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Minutemen stop pesky Little Rock
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 11/17/2001

AMHERST - With 30 seconds left and the University of Massachusetts leading 62-60, Willie Jenkins reached out and tipped the ball away from Arkansas-Little Rock point guard Mark Green.

Video clip:
Jenkins gets the steal and fouled.
424 kb MPG video
The ball bounced off both players several times as they chased it across halfcourt. Jenkins finally lunged and came up with it, and pushed the ball to Anthony Anderson. The Minutemen worked the ball around the perimeter, burning several seconds before the Trojans fouled Jenkins with 16 seconds left.

The sophomore guard sank both free throws, his first points of the game, to make it 64-60 which clinched the win.

Shannon Crooks added a late layup as the Minutemen captured a 66-60 come-from-behind win over Little Rock in Steve Lappas' first game as the UMass head coach in front of 6,277 at the Mullins Center.

"I knew I had to get it for us to win," Jenkins said. "So I just dove on it."

"On that last steal he just kept fighting for the ball," junior Micah Brand said. "He tapped it a couple of times, but he could have given up, but he got it and that was it. That really sealed the game."

Lappas was pleased with his team's resurgence.

"I was proud of the way they responded dealing with adversity, being down at home," Lappas said. "We made big shots and key foul shots down the stretch. You need to do those things to win."

Micah Brand led the Minutemen with 23 points, while Crooks added 15. Sophomore point guard Anthony Anderson was impressive in his Minuteman debut with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

Anthony Anderson played well in his first game as a Minuteman.
"He's a natural," Lappas said. "He hasn't played in two years; he needed a half to get going. In the second half he was running the show, clearly controlling the game. That's after sitting out for two years, so I think Anthony's best basketball is in front of him."

After trailing for most of the game, the Minutemen seized their opening with 6:48 left, down 54-50. After Brand knocked down a long jumper, a Jenkins rebound led to an Anderson 3-pointer from in front of the UMass bench that brought the Minutemen within one at 54-53.

"He hit big shots," UALR coach Porter Moser said. "You want guys to want to take a big shot and hit a big shot and he did. He's going to be a good player for them."

An Anderson steal regained possession for the Minutemen, and Brand took advantage with a spinning jumper that gave UMass its first lead since early in the first half.

Nick Zachery, who led the Trojans with 17 points, buried a three to pull UALR back ahead 57-55, but Crooks answered at the other end with a three of his own, making it 58-57 with 3:10 left.

After two free throws by Anderson, Mark Green drained a three to tie the game at 60-60.

Kitwana Rhymer, who struggled in the first half, had five points and seven rebounds in the second half. He hit a spin hook out of the timeout with 41 seconds left, which put UMass ahead 62-60, setting up Jenkins' heroics.

Raheim Lamb tries to track down the loose ball.
The Minutemen struggled in the first half at both ends of the floor. Three starters - Rhymer, Kyle Wilson and Jenkins - were held scoreless prior to intermission. The solid ball-handling and passing that UMass displayed in the preseason was missing as well as they turned the ball over 10 times with just seven assists.

The Minutemen allowed too many open looks from the Trojans, as they seemed unsure at times of their defensive assignments.

Brand was all of UMass' offense early. He scored the Minutemen's first eight points and had 13 in the first half.

The Trojans led most of the half, but not by more than four until Rory Green's long 3-pointer beat the buzzer to give the visitors a 34-27 halftime lead.

The Minutemen (1-0) return to action Nov. 24 at home when they play Marist at 7 p.m. UALR (0-1) plays Arkansas Tech Monday.

Brand displays his offensive skills
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 11/17/2001

AMHERST - It was obvious from the outset that this was a different Micah Brand.

When the reigning Atlantic 10 co-Most Improved Player knocked down a 15-footer 11 seconds into the University of Massachusetts' game against Arkansas-Little Rock, Brand began a performance that made it look as if he might be a repeat winner of the award.

Click for larger image
Matt Vautour (right) gets the scoop from Brand. photo
Brand matched his career high with 23 points, putting his full complement of offensive skills on display, mixing 15-foot jumpers with up-and-under moves and a smooth jump hook.

"I feel a lot more comfortable, that if I have the ball in my hands good things are going to happen," Brand said. "There will be a lot more production out of me."

"Brand showed why he is a premier player in the Atlantic 10," UALR coach said Porter Moser said. "He's long and quick with the jump shot. If he can step out and face up and hit that jump shot the way he did, well, I wish he would have waited for another game to start doing that."

The biggest difference was in Brand's shooting range. He's had it in the past, but in UMass' old offense he wasn't allowed to move far enough from the basket to utilize it.

He took advantage of the new freedom. Brand scored UMass' first eight points of the game, making his first four shots. He went on to hit 11-of-14. Of those 11, six came from outside the paint.

"They flat-out dared him to shoot the ball," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "He was so open."

"They were worried so much about our low-post size they were sloughing off and not worrying about the high post," Brand said. "Coach Lappas said if we're open and they play off us that much, shoot the ball."

While Brand played well, Lappas thought he could do even more.

The UALR scouting report seemed to omit Micah Brand.
"He clearly didn't want to shoot it every time," Lappas said. "When you have the ball and you're that open, shoot the ball."

Message received.

"I didn't want to seem like I was shooting too much, so I started passing the ball," Brand said. "But Coach Lappas told me if they're going to play that much off you, shoot the ball."

Brand has shown flashes like this in the past. When he's on his game, the combination of his athleticism and finesse game can make him impressive to watch, but those displays have come too rarely.

He vowed this year would be different. Prior to the game, Brand said that his goal for the year was to be more consistent and to bring the same effort to the table every night.

Friday night he set the bar pretty high.

Nice start for UMass
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald Staff Writer, 11/17/2001

AMHERST - The last minute was about as pure as it gets.

And if you're Steve Lappas, in the first game of your new job at UMass, this game tape has to be a keeper.

Eric Williams extends for the rebound.
UMass' season-opening 66-60 win over Arkansas-Little Rock last night was actually tied 60-60 with a minute left. Prior to that, the Minutemen had trailed for most of the game, at one stage by 10 points.

``We did all of the right things in the last minute,'' said Lappas.

UMass' winning burst was necessitated by a major hit from the other side, when Trojans guard Mark Green drained an unguarded trey from the right side of the circle with 1:01 left. The bomb negated two calm free throws from Anthony Anderson for a 60-57 UMass lead - the Minutemen's biggest edge of the game to that point.

But this time the Trojans were about to melt.

Kitwana Rhymer, 1-of-6 from the floor, but nonetheless credited by Lappas with changing the game with his defense down the stretch, wheeled into the lane and past two Trojans defenders with a powerful baby hook with 41 seconds left.

Willie Jenkins, who has been fighting for the starting small forward spot, may have clawed his way to locking up the position on the next play.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore fought through a pick to poke the ball away from Green, and then dove for the ball as it rolled into the backcourt. Jennings won his battle for the ball, and was fouled by Green as he got up on a knee and passed to Eric Williams.

Jennings, like Anderson before him, calmly hit both free throws for a 64-60 edge, leading to the game-clinching play.

This time Rhymer stepped out of the lane to steal the ball, triggering the fast break with an outlet pass to Shannon Crooks, who finished the play off with four seconds left.

For a team that often struggled in these situations last year, the burst was priceless.

``We're still far from how good we can be,'' said Crooks, the model of control with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting and six assists. ``We're still getting used to each other.''

If that's the case, then some nice opening credits were sent out last night by junior Micah Brand, who had one of the finest games of his UMass career, and Anderson. The latter, who sat out last season because of Prop. 48 restrictions, and hadn't played a regular game since his senior season at Lynn English, played 36 minutes without a turnover in his first game as a college point guard. He finished with 10 points and four assists.

Brand finished with 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting.

New look at UMass
Atlantic 10 Preview
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald Staff Writer, 11/17/2001

AMHERST - Some people could wait until last night's season-opener without much trouble. But not UMass center Kitwana Rhymer. Not with the way that UMass was last seen on a basketball court, when they were beat by Temple in the championship game of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

The Minutemen went home with a 15-15 record, got overlooked by the NIT committee, and watched as Bruiser Flint was fired from the coaching job two days later.

They re-emerged in last night's season-opener with Steve Lappas running a new system, and at least one player bursting to get back on the floor and erase all of those bad memories.

``This year, I think everyone is really upset,'' said Rhymer. ``But watch out, because we are coming, and we are coming with a new style.''

With Monty Mack now playing professional basketball in Italy, the three-picks-and-a-jump-shot mentality that ruled the offensive roost for the last three seasons has been scrapped. Lappas' signature is the motion offense - a foreign concept for the UMass big men, in particular, but also a method that has fascinated everyone in the Mullins Center.

Offense, instead of dogged defense, will be the focus this year, and that concept was going to immediately be put to the test against Arkansas-Little Rock last night.

While most local eyes drifted to youthful UMass guards like freshman Kyle Wilson and sophomore Anthony Anderson, experience in this area was clearly on the side of the Trojans. That team's starting backcourt of point guard Nick Zachary and Mark Green had helped key last year's 18-11 finish, after a 4-24 record from the previous season.

Then-coach Sidney Moncrief was fired, Porter Moser took over, and the Trojans fell just short of winning the Sun Belt title, which was scooped up by Western Kentucky. Western Kentucky, by the way, beat Kentucky Thursday night.

The Sun Belt is not exactly awed by the larger conferences. But Moser was not about to say the wrong thing this week.

``We identify UMass as a great national program over the last 10 years,'' said Moser. ``Anytime you have the opportunity to come up and play a team like this, it's quite an experience.''

The experience was going to be a mutual affair, however.

Last year's turnaround was the fourth-most improbable by any Div. 1 program. The most incredible turnaround, of course, was executed by Boston College last season.

Finish gives Lappas nice start
Minutemen roar back in coach's debut

By Marvin Pave, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/17/2001

AMHERST - The box score of last night's 66-60 season-opening victory over Arkansas-Little Rock that marked the beginning of the Steve Lappas era at UMass was a bit misleading on the home side of the ledger.

Willie Jenkins: 2 points, 0-for-5 shooting; Kitwana Rhymer: 5 points, 2-for-7 shooting.

But with the game tied at 60 and UMass having rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit before 6,277 fans at the Mullins Center, it was Rhymer who put the Minutemen in front to stay with a baby hook in the paint and Jenkins who made a big steal at midcourt, stripping the ball from the Trojans' Mark Green then getting to the foul line, where he made both freebies with 16.6 seconds to play for a 64-60 lead.

Rhymer, the senior center and tricaptain, kept up the defensive pressure, knocking the ball away in traffic in the Trojans' frontcourt and over to South Boston's Shannon Crooks, who went coast to coast for the final basket and exclamation point on the comeback.

Click for larger image
Steve Lappas photo
''I give Willie Jenkins a lot of credit,'' said Lappas, whose team gets a break before hosting Marist a week from tonight. ''He struggled in the first half, but he jumped right out to make that defensive play and I think they were surprised by it.

''I was happy with the way we responded from adversity, because it seemed in the first half the basket was getting smaller and smaller. But Kit Rhymer really changed the game around with 15 minutes to play [with shot-blocking and defense], and we only had four turnovers in the second half, which helped.

''But I'd rather have a blowout win, to be honest with you.''

Tricaptains Crooks and Micah Brand, along with sophomore guard Anthony Anderson out of Lynn English, gave UMass a lift offensively. Brand scored the first 8 UMass points en route to tying his career high with 23 on 11-for-14 shooting; Crooks had 16 points and was 3 for 7 on 3-point shots, while Anderson, in his first career game, had 8 of his 10 points in the second half and came off the bench for 37 impressive minutes at the point.

''Kit made a big block and then our intensity really picked up in the second half,'' said Anderson, who made two free throws with 1:28 to play that gave UMass a 60-57 lead that was erased when Green hit a 3-pointer, setting the stage for Rhymer's tiebreaker with 59 seconds left.

Jenkins, making his first career start at forward, said that after Rhymer's hoop, ''I just bullied over their pick and dove for the ball. Then I saw Anthony out of the corner of my eye.''

Anderson got the ball back to Jenkins, who was fouled at the perimeter, and he calmy swished the only foul shots he took the entire game.

The Minutemen took their first lead of the second half, 55-54, on a Brand hoop with 3:53 to play, leading to UMass's 12th win in their last 13 home openers.

UMass, which outrebounded the visitors, 40-34 (Rhymer's eight was the team's most), did all the little things to win. It outscored the Trojans in the paint (29-22), on second-chance shots (12-7), off turnovers (15-11), and on the fast break (8-7).

But it wasn't looking good at halftime, when the visitors held a 7-point lead, and early in the second half, when the Trojans had a 37-27 edge. Arkansas-Little Rock still held a 54-48 lead when UMass surged late.

Brand hit a jump shot, Anderson a trey, and Brand another short jumper to give UMass its first lead since it held a 22-21 advantage in the first half.

''I think we were all a little tight early on,'' said Brand, who had a 23-point game against Dayton last season. ''But our intensity in the second half made up for it. In a way, I'm sorry we have to wait a week to play again because of the way we finished strong tonight.''

Nick Zachery (17 points, including 5 for 12 on 3-pointers) and Damion Ninkovic (14) led the visitors, who weren't shy from 3-point territory, hitting on 10 of 30 shots.

Steve Lappas could breath a sigh of relief after winning his UMass debut.
''This was a good character game for us,'' said Lappas, who felt the treys the Trojans missed were more important than the ones they made. ''This was an emotional day for me and for the players who are learning a new style of basketball. Having the week off is fine with me. We can take a step back and evaluate what we did tonight. We definitely have things to work on.''

Getting the home crowd into the game with some clutch shots and great defense down the stretch isn't one of them.

''They were really into it,'' said Anderson, who had a lot to do with firing them up on Lappas's night to remember.

Trojans fall to UMass, 66-60
From UALR Athletics, 11/16/2001

AMHERST, Mass. – UALR led by 10 early in the second half, but couldn’t hold on as the Trojans fell to the University of Massachusetts, 66-60, in front of loud, raucous crowd of 6,277 at the Mullens Center Friday evening.

University of Massachusetts vs. Arkansas-Little Rock Postgame Notes
From UMass Athletics, 11/16/2001

* This was the first-ever meeting between UMass and UALR. With the win, UMass is now 3-0 against teams from the Natural State (2-0 over Arkansas).

* UMass is now 61-32 (.657) all-time in season openers. The Minutemen have won eight of their last nine lid-lifters.

* The Minutemen have now won 12 of their last 13 home openers, and own an all-time mark of 69-24 in home debuts.

* Freshman guard Kyle Wilson (White Rock, British Columbia) played in his first career game tonight. He is the first true freshman in the Minuteman opening-day lineup since Winston Smith started the 1996-97 season opener at Chaminade. He finished the game with two rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes.

* Sophomore forward Willie Jenkins (Memphis, Tenn.) made his first career start tonight. He finished the game with two points, six rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes.

* Junior forward Micah Brand (Middletown, N.Y.) tied his career high with 23 points tonight. He also poured in 23 at Dayton last February. He scored the first eight UMass points tonight.

* Sophomore guard Anthony Anderson (Lynn, Mass.) made his first career appearance tonight. He totaled 10 points, four assists, five rebounds and a steal in a team-high 37 minutes of action.

* Sophomore forward Raheim Lamb (Boston, Mass.) played in his first career game tonight. Lamb finished the contest with four points and three rebounds.

* Senior guard Shannon Crooks finished tonight's game with 16 points. He has now scored in double figures in 32 career games, including the last three.

* Dating back to last season, this is the fourth-consecutive game that UMass has had at least three players in double figures.

It was the season-opening game for both teams.

“I wanted us to play a game like this to open the season,” UALR coach Porter Moser said. “We had some kids out there who made some big plays.”

Nick Zachery scored 17 for the Trojans on 6-of-18 shooting, including 5-of-12 from three-point range. Damion Ninkovic added 14 points. Zachery and Mark Green each pulled down six rebounds.

Micah Brand’s 23 points led three Minutemen in double figures, with Shannon Crooks scoring 16 and Anthony Anderson adding 10.

Brand scored the first eight points of the game for UMass, setting the tone for a strong performance during his 34 minutes of play. Brand hit several jumpers from near the three-point line, a move that surprised Moser.

“He hit a lot of those high-post shots,” Moser said. “He’s never done that before. He didn’t do it last year.”

Brand said he had worried that he was taking too many shots, “so I started passing the ball.”

“But coach (Steve Lappas) said if it was a good shot, to take it.”

Brand was 11-of-14 from the field.

Mark Green hit 3-of-14 from the field for the Trojans, a mark that Moser said was very unlike the junior guard from Little Rock Central High School.

“Mark hasn’t shot like that in a single game during practice,” Moser said. “I’ve never seen him shoot like that. But the shots just didn’t fall for him.”

The lead see-sawed back and forth during the first half until Jibrahn Ike hit a pair of free throws with 7:42 to play to give the Trojans a 23-22 lead. Rory Green hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer to put UALR up by seven, 34-27, at the half.

Zachery hit a three-pointer to open the second half to put the Trojans up by 10. A layup by Kitwana Ryhmer and a trey from Anderson quickly cut the lead to five.

UALR held a six-point lead, 54-48, with 9:25 left in the game. Behind two baskets by Brand and three-point shots by Shannon Crooks and Anderson, UMass went up by one, 58-57, with 3:09 left. The Trojans tied the game, 60-60, on a three-pointer by Green, but couldn’t manage any points from there. UALR committed two turnovers late in the game, and the Minutemen turned both into baskets to seal the win.

This was the first of four games in eight days for the Trojans. UALR returns to Alltel Arena for a Monday evening game with Arkansas Tech. The Trojans then travel to Starkville, Miss., for a game against Mississippi State on Wednesday, and then face Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alltel Arena on Nov. 24.

UMass rocks in opener
By Eric Soderstrom, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, 11/19/2001

The Steve Lappas era began Friday night with a finish that animated the Mullins Center with a sound that hasn't been heard around these parts in some time.

Surmounting a 10-point second half deficit, the Massachusetts men's basketball team topped Arkansas-Little Rock 66-60, with help from its home crowd, which proved hostile at each credit of a Minuteman feat in the clutch.

Still, the new Minuteman skipper would have been perfectly content if the 6,277 UMass fans left the building in less of a frenzy.

"I'd rather have a blowout, to be honest," said Lappas, after guiding UMass to a victory in its 100th game at the Mullins Center.

"Don't get me wrong, this is good for the's a good character game, a good game to point to, but I'd rather have a blowout."

Tied at 60 with 41 seconds to play, senior Kitwana Rhymer connected on a jump hook deep in the lane to give UMass the 62-60 advantage.

During Little-Rock's next possession, sophomore Willie Jenkins knocked the ball away from the Trojans' Mark Green at midcourt, recovered the loose ball, and got the ball to sophomore Anthony Anderson. The ball then swung around the perimeter and Jenkins ended up getting fouled and was sent to the line.

Despite going 0-for-5 during the previous 39 minutes of play, Jenkins connected on both of his free throws to give his Minutemen the four-point advantage.

"Coach Lappas knew they were going run that play so he told us to push every string," said Jenkins, who made his first career start earlier in the night. "A man went up and picked for Micah (Brand), but the other guy forgot to come pick for me, so I just booted over the pick and ended up getting my hands on the ball.

"Then I saw it on the floor, and I knew I had to get it in order for us to win, so I just dove on it."

"I give Willie Jenkins a lot of credit," said Lappas, whose team drew more fans Friday night than James "Bruiser" Flint's did last year versus Top 25 Xavier on Valentine's Day. "He struggled in the first half, but he jumped right out to make that defensive play and I think they were surprised by it.

After Jenkins' two from the charity stripe, UMass forced another Trojan turnover in traffic and senior Shannon Crooks dribbled the length of the court for the game's final tally.

UMass began the second half down ten points, after Little-Rock's Rory Green nailed a three-pointer from the top of the arc at the first half's buzzer, but the Minutemen quickly cut into that lead early in the final stanza, thanks in part to the solid defense and shot-blocking of Rhymer.

With 17:24 remaining, Rhymer grabbed a rebound but threw the ball away on his outlet pass. Seconds later, Trojan Green drove to the right side of the glass, but Rhymer recovered quickly and swatted the attempt off the backboard. The block resulted in a Crooks lay-in at the other end to cut the Little-Rock lead to 39-34.

The rejection was also served as certain boost for Rhymer's teammates and the Maroon and White faithful.

"At the beginning of the second half, Kit made a big block and the crowd really got into it and that got us into it so everybody just picked it up a notch," said Anderson, who hit a key trey with 5:03 left in the game to cut the Trojan lead to one (54-53).

Anderson also drilled two free throws with 1:28 left to bring the score to 60-57. But that lead was shot down after Mark Green nailed a three-pointer on the next trip down the court, right before Rhymer unleashed his deciding baby hook.

The game started with eight straight points from Brand, who tied his career high with 23, shooting 11-for-14 in the process. The junior gave UMass its first lead of the second half at the 4:01 mark when he accepted a pass from Crooks on the left side and calmly sank a turnaround jumper to give his team the 55-54 lead.

Crooks added 16 points for the Minutemen, including two key three-pointers at 10:28 and 3:10, the latter giving UMass the 58-57 advantage. He also played the second half with three fouls, failing to ever pick up his fourth.

Anderson, who played 37 minutes at the point, score 10 points, eight of which came in the final half. Playing in his first collegiate contest, Anderson became the first UMass player to win the A-10 Rookie of the Week since Monty Mack did in 1998.

Nick Zachery led Little-Rock with 17 points and Damion Ninkovic added 14. The two combined for seven of the Trojans 10 three-pointers, which came from 30 long-range attempts.

A brand new day for Lappas' bud on the blocks
By Justin Pearson, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, 11/19/2001

The biggest question for Steve Lappas and the Massachusetts men's basketball coaching staff heading into Friday night's season opener with the University of Arkansas-Little Rock was who would replace Monty Mack and his scoring prowess.

Mack, the second leading scorer in UMass history, graduated last May and took his 19.5 points per game from last season with him. If the Minutemen were to be successful on Friday night and the rest of the season they would need somebody to pick up the slack at the offensive end.

Micah Brand was that man on Friday night.

He dropped 23 points on the Trojans, matching a career high, en route to leading UMass to a 66-60 victory. Brand scored the Maroon and White's first eight points and made 11 of 14 field goals, many of which were 14-foot jumpers from the high post.

"We wanted to make Brand hit that shot, and he did," UALR coach Porter Moser said. "He showed why I think he's going to be a premier player in the Atlantic 10."

"They flat-out dared him to shoot the ball," Lappas added.

In coach Lappas' new motion offense, Brand should be seeing quite a bit of the ball in the high post and he will likely take more than the seven shots per game that he averaged last season. Last year Brand would often disappear at the offensive end of the floor if he struggled in the early going and that is why it was so important for him to start off so hot on Friday.

"I saw how they were playing off me and I just took the shot," he said. "It gave me a lot of confidence [to make the first one,] it was big."

It took more than five minutes for somebody other than big No. 40 to get on the scoresheet for the Minutemen but, because of Brand's hot hand, UMass was able to stay close to the Trojans, never trailing by more than four until the final seconds of the first half.

"They were worried so much about our low-post size and strength they were sloughing off and not worrying about the high post," Brand said. "Coach Lappas said if we're open and they play off us that much, shoot the ball."

Despite making all four of his field goal attempts in the first four minutes of the game, Brand was reluctant to keep taking the open shot and took just three more attempts the rest of the half, much to the chagrin of his coach.

"He wouldn't shoot the ball every time," Lappas said. "So I told the rest of the guys to throw two or three passes away from the post area and then throw it in that way he'll feel comfortable to shoot the ball. We were trying to trick him into feeling better about shooting it."

The trickery seemed to work as the junior power forward added another 10 points in the second half as UMass erased a seven point halftime deficit to comeback for the six point victory. Brand put up another seven shots in the second stanza, making five including three from outside the paint.

"I do it a lot in practice," Brand said of his offensive outburst. "But I'm not used to taking that many shots in a game."

In the end the Minutemen are lucky that Brand did take each and every one of those 14 shots, as they probably would not have been in a position to make their comeback had he not.

"We did what we could to try and contain him," Nick Zachary, UALR's leading scorer with 17 points on the night said. "But he, and the whole team, made championship plays."

Now the only question for Lappas and his staff is, can he do it for the remainder of the year?

It takes a tragedy to inspire patriotism
Editorial from The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, 11/19/2001

There is a lot more patriotism in this country than there was a few months ago. Want proof? Look no further than college basketball arena's around the country.

Instead of a team's customary absence from the playing of the National Anthem, the players and coaches now stand, along with the fans in attendance, for the Star Spangled Banner.

But why is it that tragedy is needed to bring out the patriotism in our country? Why do we need acts of terror, like the ones committed on September 11, to perform a duty so simple as being present and standing for the national anthem?

UMass head basketball coach Steve Lappas tried to defend the customary actions of college basketball teams around the country. But his defense fell on deaf ears at the weekly UMass alumni sports luncheon.

Lappas talked about the controversial issue of forcing players to stand for the anthem. He presented many realistic problems for coaches, like players not wanting to, or not believing in it. Issues such as those can put a coach in a difficult position.

It's understandable that coaches and athletic directors cannot force players to stand for the national anthem, but the NCAA's solution for this problem is not to address it, it is to run from it.

Instead of facing the issue head on, the governing body of college athletics has decided that it would be better for the teams to be in the locker room while the Star Spangled Banner is playing, instead of out on the floor.

But in the wake of Sept. 11, the mentality of the country and the NCAA has changed. Now teams line up at mid court, head bowed in honor, as Francis Scott Key's production plays through the arena speakers.

The attitude has changed. There is now a feeling of patriotism that runs through most, if not all of the thousands of student athletes in the United States.

What was once an issue of debate, has now become a symbol of unification. The cries of inappropriateness and denial of rights have been quenched. The athletes now stand with their peers in the stands and in the media, as they honor America.

But why does it take a national tragedy to bring out the pride in people, not to mention the toughness and fortitude of the NCAA?

Controversial issues are a constant in the realm of college athletics and the NCAA, as it always has, takes a zero tolerance stand on issues such as Title IX and academic eligibility.

But when it comes to constitutional issues, such as the right to do what one pleases during the national anthem, the NCAA effectively sticks its head in the stand.

Now though, the national consciousness has provided ample backup for the NCAA to throw its support behind teams that present themselves before the flag, as the anthem plays in the background.

On Friday night, over 6,300 fans at UMass' home opening basketball game stood for the national anthem. As did the players and coaches on the Minutemen and their opponents from Arkansas - Little Rock.

It's just too bad it took a national tragedy to finally get them out there.

Video clips

All clips in MPEG format.
Video clip Cheerleaders. (file size = 120k)
Video clip A defensive steal leads to Micah Brand for a go-ahead bucket. (744k)
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Video clip The Mullins Center crowd was into it. (184k)
Video clip Willie Jenkins sinks the game-winning free throws. (240k)
Video clip Shannon Crooks puts the icing on the cake as UMass wins. (552k)

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Univ. of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans 60
Massachusetts Minutemen 66
at the Mullins Center

Arkansas-Little Rock vs Massachusetts
11/16/01  7:00 p.m. at Mullins Center (Amherst, Mass.)
VISITORS: Arkansas-Little Rock 0-1
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
24 HARDMAN,Richard      f  0-0    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   1   0   0  1  0  0  10
54 EASON,Darius         f  1-2    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   2   2   1  0  0  0  16
55 NINKOVIC,Damion      f  6-9    2-3    0-1    2  3  5   1  14   1  0  0  0  31
21 ZACHERY,Nick         g  6-18   5-12   0-0    1  5  6   3  17   3  4  0  2  31
23 GREEN,Mark           g  3-14   1-8    2-2    1  5  6   2   9   4  5  0  2  38
02 WILLIS,Columbus         1-1    0-0    0-0    1  1  2   3   2   0  0  0  0  10
03 IKE,Jibrahn             2-8    1-3    2-2    3  1  4   4   7   0  2  0  1  20
10 GREEN,Rory              1-5    1-4    0-0    0  0  0   0   3   1  0  0  1  10
15 JACOBS,Josh             1-1    0-0    1-2    0  1  1   1   3   0  0  0  1  13
33 JONES,Nick              0-0    0-0    3-4    1  2  3   0   3   0  2  0  0  16
34 MCCALL,Danny            0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  0  0  0   5
TEAM ........................................   3  3  6
TOTALS                    21-58  10-30   8-11  12 22 34  17  60  10 14  0  7 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 11-30 36.7% 2ndH: 10-28 35.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 36.2% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 5-13 38.5% 2ndH: 5-17 29.4% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 33.3% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 7-9 77.8% 2ndH: 1-2 50.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 72.7% 1

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts 1-0 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 0-5 0-3 2-2 3 3 6 1 2 2 1 0 1 18 40 BRAND,Micah f 11-14 0-0 1-2 0 4 4 3 23 1 2 1 2 34 33 RHYMER,Kitwana c 2-7 0-0 1-3 4 4 8 3 5 2 1 2 1 24 11 WILSON,Kyle g 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 0 2 3 0 0 16 30 CROOKS,Shannon g 6-11 3-7 1-2 1 2 3 3 16 6 3 0 2 33 03 BLIZZARD,Ronell 0-4 0-1 2-2 1 3 4 1 2 0 1 1 2 10 12 ANDERSON,Anthony 3-5 2-3 2-4 2 3 5 1 10 4 0 0 1 37 21 WILLIAMS,Eric 2-5 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 0 4 0 1 0 0 12 34 LAMB,Raheim 2-5 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 1 4 0 2 0 0 16 TEAM ........................................ 1 2 3 TOTALS 26-57 5-16 9-15 13 27 40 14 66 17 14 4 9 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 11-26 42.3% 2ndH: 15-31 48.4% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 45.6% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 1-8 12.5% 2ndH: 4-8 50.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 31.3% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 4-8 50.0% 2ndH: 5-7 71.4% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 60.0% 2

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: Larry Lembo, David Walker, Jack Sweeney TECHNICAL FOULS: Arkansas-Little Rock - none Massachusetts - none ATTENDANCE: 6,277 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL Arkansas-Little Rock 34 26 60 Massachusetts 27 39 66

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