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Crooks, UMass take care of GW: Set up big rematch with Xavier
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 3/7/2002

PHILADELPHIA - Virtually everyone associated with the UMass program believes that the Atlantic 10 coaches snubbed Shannon Crooks by not naming the senior guard to one of the league's three all-conference teams.

Shannon Crooks drives against Chris Monroe.
But the last thing coach Steve Lappas wanted was for Crooks to carry a grudge into yesterday's conference tournament opener against George Washington. He didn't have to worry.

Crooks set the tone with 14 points and six assists in a mistake-free 38-minute performance and was the central force in the Minutemen's 73-62 victory over George Washington.

The win sets up today's second-round rematch with top seed Xavier - a team the 13-15 Minutemen have been anxious to play since the Musketeers beat them by 20 points last Saturday in Cincinnati.

But thanks to Crooks, they didn't overlook yesterday's requirement - beating a floundering George Washington team that nonetheless took the lead twice in the second half before melting under a barrage of treys from Crooks, Anthony Anderson, Kyle Wilson and Micah Brand.

``I didn't take it to heart,'' Crooks said of the snub. ``It didn't really bother me. Coach told me not to take it to heart, and I didn't.''

Lappas believes him.

``I can't say enough about that kid,'' said the coach. ``He kept his poise, and he was a huge part of that win.''

And the Minutemen, in finally breaking yesterday's game open over the last 16:21, followed Crooks' example, starting when Brand erased the Colonials' first lead of the game (36-34) with an inside-out trey off a pass from Eric Williams.

Though GW guard Chris Monroe took the lead back with two free throws, the Minutemen quickly turned up the heat when Anderson came back with a driving banker. The hoop was followed, in quick order, by a Williams trey, an Anderson trey and, after a Jason Smith free throw, by Anderson's second trey of the game with 11:58 left for a 48-39 UMass lead.

Though the Colonials cut that lead back to 51-46 with 9:10 left on a Monroe drive, Crooks kicked off a 9-2 run with a trey, and Rhymer finished it off with a three-point play.

Wilson supplied the dagger with a trey off another pass out of the post, this one from Rhymer via Williams, for a 66-58 UMass lead with 1:20 left.

And so now the Minutemen get the rematch they have yearned for, against a 22-5 Xavier team that was clearly the best team in the conference this season.

``Everyone wants it,'' said Anderson. ``But from the jump we also knew we would have to beat George Washington to get there.''

At issue was Xavier's Senior Day festivities last Saturday - a lengthy celebration that included the coaching staff's unusual decision to cut down the nets. The game clock had run down during a timeout, and despite Lappas' request to simply allow the last minute to expire in the out-of-hand game, the clock was reset so Thad Matta could send in his senior scrubs. A Xavier player - identified by Anderson as forward Kevin Frey - reportedly called Lappas a ``sore loser'' for making his request.

``That all got to me,'' said Rhymer. ``I know it was their Senior Night, but they took it a little too far.''

Crooks, however, shrugged it off yesterday.

``We all know that there is going to be a lot of emotion on Senior Day,'' he said. ``We can't take it to heart. Part of the game is trying to get your guys into the game. What we have to do at this point is just let out playing do the talking.''

Crooks and UMass make GW pay for snub by conference
UMASS 73, GWU 62
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 3/7/2002

PHILADELPHIA - University of Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas scanned the 16-member All-Atlantic 10 team and noticed the Minutemen's leading scorer, Shannon Crooks, was not on it. The coach said he didn't want to make a big deal over what he thought was an awful omission, but he did point it out to Crooks, and told his senior guard to take any frustrations he had out onto the court.

Micah Brand flushes one down for two of his 11 points.
Crooks insisted he didn't take the omission personally and added that when UMass has been successful this season, it's been because of team effort. He illustrated that point in the Minutemen's 73-62 triumph over George Washington yesterday in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Crooks finished with 14 points (5-for-10 shooting), 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and no turnovers and helped his team place four players in double figures. The former Everett, Mass., star helped run an offense that shot 46 percent from the floor, had 19 assists, and committed just eight turnovers.

''Any time you run a motion offense, with big men handling the ball, and you finish with eight turnovers, you've done a good job,'' said Lappas, whose team played some of its best offensive basketball of the season in the second half to improve to 13-15.

The Minutemen, who finished fourth in the A-10 East Division, will meet 24th-ranked Xavier, the top team in the West, today.

Anthony Anderson led the Minutemen in scoring with 16 points, hitting 4 of 9 from 3-point range. Center Kitwana Rhymer had 10 points and eight rebounds and power forward Micah Brand had 11 points and four assists.

The Minutemen entered the contest eager for a rematch with Xavier in the hopes of avenging last Saturday's 72-52 defeat, in which they battled the Musketeers evenly through much of the first half. Crooks helped prevent UMass from looking past George Washington, which overcame a sluggish start to battle the Minutemen in the second half.

Not one UMass player made an all-league team for the first time since the A-10 added a third string in the 1988-89 season.

''I'm sure not being on the all-league team had to hurt, but [Crooks] took it the right way,'' said Lappas. ''I can't say enough about him. He got everyone involved, and he still got 14 points.

''Our selflessness starts with Shannon Crooks. He only took two shots in the first 12 minutes of the game and he was throwing some great passes. He would have had more assists, but we were missing our shots.''

Crooks helped the Minutemen jump out to a 9-point advantage.

When George Washington rallied to go ahead, 36-34, in the second half, Crooks assisted on consecutive treys by point guard Anderson in a 17-5 run by the Minutemen. That put UMass ahead, 51-41, and when GWU cut the deficit to 5, Crooks all but sealed it with a trey after a feed from Brand.

''Coach told me about [not making the A-10 team], but I didn't take it to heart,'' said Crooks. ''It's been a team effort all year, so we just went out there and played team ball.''

The shooting guard began the game by passing up his shot and instead getting his teammates involved, and it helped the Minutemen grab a 13-4 advantage.

The Colonials (12-16), who were led by Chris Monroe's 19 points, could not counter once the Minutemen raced in front with their second-half surge.

''We couldn't stop them from scoring,'' said GW coach Karl Hobbs.

The Colonials cut their deficit to 63-58 with 3:04 remaining but Crooks scored on a 3-point play in a 10-2 run to put the game away.

''I think the guys will be focused on playing Xavier,'' said Crooks. ''We showed we can play with them if we just put two good halves together.''

One of the reasons the Minutemen are eager to play Xavier was because of an incident that occurred with 35 seconds left in Saturday's game, when the scoreboard clock malfunctioned.

Because the outcome had been decided, Lappas approached the scorer's table and said he would see no problem with ending the game if officials couldn't get the clock working. Several UMass players said Xavier's Kevin Frye approached Lappas and said the teams should finish the contest then called the coach a sore loser.

''He said some things that were very inappropriate to a coach with the respect of Coach Lappas,'' said Crooks. ''We felt we were disrespected. That's why we're ready to get back at it. ''

Lappas declined to comment on the incident. When Frye was asked about it, he said, ''I have no comment about that.'' He then added, ''It was senior day, and I wasn't saying anything to anybody.''

Colonials Depart In First Round
U-Mass. Too Much At A-10 Tournament: U-Mass. 73, GW 62
By Kathy Orton, Special to The Washington Post, 3/7/2002

PHILADELPHIA, March 6 -- A season that began optimistically for the George Washington men's basketball team ended today with another disappointing loss.

GW's Jaason Smith gets ahead of Micah Brand.
The fifth-seeded Colonials fell to No. 4 Massachusetts, 73-62, in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at the Spectrum -- their fifth straight loss to the Minutemen.

George Washington (12-16) knew coming into this game it probably would be unable to stop Massachusetts' imposing front court, which had a combined nine inches and 47 pounds more than the Colonials' front court. But the Colonials did not anticipate the Minutemen's accurate outside shooting.

Atlantic 10 rookie of the year Anthony Anderson made 4 of 10 three-pointers and was one of four Minutemen to score in double figures.

"We had to make a choice," George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs said. "Do we allow them to get the ball inside or do we try to force them to make those [three-point] shots? . . . We couldn't stop them from scoring."

Massachusetts (13-15) imposed its will on the Colonials from the tip. Although George Washington did a better job rebounding after halftime, for most of the first half the Colonials stood by idly as the Minutemen snatched the ball after almost every errant shot.

"We, as a team, are small so we have to gang rebound," GW's Jaason Smith said. "And most importantly, just be tough. Coach had been preaching toughness all season. In order to win games, you have to defend and rebound."

The Colonials' only lead came just under four minutes into the second half when Chris Monroe -- who led George Washington with 19 points -- made two free throws to make it 38-37. Massachusetts reclaimed the lead when Anderson made a jumper 30 seconds later.

Although this year marked back-to-back losing seasons for George Washington for the first time since 1990, the Colonials were not expected to do much because of their limited talent. The team went through growing pains, particularly toward the end of the season. But overall, it did better than some could have predicted.

Colonials watch time expire on their season.
"Going into the season if you would have told me we were going to win 12 games, I'd have gone, 'Okay, I'll take that,' " Hobbs said. "But the one thing that you can't measure is the hearts of your team when you take over a program. Had I known the kids had that type of heart, that type of character, then I wouldn't have been surprised we won that number of games."

Hobbs isn't wasting any time getting started on next season. He hopes to be on an airplane bound for California on Thursday morning to do some recruiting. Also high on his agenda after this loss is upgrading the players' weight-training program. Clearly, next season's team hardly will resemble this year's.

"It's going to look a lot different because you're going to have more size, more speed," Hobbs said. "Unfortunately you're going to be young. Five of those guys are going to be young."

For all the changes he intends to make, Hobbs remains a realist. He knows there is still a long way to go to turn around the program.

"It's a building process," Hobbs said. "I just hope people will be patient. We knew going in it was going to take time."

Minutemen advance to second round
By Justin Pearson, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, 3/7/2002

PHILADELPHIA - Freshmen just are not supposed to hit shots like that. In a game where experience and poise mean so much, most freshmen just do not have what it takes to knock down a backbreaking shot like that.

But Kyle Wilson did.

With just 1:21 to go the freshman from White Rock, British Columbia hit a three-point field goal on an inside-out with Eric Williams with the shot clock under five to give the Massachusetts men's basketball team a 66-58 lead over George Washington. Prior to the three the Colonials had gone on a 4-0 run to cut the UMass lead down to just five. But that basket took the wind out of GW's sail and propelled the Minutemen to a 73-62 win in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the First Union Spectrum in Philadelphia.

Steve Lappas wants to get a quick time-out.
"The two big shots of the game were an inside-out from Micah Brand to Shannon Crooks that [increased the lead] from five to eight and an inside-out from Eric Williams to Kyle Wilson when he made the three," said UMass Head Coach Steve Lappas referencing a three by Crooks with eight minutes to go. "Those were the two big shots and they were both inside-out three-point shots."

UMass (13-15) used an 11-1 run early in the second half to regain control of a game that it had led throughout the entire second half. A-10 Rookie of the Year Anthony Anderson scored eight of his team-high 16 points on a runner in the lane and a pair of treys while Eric Williams added a three of his own during the four-minute stretch that saw the Minutemen turn a 38-37 deficit into a 48-39 lead, an advantage that they would not relinquish.

In the first half UMass came out on a mission and quickly took control of the game, opening with a 13-4 run in the games first six minutes. GW (12-16) coach Karl Hobbs called two timeouts early on to try and stop the bleeding but it did not work as the Minutemen moved the ball at will, collecting five assists on their first five field goals and 19 on the game. Crooks led the UMass passing attack with a game-high six assists, often passing up his own shots to get his teammates involved.

"We had 19 assists and usually when our team is playing well that's what you'll see, a lot of assists," said Lappas. "I think the unselfishness on our team started with Shannon Crooks. In the first half he took two shots in the first 12 minutes of the game and was throwing some great passes and we were missing shots or he would have had seven or eight assists at halftime, but that's where it started."

Not helping matters for the Colonials was the loss early on of Tamal Forchion. He picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and his third with just under 10 minutes to go, earning a spot on the Colonial bench until halftime leaving Jaason Smith as the lone interior presence for GW. In the second half Forchion was successful at attacking the UMass interior defense, collecting all nine points and six rebounds in the final 20 minutes. But by the time he was able to make an impact on the game the damage had already been done.

"It was very difficult for us to play without him because then we had to go with four perimeter players," Hobbs said. "That really changed how we wanted to play and from that point on it became very, very difficult and we had no other choice but to double down in the post, play zone and do some different things just to stay in the basketball game."

Four Minutemen scored in double figures, led by Anderson's 16. Crooks added 14 to go along with his six assists and five boards while Brand added 11 and Kitwana Rhymer with 10 points and a team-leading eight rebounds. Chris Monroe led the Colonials with 19 while Smith added eight points and eight boards.

UMass returns to action tomorrow afternoon at 12:05 p.m. when it takes on regular season conference champs No. 24 Xavier and the A-10 Player of the Year David West. The Minutemen will be looking for revenge on the Musketeers who knocked off UMass on Saturday 72-52 in Cincinnati.

UMass advances to quarterfinals
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/7/2002

PHILADELPHIA - University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Steve Lappas had a private conversation with Shannon Crooks prior to the start of Wednesday's first-round Atlantic 10 Tournament game between his Minutemen and George Washington.

The night before, Crooks was left of any of the league's three all-conference teams. Lappas was concerned Crooks might try to do too much in an effort to prove his worth.

Instead, Crooks delivered one of his most unselfish games of the year. His six assists, no turnovers and five rebounds to go along with 14 points led the Minutemen past the Colonials, 73-62.

Lappas was proud of him.

"I told him don't take it personally. The best thing you can do is go out and play as a team player and look what he did," Lappas said. "He's gotta be hurting a little cause he should have made it. He channeled the energy the right way. He kept his poise and was a huge part of that win."

"I'm content with my abilities," Crooks said. "I can play basketball, I have talent. When coach told me about the all-league teams, I didn't take it to heart. It's been a team effort all year. Those guys got me shots all season. Coach told me don't take it to heart. I didn't. I just tried to go out and play as unselfish as possible and get other guys in the rhythm. Guys stepped up."

Anthony Anderson gets some space and launches the shot.
Crooks' approach was contagious. The Minutemen had 18 assists in one of their most efficient offensive performances of the season, displaying a grasp of Lappas' motion offense that seemed to have been missing for much of the year. Four players scored in double figures and everyone that played five or more minutes had at least one assist. Anthony Anderson led UMass (13-15) with 16 points. Micah Brand scored 11, while Kitwana Rhymer had 10 points and eight rebounds.

"When we get to where I want to get to, that's what you'll see our teams do," Lappas said. "Today, we got good ball movement. We got the shot and made it. When you play motion, there's no such thing as one option. Everybody is involved."

Anderson said having several teammates with hot hands made his point-guard chores easier.

"No matter who you give it to, it feels like they're going to make a shot," he said. "It's not like this guy is having a bad day and you don't want to give it to him. You want to get the ball in the hot hand, but everybody was hot. Everybody was hitting."

Chris Monroe had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Colonials, while T.J. Thompson had 12.

Raheim (Lamb) and Shannon did a good job on Monroe,' Lappas said. "He's a great player but I thought our guys did a superb job in him.

The Minutemen (12-16) who'd been openly hoping for a rematch with Xavier, who beat them 72-52 last Saturday, will get their wish. They'll face the top-seeded Musketeers at noon today.

The Minutemen scored the first five points of the game and jumped out to a 13-4 lead capped by an alley-oop from Crooks to Brand. George Washington scored the next five points and stayed close throughout the first half. Crooks put back a Kyle Wilson airball at the buzzer to give UMass a 32-28 lead at halftime.

The Colonials briefly led early in the second half when an 8-0 run put them ahead 36-34, but a three by Brand started an 8-2 spurt for the Minutemen that put them ahead for good.

After UMass built its advantage to 59-48 with 9:50 left, George Washington mounted a final attack to cut the Minuteman lead to 63-58 with 3 minutes, 4 seconds left.

Neither team scored on consecutive possessions. With the shot clock at 10 with 1:26 remaining, Lappas called time out. He drew up a play to get Rhymer the ball underneath. But the senior center drew a double-team and kicked the ball to Eric Williams in the corner. Williams quickly swung the ball to Wilson who buried the game-clinching 3-pointer as UMass held on.

"He found the open guys and the open guy knocked it down," Lappas said. "He did the right thing."

George Washington Colonials (W5) 62
Massachusetts Minutemen (E4) 73
Atlantic 10 Tournament, First Round
at the First Union Spectrum, Philadelphia PA

George Washington vs Massachusetts
03/06/02 12:00 p.m. at Philadelphia, PA(First Union Spectrum)
VISITORS: George Washington (12-16)
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
04 MONROE,Chris         f  5-15   0-3    9-10   2  5  7   3  19   1  2  0  0  39
44 FORCHION,Tamal       f  4-7    0-0    1-2    4  2  6   3   9   0  1  0  0  23
31 SMITH,Jaason         c  2-4    0-0    4-8    2  6  8   0   8   1  1  2  0  34
05 THOMPSON,T.J.        g  4-10   2-6    2-2    2  1  3   5  12   3  0  0  0  30
14 MILLER,Darnell       g  0-0    0-0    0-0    0  2  2   5   0   3  3  0  0  36
03 ROMA,Albert             0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   0   0  1  0  0   1
22 RICHARDS,Jason          0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  0  0  0   1
30 CHANDLER,Marquin        3-8    2-5    0-0    0  1  1   1   8   0  0  0  1  16
34 COLLUCCI,Greg           2-6    2-6    0-0    0  4  4   2   6   0  0  0  0  19
42 SCOTT,Darrio            0-1    0-1    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  0  0  0   1
TEAM ........................................   0  1  1              1
TOTALS                    20-51   6-21  16-22  10 22 32  20  62   8  9  2  1 200
TOT-FG 1stH:  8-23 34.8%  2ndH: 12-28 42.9%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 39.2% Deadbl
3pt-FG 1stH:  4-13 30.8%  2ndH:  2-8  25.0%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 28.6%  Rebs
FThrow 1stH:  8-11 72.7%  2ndH:  8-11 72.7%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 72.7%   4   
HOME TEAM: Massachusetts (13-15)
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
34 LAMB,Raheim          f  3-9    0-0    0-0    1  1  2   5   6   1  1  0  1  19
40 BRAND,Micah          f  5-9    1-2    0-0    0  2  2   3  11   4  1  0  0  26
33 RHYMER,Kitwana       c  2-3    0-0    6-7    3  5  8   3  10   3  0  1  0  28
12 ANDERSON,Anthony     g  5-12   4-9    2-4    0  3  3   2  16   2  1  0  1  36
30 CROOKS,Shannon       g  5-10   2-6    2-3    1  4  5   1  14   6  0  0  0  38
00 MARTIN,Brennan          0-2    0-2    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  0  0  0   4
03 BLIZZARD,Ronell         0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   2   0   0  2  0  0   4
11 WILSON,Kyle             2-4    1-3    3-4    1  1  2   0   8   1  2  0  1  21
21 WILLIAMS,Eric           3-5    2-3    0-0    1  3  4   3   8   2  0  0  0  24
TEAM ........................................   2  4  6              1
TOTALS                    25-54  10-25  13-18   9 23 32  19  73  19  8  1  3 200
TOT-FG 1stH: 12-30 40.0%  2ndH: 13-24 54.2%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 46.3% Deadbl
3pt-FG 1stH:  4-15 26.7%  2ndH:  6-10 60.0%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 40.0%  Rebs
FThrow 1stH:  4-8  50.0%  2ndH:  9-10 90.0%  OT:  0-0  00.0%  Game: 72.2%   3   
OFFICIALS:   Joe DeMayo, Jeff Clark, David Day
George Washington             -  none
Massachusetts                 -  none
SCORE BY PERIODS:                  1st  2nd  OT1  OT2  OT3  OT4   TOTAL
George Washington                   28   34                          62
Massachusetts                       32   41                          73

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