THENS, Greece -- The UMass basketball team ended its four-game foreign tour with an 84-62 loss to the Greek National Team here Sunday evening.
"They were just a very big and physical team," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "It's their national team, so they were just very rough on us. But, I thought our guys stood up well."
Playing at the venue which will host the 2004 Olympic Games, the Minutemen jumped out to a 6-1 lead on back to-back three-pointers from sophomore guard Anthony Anderson and senior forward Ronell Blizzard. UMass held the lead over the next five minutes, and took its last lead of the game at 16-14 on a lay-in by senior forward Jackie Rogers with 2:04 left in the period. The Greek Nationals then closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 22-16 lead at the end of the first period.
In the second quarter, the home team extended their advantage to double-digits by scoring the first five points of the period. UMass went from the 2:04 mark of the first period until the 7:34 mark of the second quarter with just one point -- an Eric Williams free throw at 7:34.
A trey by senior guard Shannon Crooks with 35.7 left in the half pulled UMass to within 37-27 at intermission.
The Minutemen started the third period on a 4-0 run, as Blizzard and Anderson tallied goals to pull UMass to within 37-31 with 9:03 to go. UMass was within six three more times, the last at 42-36 on an Anderson trey with 7:20 to go. Leading 45-38, the Greek Nationals went on a 10-2 run to take a 55-40 lead with 4:16 to go, then closed the period with a 12-4 spurt to take a 67-44 lead into the fourth period.
UMass would get no closer than 19 the rest of the way, the last time at 76-57 with 4:14 to on a pair of free throws from senior center Kitwana Rhymer.
For the game, UMass made two more field goals than the home team (25-23), but the Greek Nationals hit one more trey (5-4) and were 33-of-43 at the line (including 19-of-26 in the first half), compared to eight-of-15 (two of-four) for the Minutemen.
"I thought we got better and better every game," Lappas said. "I thought we really improved and did a lot of good things. I was very pleased with the way we improved over the course of the trip.
"Anthony Anderson came a long way, and I thought Eric Williams had a very good four games," he added. "There were a lot of positives we can build on as we head into the year."
Anderson led the UMass scoring attack against the Greek Nationals with 13 points, while Rogers and junior forward Micah Brand each had 11 off the bench.
"We improved each game," said Crooks, who had eight points, five assists and three steals vs. the Nationals. "Guys started playing more together, taking our time on offense and making the right decisions on the fast break.
"We have a couple of new guys," he added. "It's a different line-up and you can see it clicking. Guys are getting real comfortable with each other, and that's important."
UMass, which will return to Amherst on Thursday, went 1-3 on its trip.
Score by Quarters: UMass 16 11 17 18 -- 62 Greek Nationals 22 15 30 17 -- 84UMass Scoring: Anderson 13; Brand 11; Rogers 11; Crooks 8; Blizzard 7; Williams 6; Rhymer 4; Pugh 2; Jenkins 0; Lamb 0; Killings DNP.
UMass Three-Pointers: Anderson 2; Blizzard 1; Crooks 1.
UMass Rebound Leaders: Williams 9; Rhymer 5.
UMass Assist Leaders: Crooks 5; Anderson 3; Lamb 3; Pugh 3.
UMass Steal Leaders: Crooks 3; Jackie Rogers 2.
UMass Block Leaders: Rhymer 2.