MHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team started the game on a 14-0 run and never trailed again, en route to its 76-67 victory over the EA Sports All-Stars this evening at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen complete the exhibition season 2-0.
The Minutemen, who led by as many as 18 points in the first half, took a 46-33 lead into the break. Seniors Kitwana Rhymer (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) and Shannon Crooks (Boston, Mass.) led UMass with nine first half points apiece. Both Rhymer and senior Eric Williams (Brooklyn, N.Y.) pulled down six rebounds. UMass shot 55 percent from the field and committed just one turnover in the opening period.
In the second half, EA Sports made a run to cut the UMass lead down to one point at the 9:49 mark, but could not get any closer. The Minutemen went on a 10-0 run over the next 3:12 to seal the victory.
Both Crooks and Rhymer led the Maroon and White with 17 points apiece, while junior Micah Brand (Middletown, N.Y.) poured in 14 points and a team-high four assists. Williams led the squad with 12 rebounds. Sophomore Raheim Lamb (Boston, Mass.) scored nine points for UMass.
The Minutemen, who outscored the All-Stars 59-20 in the paint, shot 48 percent for the game.
Shawn Bankhead scored a game-high 18 points for the All-Stars.
The Minutemen will open up the regular season on Friday, November 16, when they host Arkansas-Little Rock in a 7:00 p.m. game at the Mullins Center.
MHERST - He knows it sounds bizarre, but new University of Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas is not a big fan of sizable early leads at home.
"I really don't like doing that at home," Lappas said. "You know at some point the score is going to become 16-10 or 18-12 and the other team starts to feel like they're doing something because they had nothing. Not that I'll stop it from happening, but it's not a good way to start a game, believe it or not. I'd rather be down, like 10-8, and then have us make a spurt."
He didn't get his wish in Monday night's 76-67 win over the EA Sports All-Stars at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen opened the game 20-2 and extended their lead to 32-12 and 40-19.
But just as Lappas feared, the hefty cushion dulled his team's intensity. Sloppy defense and solid 3-point shooting by EA Sports nearly erased UMass' lead as the barnstormers pulled within one, 59-58.
With their advantage in jeopardy, the Minutemen ran off 10 straight points, using a three-guard lineup, and weren't seriously threatened again.
The games all count from here. The Minutemen open their regular season Friday at home against Arkansas Little Rock at 7 p.m.
Micah Brand tries to clear some space to work.
Sophomore guard Anthony Anderson struggled shooting (1-for-6), but otherwise played well in his debut, with four assists and no turnovers.
"I'm just glad it's over. I couldn't hit a shot out there," Anderson said. "I just needed to get in a game. It felt good to get into the swing of things."
Lappas gave him a positive review.
"I thought he looked a little nervous," Lappas said. "But he had four assists and no turnovers in 30 minutes and I know he's a much better shooter than that. I was very pleased with his floor game."
The score would have been more lopsided, but the Minutemen missed 12 shots from within 10 feet. Shooting from long distance was a problem as well. UMass hit just 2-of-14 3-pointers.
But it was the defensive effort that concerned Lappas.
"I thought we lost some intensity, especially on the defensive end," Lappas said. "That's what we talked about in the locker room - why we let up and why we would let this team get open looks, especially from three (3-point range). They have to learn to maintain their intensity on the defensive end.
"I told them, 'Don't get happy with this newfound offense that you have,' " Lappas added. "They like playing this way, but hey, let's not forget what the basic staple of the game is. We're not going to be a 90-point scoring team where we can play matador defense. We're certainly not going to be an offensive juggernaut."
MHERST - As Anthony Anderson maneuvered his 5-foot-10-inch frame through traffic toward the basket Monday, two EA Sports defenders moved toward him.
The University of Massachusetts sophomore guard immediately recognized that the extra attention meant he had an unguarded teammate.
He quickly dished the ball to an open Kitwana Rhymer, who laid it in for an easy basket.
EA Sports rushed the ball up the floor, but a UMass steal started another break. This time freshman Kyle Wilson handled the ball. As he drew the defense, he delivered a nifty behind-the-back pass to Rhymer, who dunked it.
Anthony Anderson looks for the best option.
On a campus where combination guards and converted shooting guards have masqueraded as floor generals, point guards have been as rare as Republicans.
Even Derek Kellogg and Edgar Padilla, who had excellent careers for the Minutemen, were off-guards in high school, and former-UMass coach Bruiser Flint often admitted that the original plan was to make 2,000-point-scorer Monty Mack a point guard.
It's not as though Flint and his predecessor, John Calipari, didn't try to get legitimate point guards. The Minutemen diligently, but unsuccessfully, recruited Wayne Turner and Taliek Brown.
Few athletes play harder and care more about winning than Shannon Crooks, but he has been miscast for the past two years at the point. His floor vision was suspect and his natural instinct was to shoot.
But the rookie duo of Wilson and Anderson are full-fledged pass-first, see-the-open-man, make-your-teammates-better point guards.
The crowd wasn't alone in its appreciation of their effort.
"It makes it a whole lot easier to score because both of them know how to run the offense," said junior forward Micah Brand. "Kyle and Anthony are both running point guards. They like to push the ball. If you want the ball, you have to run with them.
"The one thing I learned about Anthony right away," Brand continued, "is that he likes to find the open man. If you get down the floor and you're open, you're going to see the ball."
Kyle Wilson gets a shot in the ribs from EA Sports defender Shawn Bankhead.
"They didn't shoot well," Lappas said. "But they had seven assists and no turnovers. They made some great passes inside. Our guys love playing with both of those kids. They're very good with the ball."
The recent point guard drought in Amherst has made having two of them a serious luxury, especially since the two can be on the floor together.
"It's not like they're two non-scoring point guards," said Lappas, who has moved Anderson off the ball when he has both point guards on the floor. "They can both score and when you have two point guards that can score, you can play them together."
Both undoubtedly will have days when fans are forced to remember that they are in their first year of college basketball, but if they can avoid hitting those bumps at the same time, the Minutemen could be pretty good.
MHERST - The small-forward picture became somewhat clearer Monday night. Sophomores Willie Jenkins and Raheim Lamb seemed to emerge as the two front-runners, but University of Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas said nothing is set in stone.
"There is going to be some committee there and we'll play with three guards together some," Lappas said. "Somebody will emerge before the year is over, but maybe nobody is ready right now."
Jenkins and Lamb played 16 and 13 minutes, respectively, and both seemed improved since the first game. Lappas praised their play.
"I thought Raheim Lamb had a pretty strong game, especially in the first half," Lappas said. "Willie had a couple of good drives to the basket."
Lamb had nine points, all in the first half, matching his output from the entire first exhibition game. Jenkins, who has yet to find the range from long distance, had six points.
A year ago, coach Bruiser Flint gave high praise to Willie Jenkins in the preseason, but after limited minutes once the season started, Jenkins found himself relegated to bench duty and garbage time.
Jenkins, who has started both preseason games, worked hard this summer to get back into the mix.
"All summer Eric (Williams) and I got up at 7:30 in the morning and came here and shot till like 10:30," he said last week. "At night me and Paco (Kotaridis) ran stairs at the Mullins Center. It was a hard workout and I think I deserve this."
With the exception of a strong drive to the basket, sophomore Jameel Pugh struggled, missing three shots, including one of them badly. Lappas said one shaky outing wouldn't knock him out of the rotation.
"You can't say he took a step forward, that's for sure. But he had really taken a big step forward in practice the past couple days," Lappas said. "I don't want to read too much into him not shooting the ball well. Maybe he just needs to get his feet wet a little bit more. We have to give him the benefit of the doubt."
Freshman forward Brennan Martin didn't leave the bench.
"Right now Willie and Raheim and Jameel give us enough there," Lappas said. "Brennan could end up being the guy before it's over, but I think right now I'm going to try to give those minutes to those guys and see what they do."
Last week Martin acknowledged that he needed to get stronger.
"It's tough for me in practice competing with these guys. I hold my own," he said. "But I got to get stronger. I need to focus on getting bigger."
* * *
RECRUITING: The early signing period, when recruits can sign National Letters of Intent, begins Wednesday. The Minutemen have received verbal commitments from combo guard Mike Lasme and big man Stephen Briggs. Both are expected to sign this week.
UMass hopes to get a commitment from another big man before the early period is over.
Their best chance looks to be from Allasane Kouyate, a 6-foot-8 power forward who is originally from Mali, a country in West Africa.
He told RivalsHoops.com, a recruiting Website, that his top two choices are UMass and Atlantic 10 rival Duquesne.
"I visited both schools, along with East Carolina and Marshall," Kouyate said. "If I make an early decision, which I think is what I'll do, it will be between Massachusetts and Duquesne."
Kouyate is living in Medina, Ohio, where he lives with guardians. He visited UMass in late October.
The Minutemen appear to be all but out of the running for Damion Grant, the big man who visited Amherst for Midnight Madness. If he signs anywhere during the early signing period, Seton Hall is considered the favorite, but he may wait until spring in hopes of attracting attention from higher-profile schools.
* * *
MISCELLANEOUS: The UMass basketball radio show has changed location. The Steve Lappas Show, which debuts tonight at 6 (WHMP-AM, 1400) is at The Hangar in Amherst. Former Minuteman Chris Kirkland will be in attendance.
t really should not have been this difficult.
After jumping out to an impressive 20-2 lead in the game's first seven and a half minutes, the Massachusetts men's basketball team was forced to hold on for a 76-67 victory over the EA Sports All-Stars last night at the Mullins Center. Seniors Shannon Crooks and Kitwana Rhymer led the way for the Minutemen with 17 points apiece with Rhymer adding nine rebounds.
UMass dominated from the get go, scoring the games first 14 points and leading by as many as 21 points with 5:16 remaining in the first half. However, from that point on EA Sports stepped up its defensive intensity and began to find its shooting touch. Shawn Bankhead, a graduate of Iowa State, scored seven of his game high 18 points in the final five minutes of the first half to help his team get into the locker room trailing by just 13 at 46-33.
"I don't really like doing that at home," UMass head coach Steve Lappas said of his team's quick start. "You know at some point the score is going to be 16-10 or 18-12 and the other team starts to feel they're really doing something because they had nothing. I think it's really not a good way to start a game, not that I'll stop it from happening. But I'd rather be down like 10-8 and have us go on a good spurt at that point."
As the second half got underway, EA Sports was able to keep pecking away at the once mighty UMass lead, getting it down to as little as one at 58-57 midway through the second half. However, that would be as close as EA Sports would get as the Maroon and White went on a crucial 10-0 run in the next three minutes to go ahead 68-57 and regain control of the contest.
For the games final seven minutes Lappas played Crooks alongside newcomers Anthony Anderson and Kyle Wilson in a three guard set for the first time. Playing with two true point guards helped open up the Minuteman attack, creating a number of easy buckets on the inside for Rhymer.
"I was real comfortable playing the off guard, we did it a lot in practice," Anderson said of his role in the three guard set. "The only thing is I'm looking more to pass instead of shoot, but I'll get used to it."
While Anderson and Wilson were impressive in running the offense and distributing the ball, the pair struggled to find their shot and combined for just five points on 2-11 shooting.
"I was very pleased, they didn't shoot well but they had seven assists and no turnovers," Lappas said. "They made some great passes inside, they can both shoot and they can play together, there's no doubt."
With UMass' regular season home opener just three days away Lappas and his coaching staff will be forced to quickly analyze what it is that they did right and what they need to do better in order to beat the University of Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday night and get the 2001-02 campaign off on the right foot.
"I feel like we're where I hoped and thought we'd be," Lappas said. "I think we have a chance to be a good team, we are going to have to do some things but I think there is some potential."
|EA Sports All-Stars||67|
|at the Mullins Center|
OFFICIAL BASKETBALL BOX SCORE -- G A M E T O T A L S EA Sports All-Stars vs Massachusetts 11/12/01 7:00 p.m. at Amherst, MA(Mullins Center) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: EA Sports All-Stars 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 04 PARRIS,Jeff f 2-6 0-1 2-2 2 1 3 2 6 1 0 1 0 21 31 CEPHAS,Laron f 2-7 1-2 2-2 3 9 12 2 7 1 2 0 1 28 33 RASSLOFF,Dirk c 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 4 03 MEDLEY,Jermaine g 0-5 0-2 0-0 0 3 3 0 0 1 2 0 1 18 21 JACKSON,Sean g 2-5 2-4 0-0 1 1 2 1 6 0 2 0 0 20 02 ELLISON,Dominic 3-10 1-6 4-4 0 1 1 1 11 7 6 0 0 33 05 WILFORM,Jermain 4-7 1-2 2-4 0 7 7 2 11 1 1 1 1 30 20 TURNER,Tarik 3-5 2-2 0-0 0 1 1 1 8 0 1 0 0 14 23 BANKHEAD,Shawn 6-15 4-8 2-2 0 1 1 0 18 1 0 1 0 32 TEAM ........................................ 2 5 7 TOTALS 22-61 11-27 12-14 9 29 38 10 67 12 15 3 3 200
TOT-FG 1stH: 10-31 32.3% 2ndH: 12-30 40.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 36.1% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 5-13 38.5% 2ndH: 6-14 42.9% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 40.7% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 8-10 80.0% 2ndH: 4-4 100.% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 85.7% 1, 1
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts 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 01 JENKINS,Willie f 3-5 0-2 0-1 0 2 2 1 6 1 0 0 0 16 40 BRAND,Micah f 6-7 0-0 2-2 3 3 6 3 14 4 0 1 2 20 33 RHYMER,Kitwana c 8-17 0-0 1-1 2 7 9 1 17 0 2 1 0 25 11 WILSON,Kyle g 1-5 1-4 0-0 0 2 2 3 3 3 0 0 3 22 30 CROOKS,Shannon g 8-14 1-4 0-0 0 5 5 3 17 3 3 0 2 33 03 BLIZZARD,Ronell 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 4 2 0 1 1 13 12 ANDERSON,Anthony 1-6 0-3 0-1 1 1 2 3 2 4 0 0 0 30 21 WILLIAMS,Eric 1-5 0-0 0-0 3 9 12 1 2 3 2 1 1 21 24 PUGH,Jameel 1-4 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 7 34 LAMB,Raheim 4-7 0-0 1-2 1 0 1 0 9 0 0 0 0 13 TEAM ........................................ 1 2 3 1 TOTALS 35-73 2-14 4-7 11 31 42 16 76 20 8 4 9 200
TOT-FG 1stH: 22-40 55.0% 2ndH: 13-33 39.4% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 47.9% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 1-8 12.5% 2ndH: 1-6 16.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 14.3% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 1-2 50.0% 2ndH: 3-5 60.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 57.1% 0
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: Joe Mingle, Carl LaBranche, Eric Britto TECHNICAL FOULS: EA Sports All-Stars - none Massachusetts - none ATTENDANCE: 2,935 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL EA Sports All-Stars 33 34 67 Massachusetts 46 30 76