his senior season, had the same thought in mind while tearing the Rams apart under the basket with 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

``This really feels great,'' he said. ``And it's momentum for us to push on.''

Though the rewards were decidedly meager, the Minutemen managed to lock up fourth place in the A-10's east division, guaranteeing a first-round game against either George Washington or Duquesne next Wednesday in the A-10 tournament in Philadelphia.

The Minutemen's final, faint hope of an improbable NCAA tournament berth lies in winning the four games that would produce a tournament title next week. They also have to close out the season on Saturday in Cincinnatti against Xavier, the best team in the conference.

For now the Minutemen appear to be conducting business the right way.

Fellow seniors Ronell Blizzard and Eric Williams, the former with an inspired seven-point, 3-of-3 performance, helped anchor an effort that pushed the Rams out of the way early. And by the time Rhode Island gained its footing, the Minutemen were busy defending a 10-point margin that essentially held up during the last 10 minutes of the game.

The Minutemen, on the way to shooting an uncharacteristic 50 percent against the Rams, placed four players in double figures. And with Rhymer kicking the game off with some early scoring, the feeling spread. Junior Micah Brand responded with his best offensive game in several weeks and finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Sophomore Anthony Anderson played a near-flawless game with 13 points.

Crooks is two assists away from becoming only the fourth player in UMass history to finish with 1,000 career points and 300 assists.

``This is a good way for our seniors to go out,'' coach Steve Lappas said. ``It's been hard for them, playing for one coach and then having everything change when a new coach comes in.

``It relegates everyone to being freshmen again. It's not easy for them, so I want to express my gratitude. They want to win badly, sometimes too badly.''

Seniors make their mark for UMass
Minutemen rip Rams at Mullins
UMASS 79, URI 69

By Michael Smith, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/28/2002

AMHERST - Three of sophomore Anthony Anderson's long-range dial-ups did not connect last night, the final (and insignificant) failure coming with about 50 seconds left in the University of Massachusett's 118th game against Rhode Island. But, as he had been all evening, senior Kitwana Rhymer was there to rebound the miss. Rhymer pumped once, turned toward the middle and two defenders, pumped once more, then passed off to fellow senior Ronell Blizzard for the layup.

Kitwana Rhymer closed out his Mullins Center career with 13 points and 9 boards.
This was a night for the UMass seniors, a couple of whom may want to keep the boxscore as a souvenir from this regular-season finale. The numbers at the bottom: UMass 79, Rhode Island 69.

Shannon Crooks led the way with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting (3 of 6 3-pointers), to go with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Rhymer matched Anderson's 13 points and collected nine boards. Junior Micah Brand brought 12 points to the party.

''It was great for the seniors to go out this way,'' said coach Steve Lappas, whose team improved to 12-14 (6-9 Atlantic 10) in wrapping up the East Division fourth seed in next week's conference tournament. ''I didn't realize until after the game - Shannon told me - that we had lost three straight [actually two] on senior night. I'm glad he didn't tell me before, or I'd have been nervous.''

If Crooks was when URI (7-19, 3-12) made a game of it late, he didn't let it show. The Rams had trimmed the deficit to 63-55 when Crooks took a miss end-to-end and finished with a fancy, wraparound layup to get UMass's lead back to 10. Crooks drained his final 3-pointer with 3:57 left to make it 69-58, and, moments later, was double-teamed but managed to find the open man - Brand - for the hoop and the harm (a free throw) that put the Minutemen up, 72-60. Crooks final Mullins Center moment was a coast-to-coast layup during which he blew past all five Rams.

''My last home game, I wanted to do something special, leave something here for them to remember me by,'' Crooks said. ''I was happy for my mom that she was here and was able to see me finish my college career.''

The 3,897 in attendance thanked the seniors with ovations before the game, and the farewell cheers didn't cease once the contest began. Lappas started all four - regulars Crooks and Rhymer, and occassionals Blizzard and Eric Williams - along with Anderson. The senior quartet helped lead the Minutemen to first-half leads of 10 (three times), 11, and 12 points, and an 8-point advantage by intermission.

Blizzard, making just his third start of the year, scored 5 of his 7 points in the first 20 minutes, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 3-minute mark that made it 32-22. Blizzard scored his other basket by catching Rhymer's desperation heave in the lane and swishing it through for a 12-point lead with a minute and a half left in the half.

UMass made 14 of 24 shots in the first half and shot 51 percent for the game. URI, the conference's worst shooting team, lost its fourth straight largely because of 37 percent marksmanship.

Back-to-back treys by Anderson and Crooks had the hosts up 14 in the opening minutes of the second. Rhymer's putback of Brand's missed putback, Brand's baby hook, another Anderson three, and Brennan Martin's layup (backcut, feed from Williams) gave the Minutemen a 17-point (51-34) cushion with 12:35 left. Crooks took over from there and made sure the senior night streak didn't continue.

Senior stars come out
UMass vets shoot down gritty Rams

By Paul Kenyon, The Providence Journal Sports Writer, 2/28/2002

AMHERST, Mass. -- It was senior night, in more ways than one, at the Mullins Center last night.

The four seniors on the University of Massachusetts basketball team were honored in pre-game ceremonies at their final home game. Once the ball went up, they gave themselves their own party.

Center Kitwana Rhymer and Ronell Blizzard led an early spurt that gave the Minutemen control. Then fellow senior Shannon Crooks took over from there to make sure his team stayed ahead as UMass led from wire-to-wire and beat Rhode Island, 79-69.

Crooks (23), Rhymer (13) and Blizzard (7) combined for 43 points to help the Minutemen avenge an earlier 70-59 loss at Rhode Island. (The fourth senior, Eric Williams, did not score). They made sure their going-away party was a happy one.

"It was a great way for our seniors to go out," said first-year UMass coach Steve Lappas. "It's hard when you play for one coach and you come in your senior year and everything is different. It relegates everyone to being a freshman . . . I want to express my gratitutde to the seniors . . . It's been a pleasure to coach them."

Crooks was the biggest of the stars. His 23 points moved him ahead of URI assistant coach Tyrone Weeks into 34th on UMass's all-time scoring list. The effort was especially rewarding for him since he had gone just 1-for-15 from the field in the loss at Keaney Gym earlier this month.

"I thought Shannon Crooks did a great job," said Rhody coach Jim Baron. "He had a tough game at our place. He really stepped up big, not only 23 points, he had six assists. He really kept them under control."

Crooks came through with two of the game's biggest plays in the final minutes to make sure his team stayed ahead.

Raheim Lamb tracks Dusin Hellenga.
URI, even though it was outplayed most of the way, somehow found a way to hang in. The Rams scrapped and fought and hung in even after deficits of 10-2, 27-17, 42-28 and 51-34. Thanks to a big boost by players coming off the bench -- Dustin Hellenga had 16 points and Troy Wiley 10 -- URI never let the game get out of control. When Howard Smith hit two free throws with 5:16 left, Rhody was within 63-55.

That's when Crooks took matters into his own hands. The Boston native, who began his career at St. John's, scored on a nifty drive to get the lead back to 10. Steve Mello responded with a 3-pointer to cut the UMass lead to 65-58. After a free throw by Micah Brand (12 points), Crooks came through with the clincher, sinking his third 3-pointer of the night. That made it 69-58 with 3:52 left, and the Minutemen had their revenge.

"It was night and day compared to the first time we played against them," Baron said of Crooks's effort. "He's a good player."

UMass led all the way thanks to the work of Rhymer and Blizzard at the start. Rhymer, a 6-foot-10, 256-pounder, had his team's first three hoops and nine points by halftime.

"When Kit starts out scoring, it changes everyone's mentality," Lappas said. "It changes the whole game when we get it inside."

By the end of the night, Massachusetts had outscored URI, 44-22, in the paint.

When Rhymer was not doing it in the first half, Blizzard was. The 6-8 forward came in averaging only 1.1 points. But he was given the start on Senior Night, and he responded with seven points and four rebounds.

"We knew it would be a little different this game," Hellenga said. "They'd come back with a little more intensity on their Senior Night. We knew Shannon would step it up . . . They started hitting early. We got in a hole. We couldn't match their intensity."

Baron said the loss was not for lack of effort.

"We fought back. We've been doing that a lot this year," he said. "Our guys played with a lot of energy and a lot of desire . . . But down the stretch you've got to try to be a little more focused."

On this night, Crooks and the other Minutemen seniors were the ones who were focused.

Baron's team has interchangeable parts
By Paul Kenyon, The Providence Journal Sports Writer, 2/28/2002

AMHERST, Mass. -- As far as Jim Baron is concerned, a starting position is not a major factor in the way he sets up his team. It is more important to find the proper balance throughout a game rather than worrying about which five players start.

That was never more evident than it was last night, when Rhode Island's bench players outscored the team's starters in Rhody's 79-69 loss to Massachusetts at the Mullins Center. The five URI starters totaled 31 points. The players who came off the bench had 38.

The numbers were even more dramatic in the first half, when the starters scored only seven points while the guys coming off the bench had 28. By the end of the night, Lazare Adingono and Dinno Daniels led the starters with 10 points apiece while Dustin Hellenga came off the bench for 16 and Troy Wiley chipped in 10.

"We're trying to be more consistent in a lot of different areas. We need to use 10 players," Baron said. "I don't put too much emphasis on starting. The guys I put in to start I want to have high energy and really be intense from the start. But when you do that, you don't have the scoring you like to get.

"We bring some guys off the bench," Baron added, "(Because) they've been doing a better job coming off the bench than they do starting."

"It doesn't really matter to us," Hellenga said when asked about being a starter. "It changes every game, or every other game. If you come off the bench, you've just got to pick it up."

As it is, Baron has been using Wiley, Hellenga and Brian Woodward , his top three players in scoring average this season, off the bench in recent games. Nine players have started at least twice, and only Daniels has started every game.

Finding the range

Hellenga, the 6-foot-4 freshman who earlier this season missed 14 straight 3-point attempts, continued his revival from behind the arc as he hit four of seven treys on the way to his 16 points. He now has a team-high 47 3-pointers.

Hellenga was slowed by a sprained ankle in midseason, but said that had nothing to do with his shooting problems.

"I was just struggling. I wasn't getting enough arc on the ball," he said. "No excuses; it was my fault."

Perfect from line

Three-point shooting was not URI's only strength last night. The team had a perfect night at the foul line, hitting all 14 of its shots.

Daniels and Howard Smith both made their four, and Adingono, Hellenga and Wiley all went 2-for-2.

The Rams came into the game shooting just 67.2 percent from the line, 10th in the Atlantic 10. UMass was good, too, going 15-for-20 last night.

Sagging attendance

With Massachusetts on the way to its first sub-.500 Atlantic 10 finish since the 1988-89 season, attendance has suffered.

The Minutemen regularly sold out the 9,493-seat Mullins Center for some time after it opened in February 1993. But crowds have been dwindling the last several seasons. The numbers are the lowest this year since Mullins opened.

The largest crowd was 8,894 for the Connecticut game, but many of those were UConn fans. The team drew more than 6,000 for only two other games -- 6,635 in a loss to Holy Cross, and 6,277 in the opener against Arkansas-Little Rock. All of the last four home games were under 5,000, including 3,773 in a loss to St. Bonaventure, the smallest crowd ever at Mullins. Senior Night drew only 3,897 last night.

Seniors Impress on their Night
By Justin Pearson, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, 2/28/2002

AMHERST - On a night designed to honor the four graduating seniors on the Massachusetts men's basketball team, those seniors honored the 3,897 in attendance at the Mullins Center with an all-action showing in the Minutemen's 79-69 victory over Rhode Island. The win locked up the No. 4 seed out of the East Division in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Tournament, meaning a match-up with either George Washington or Duquense looms for the Minutemen on Wednesday afternoon.

Shannon Crooks tallied a game-high 23 points along with seven boards and six assists while Kitwana Rhymer just missed his second consecutive double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Anthony Anderson and Micah Brand added 13 and 12 points, respectively, for UMass (12-14, 6-9 A-10) while Dustin Hellenga led four Rams (7-19, 3-12 A-10) in double figures with 16 points.

The Minutemen led throughout the contest and stretched their lead to as many as 17 points before holding off a mini-run by the Rams midway through the second half to notch their second consecutive home victory.

"I thought it was a good solid win for our guys," UMass head coach Steve Lappas said. "We did a lot of good things out there defensively and offensively, we moved the ball well and it was just a great way for our seniors to go out."

Behind red-hot shooting from both the inside and the outside in the first half the Minutemen jumped out to a 36-28 lead at the break. Rhymer scored the first six points of the game for UMass on a series of inside moves as the Maroon and White opened up a 10-2 lead in the game's first five minutes.

Shortly after this the crowd exploded following one of the best defensive plays of the season by Crooks. After turning the ball over near midcourt Crooks raced back down court, arriving just in time to swat away an attempted lay in by Hellenga.

"I got upset at myself for turning the ball over so I just ran back to contest [the shot] as hard as possible," said Crooks of his block. "I thought he was going to try and dunk it so I was going to give him a good foul so he wouldn't make it, not really flagrant, but he tried to lay it in and it was right there so I just blocked it."

"It was a tremendous play, it really was," added Lappas.

All evening long Crooks was the star of the game for the Minutemen, making a number of key plays at both ends of the court. Making this performance all that more noteworthy was Crooks' performance in the first meeting between these two clubs. On that day he was held to just five points on 1-of-15 shooting, a number that URI head coach Jim Baron did not expect to see repeated.

"He had a tough game at our place and he really stepped up big [tonight,]" said Baron of the Boston native. "Not only with 23 points, he had six assists and he really kept them under control."

Another senior who came up big last night was Ronell Blizzard. After struggling to make much of an impression coming off the bench for most of the season, Blizzard chipped in with seven points and four boards on perfect shooting in 11 minutes of action.

"He did a great job tonight, it was probably his best game of the year," said Lappas of Blizzard, who made just his second start of the season. "It was great to see for the kid, I was happy for him. He got a chance to play some significant minutes tonight and he came through for us."

Prior to the game UMass honored its four graduating seniors with a ceremony that included Lappas and their families at midcourt. Crooks, Rhymer, Blizzard and Eric Williams were each given a standing ovation upon receiving their honors and each started in their final appearance in Amherst.

The Minutemen return to action on Saturday afternoon when they take on A-10 leaders Xavier in Cincinnati in the regular season finale.

Calling out UMass Fans
By Justin Pearson, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, 2/28/2002

AMHERST - It's about 15 minutes before tip-off and this place isn't even close to full. But that's not surprising. I'm led to believe the average attendance for Massachusetts men's basketball games this season is a little over 100.

Tonight is going to be different though. Tonight, they'll come. They have to. On this fine February evening, four Minuteman seniors are to be honored for their stints as UMass hoopsters. And I'm sure there's about 2,000 kids in Southwest who'd never miss their team's home finale.

Plus, student tickets remain free of charge.

It's now eleven minutes before game time. A few seconds ago, I saw a group of five students saunter down the steps in Section N, the area set off for UMass' dedicated undergrads. Excluding the Hoop Band - which is forced to attend each home game - the student section is now 10 bodies solid.

Ten minutes to go. Kitwana Rhymer, Shannon Crooks, Eric Williams and Ronnell Blizzard are about to be recognized. It's Senior Night, the date set for their last college basketball game in Amherst. So it's going to be special when everyone in attendance stands up in ovation.

I think the applause lasted for like five seconds. I wonder how many people here even know what's going on?

Seven minutes remain; this place is dead. Someone just sneezed in Section Y, the area directly opposite from me.

Five minutes until play begins. Maroon is a nice color, but it has begun to irritate me. The seats in the William D. Mullins Center - dyed with that darker shade of red - are an unfortunately familiar sight. Again, no one is here.

But the students will pile in soon. They always show up late.

My optimism is so unwarranted. It's now 10 minutes into the first half and there are like only 35 students here - of course. I just bent over and asked my colleague Justin Pearson how many students are enrolled at this school.

"Like 18,000 undergrads," he says. "They should be able to get at least half this place filled. Was there a budget cut toward fan participation?"

It sure seems like it. During last Saturday's game with Fordham, four elderly women, front row, made up one-half of the student section's population. I think I even saw one of them try to produce a fist pump. It was just an attempt, however.

It's now halftime. UMass is winning, I think. But that's not why everyone is excited. A middle-schooler named Derek has just successfully connected on a lay-up, a free throw, and a three-pointer before the contest's 30-second allotment ran out. If he hits this next shot from half court, he'll win a new car.

Oh my. He hit the left side of the backboard. I honestly didn't think the 4-foot-6-inch tyke had a chance. And I just realized I raised my arms up in childish thrill when that last shot was in the air.

Back to the point. There's 12 minutes left in the second half and I just heard one of the referees called one of the fans an (expletive). Are you serious? A heckling UMass student?

His name is Eric Lamoureaux (or so he tells me). Front row for pretty much every game this season - he is what so many of this school's students aren't.

Not a fair-weather fan.

He's the guy who understands that Division I basketball games are comprised of something more than just two teams and a basketball. Believe it or not, fans do actually have an effect on games.

Why do you think UMass lost to Rhode Island in the Rams' Keaney Gymnasium Feb. 2? That place got so loud, it made thinking hard.

Imagine with me, folks, a Mullins Center that opponents fear. A place so rowdy, it makes the Minutemen feel they're up 10 even before tip-off. A place....actually, nevermind.

Besides the coaches, players, and select number of students, this school has no pride. No sense of tradition. No desire to create a reputation. No reason to support the people who represent you all over the country.

It's come to the point where a sell-out shocks this team, and makes them quiver.

Not that we need a full house. Just a consistent one.

UMass vs. URI PostGame Notes
From UMass Athletics, 2/27/2002

Tonight's game marked the 118th meeting between UMass and Rhode Island. With the win, UMass now leads the all-time series 68-50.

* Seniors Eric Williams (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Ronnell Blizzard (Waterbury, Conn.), Kitwana Rhymer (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) and Shannon Crooks (Boston, Mass.) each played the final home game of their career tonight. Williams, Crooks and Rhymer served as tri-captains for the 2001-02 squad.

* The Minutemen finished the 2001-02 season with a home record of 8-6, marking their 20th-straight .500 or better homecourt record.

* The Minutemen are 7-0 on the year when attempting 16 or fewer three-pointers, and now 5-14 when they've launched 17 or more.

* Massachusetts used its 10th different starting lineup in tonight's game. Crooks is the only Minuteman to start all 26 games.

* UMass led tonight's game 36-28 at halftime. With the win, the Minutemen are now 9-2 this season when leading at the break.

* Crooks finished with 23 points on the evening, marking the 21st time this season and the 53rd time in his career he has scored 10 or more. It was his sixth 20+ point effort of the year, and his second in three games.

* With its eight three pointers in tonight's game, Massachusetts has now drained 183 three-pointers in 26 games. The total eclipses the previous school record of 180 set in the 1994-95 season (34 games).

* Rhymer finished with 13 points tonight, marking the 10th time this year and the 36th time in his career that he has scored 10 or more.

* Sophomore guard Anthony Anderson (Lynn, Mass.) poured in 13 points, totaling more than 10 for the 16th time this year. He has scored double-digits in eight of UMass' last 10 contests.

* Junior forward Micah Brand (Middletown, N.Y.) finished with 12 points on the evening. It was the 11th time this year and the 26th time in his career Brand scored in double figures.

* UMass is now 4-2 on the year when Anderson, Crooks and Rhymer score more than 10 in the same game.

* UMass is now 4-0 when Brand, Crooks and Rhymer all score 10 or more.

* The Minutemen are 2-0 when Anderson, Crooks, Rhymer and Brand all hit double figures.

* Massachusetts finished tonight's game 28-of-59 from the floor, good for 50.9 percent. The Minutemen have now won 20 of 21 games when shooting 50 percent or better.

UMass seniors leave Mullins winners
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 2/28/2002

AMHERST - Shannon Crooks remembered how his former senior teammates felt the last two years when they lost on senior night and made sure it didn't happen to him.

Crooks goes up and over Hellenga.
Crooks' final game for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team was one of his best. His 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists helped lift the Minutemen to a 79-69 win over Rhode Island in front of 3,897 at the Mullins Center last night.

"To finish with a win on senior night is a big positive," Crooks said. "The last few times we didn't win and I was feeling for these guys. I didn't want to go out like that."

Rhode Island coach Jim Baron was impressed with Crooks' effort.

"They had great leadership tonight. I thought Shannon did a great job," Baron said. "He really stepped up big. He really kept them under control."

Fellow senior Kitwana Rhymer closed out his Mullins Center career with a strong effort as well with 13 points and nine rebounds. Eric Williams, Ronell Blizzard and senior manager Will Stieglitz were also honored during the pregame senior-night ceremonies.

"I thought it was a good, solid win for our guys and a great ways for our seniors to go out," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "I want to express my gratitude to these kids for their attitude and hanging in there. It's been a pleasure for me to work with these kids and there is a lot of basketball left to be played."

Anthony Anderson added 13 points, while Micah Brand had 12. Dustin Hellenga led the Rams with 16.

UMass returns to action Saturday at noon at Xavier.

The Minutemen won the game in the paint outscoring the Rams 44-22 underneath.

"I thought UMass did a real good job getting the ball inside and the guys that they had really stepped up," Baron said. "That was a big difference in the game."

Rhymer scored UMass' first six points as the Minutemen opened the game on an 10-2 run that was highlighted by a driving reverse lay-up by Anderson.

The UMass lead hovered around 10 points for most of the rest of the first half. Rhode Island scored the final four points and trailed the Minutemen 36-28 at intermission.

Anderson hit 3-pointers to start and end UMass' 13-4 second half-opening spurt that gave the Minutemen their biggest lead of the game at 49-32 with 15:22 remaining.

Rhode Island cut UMass' lead to seven points at 66-58 on a three by Steve Mello, but a free throw by Brand and a Crooks 3-pointer finished off the Rams.

Seniors put talents on display
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 2/28/2002

AMHERST - In their final performance in front of their home crowd, the four seniors on the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team each had one play that typified the best part of their respective abilities.

Micah Brand gives himself some room to work.
Ronell Blizzard, a fifth-year senior from Waterbury, Conn., who redshirted as a freshman had a season-high seven points.

His athletic ability was on display when he grabbed an offensive rebound and shot the ball from an awkward angle while he was falling backward late in the shot clock. He said on the postgame radio show he was trying just to hit the rim to reset the shot clock, but the ball dropped in giving UMass a 36-24 lead late in the first half.

Eric Williams played two years at UMass after transferring from Syracuse. The 6-foot-9 Brooklyn native who prides himself on his passing, made a brilliant dish out of a double team to a cutting Brennan Martin for an easy basket midway through the second half.

Shannon Crooks, played three years at UMass after transferring from St. John's.

With 5:07 left he drove into traffic drawing defenders. As he leapt toward the rim he flashed the ball behind his back like he was going to pass it to Micah Brand. The move fooled the Ram defenders who moved toward Brand, but Crooks kept it himself and laid it in.

Kitwana Rhymer was playing in his second senior day. He sat out his freshman year as an academic non-qualifier. He was officially a senior last year, but earned back his fourth year of eligibility to have a second senior season.

The Virgin Islands native , who is No. 5 on UMass' career shot-blocking list howled as he loudly rejected a Steve Mello attempt knocking the ball out of play with 1:33 left."

With three seconds left Lappas lifted his seniors for a curtain call and the group got a standing ovation from the crowd and hugs for their teammates.

SEED SOLIDIFIED: The game helped clarify the Atlantic 10 Tournament picture as the Minutemen clinched fourth place in the Atlantic 10 East, while the Rams ensured themselves their third-straight last-place finish.

"It doesn't make me happy to come in fourth in anything, let alone fourth out of six teams. But it beats coming in fifth," Lappas said. "So I'm happy about that, but I'm not pleased. In the beginning of the year if you told me we were going to come in fourth I wouldn't have been happy. But I'm happy that we won tonight."

Crooks gets a departing hug from Lamb.
CROOKS MILESTONES: Crooks' 23 points gave him 1,032 for his career, jumping two spots on the school's career scoring list into 33rd place passing Tyrone Weeks (1,013) and Tim Edwards (1,022). He needs 12 points to jump four spots as Derick Claiborne (1,033), David Brown (1,037), Charlton Clarke (1,041) and Dana Dingle (1,043) are all in striking distance.

Weeks, who is an assistant coach at Rhode Island got to see Crooks pass him in person.

"Yeah, but how many games did I miss because of injuries? I missed almost a half season if you count all the injuries I had," Weeks joked. "I think Shannon did a great job in the last three years. He worked hard for it."

Crooks' six assists gave him 298 in his career as he needs two more to become the fourth UMass player to have 1,000 points and 300 assists.

NEXT UP: The Minutemen take on Atlantic 10 West leading Xavier, Saturday at noon. The Musketeers (20-5, 12-2 A-10) play host to La Salle Thursday night. To whet appetites for this game, ESPN Classic is showing the 1999 game between UMass and Xavier, Friday at 1 p.m. The Minutemen beat the Musketeers 78-77 in double overtime.

MISCELLANEOUS: Rhode Island began the game with its top three scorers on the bench as Troy Wiley (14.8 points per game), Brian Woodward (9.1) and Dustin Hellenga (8.8) all did not start.

UMass' senior day starters marked the 10th different opening lineup the Minutemen have used this season. Only Crooks has started all 26 games.

Rhode Island Rams 69
Massachusetts Minutemen 79
at the Mullins Center

Rhode Island vs Massachusetts
02/27/02  7:30 p.m. at Amherst, MA(Mullins Center)
VISITORS: Rhode Island ( 7-19, 3-12)
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
13 ADINGONO,Lazare      f  3-7    2-4    2-2    1  1  2   2  10   0  0  0  0  17
54 EVANS,Marcus         c  0-2    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   4   0   0  2  0  1  16
02 DANIELS,Dinno        g  2-6    2-5    4-4    0  1  1   0  10   2  2  0  1  18
04 SMITH,Howard         g  1-5    0-3    4-4    1  4  5   2   6   4  1  0  1  26
11 MELLO,Steve          g  2-6    1-1    0-0    0  3  3   2   5   0  2  0  0  16
01 WILEY,Troy              4-10   0-0    2-2    2  2  4   3  10   2  1  2  1  23
20 WOODWARD,Brian          2-7    0-1    0-0    1  2  3   2   4   1  0  1  0  16
24 HELLENGA,Dustin         5-11   4-7    2-2    1  2  3   3  16   1  1  0  2  30
32 WISE,Jamaal             1-4    0-0    0-0    2  0  2   0   2   1  1  0  0  14
42 MOMPLAISIR,Marcel       3-5    0-0    0-0    5  0  5   2   6   1  0  1  0  24
TEAM ........................................   5  1  6
TOTALS                    23-63   9-21  14-14  18 16 34  20  69  12 10  4  6 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 11-31 35.5% 2ndH: 12-32 37.5% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 36.5% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 4-9 44.4% 2ndH: 5-12 41.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 42.9% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 2-2 100.% 2ndH: 12-12 100.% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 100.% 0, 1

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts (12-14, 6- 9) 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 03 BLIZZARD,Ronell f 3-3 1-1 0-0 1 3 4 0 7 2 1 0 0 11 21 WILLIAMS,Eric f 0-4 0-2 0-0 1 2 3 2 0 2 1 1 0 20 33 RHYMER,Kitwana c 4-7 0-0 5-6 5 4 9 2 13 1 1 2 0 32 12 ANDERSON,Anthony g 4-9 2-5 3-4 0 1 1 2 13 2 3 0 2 36 30 CROOKS,Shannon g 10-14 3-6 0-1 2 5 7 2 23 6 5 1 0 34 00 MARTIN,Brennan 2-4 1-3 0-0 0 1 1 1 5 1 0 0 1 11 01 JENKINS,Willie 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 11 WILSON,Kyle 0-1 0-1 4-4 0 1 1 2 4 1 0 0 0 16 34 LAMB,Raheim 1-4 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 4 2 2 0 0 0 15 40 BRAND,Micah 4-9 1-2 3-5 3 2 5 3 12 1 4 1 0 24 TEAM ........................................ 1 2 3 TOTALS 28-55 8-21 15-20 14 21 35 18 79 18 15 5 3 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 14-24 58.3% 2ndH: 14-31 45.2% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 50.9% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 4-6 66.7% 2ndH: 4-15 26.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 38.1% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 4-7 57.1% 2ndH: 11-13 84.6% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 75.0% 1, 1

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: Ray Perone, Gene Steratore, Rich Sanfillipo TECHNICAL FOULS: Rhode Island - none Massachusetts - none ATTENDANCE: 3,897 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL Rhode Island 28 41 69 Massachusetts 36 43 79

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