MHERST - Five games into Anthony Anderson's college basketball career, the sophomore point guard (who sat out last year) has lived up to expectations.
He's been steady, handing out 3.5 assists to every turnover, while averaging 7.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He also has played strong defense against solid opponents.
But the stakes get much higher Saturday against undefeated Boston College (8 p.m., Conte Forum) as Anderson will match up with Eagle point guard Troy Bell. Bell is considered one of the top handful of perimeter players in all of college basketball.
A year ago, Bell was the catalyst on a BC team that surprised the nation, winning the Big East title en route to a 27-5 record.
Along the way Bell landed on the first or second team of every conceivable organization that was selecting All-Americans. He won the Big East Co-Player of the Year and Tournament Most Outstanding Player while averaging 20.4 points per game.
So far this year he's at 20.5 points per game while leading the Eagles to a 6-0 start.
Anderson will try to limit his ability to push his team to 7-0.
"It's definitely the best player Anthony has ever played against," UMass coach Steve Lappas said.
Anderson is looking forward to the challenge.
"That was the sort of thing that I used to think about when I was in high school - playing against one of the top point guards in the country," he said. "I'm just going to go out and play harder than ever and hopefully that will get the job done. Every great player has a bad night and hopefully Saturday will be his."
BC's ability to force turnovers and capitalize on them has been a key ingredient in its success. As UMass' primary ball handler, Anderson will have to play well and protect the ball to slow the Eagles' transition offense.
"If you said pick one thing that this game boils down to, I'd say handling the ball," Lappas said. "If we handle the ball and don't turn it over, we'll be right there," Lappas said. "That will help stop them if they're not stealing the ball from us and going in transition. That will take away some of their offense because they do so well on turnovers. If we can make it more of a halfcourt game, that would probably help a little bit."
UMass senior guard Shannon Crooks can relate to Anderson's position heading into the game. In his second game as a Minuteman after sitting out a year, Crooks was charged with guarding UConn floor general Khalid el-Amin. The more-seasoned, craftier el-Amin led the Huskies with 18 points that night as Crooks struggled.
Crooks warned Anderson and freshman backup point guard Kyle Wilson about the perils of playing scared.
"If you guys go out there and play tentative and kind of scared, they're going to smell blood," Crooks said. "It's on their homecourt. They have experience playing in big games. If (Anderson and Wilson) go in and play tough and don't back down from them, they are going to have to respect that."
Anderson said his basic demeanor helps him handle situations like this.
"I'll keep my cool. I'll be pumped up more than ever, but not too pumped up where I'm rushing things and forgetting things," he said. "That's kind of just me. I'm kind of calm and cool regardless of (whether) we're up two with two minutes to go or up 20 with 12 minutes to go."
MHERST - The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team may have to deal with one less Boston College weapon Saturday. Eagle guard Ryan Sidney broke his jaw in practice Thursday and could miss the game, which will be held at 8 p.m. at Conte Forum.
Sidney, who leads BC in points (21.3), rebounds (10.0) and assists (5.7) per game, collided with teammate Brian Ross.
Boston College (6-0) hadn't yet ruled out Sidney for Saturday's game, but an official release said his jaw was wired shut after the injury.
Pierre Rouzier, who is one of UMass' team doctors, didn't know specifics of Sidney's injury, but thought playing with a broken jaw would be difficult.
"I would find it unlikely within a week, but not impossible," he said. "The biggest problem would be pain control. You get elbowed in the face all the time and because your jaw is wired shut there could be potential problems clearing secretions such as saliva, and airway problems."
Unlike with broken noses and facial bones, there really isn't a protective mask a player can wear for a jaw injury.
UMass coach Steve Lappas was sympathetic.
"It's a shame for the kid, he plays with reckless abandon," Lappas said.
The injury came just as BC's backcourt was gaining national notice. A recent article on CBSSportsline.com speculated that the tandem of Sidney and reigning Co-Big East Player of the Year Troy Bell might be the best guard tandem in the country.
Lappas made a similar claim Thursday prior to learning about Sidney's injury.
Lappas said that until he hears otherwise, he'll continue to prepare as though Sidney will play, while paying closer attention to Jermaine Watson. Watson likely would be Sidney's replacement.
"He plays very hard and he's a very good ballhandler," Lappas said of Watson.
Watson is a 6-foot-3 freshman guard from Dorchester who shined last year at Tabor Academy, where he was a highly rated recruit.
He's averaged 7.5 points in 16 minutes during the Eagles 6-0 start and has been the first guard off the bench. BC isn't deep in the backcourt, meaning that small forward Kenny Walls could see time in the backcourt and that sophomore Ludmil Hadjisotirov likely will move up in the rotation after averaging 8.8 minutes and 1.0 points per game.
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UMass center Kitwana Rhymer finished practice early after twisting his left knee, but he said he'll be fine to play Saturday.
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Lappas said after Tuesday's 67-56 loss to Holy Cross that he was particularly tough on his players, both before and during Thursday's practice. There was no practice Wednesday because the NCAA mandates that players must be given one day off per week.
While practice itself included a lot of physical drills and a lot of running, Lappas blasted his players prior to practice and said he was pleased with their response.
"I was very pleased with the way they were in the locker room because I was taking no prisoners and getting into guys directly," Lappas said. "Nobody flinched, nobody put their head down. They know what happened. I think they came into the locker room today knowing they were going to get what they deserved. I beat myself up for 48 hours. It was time for me to beat somebody else up."
Anthony Anderson said Lappas' tirade was warranted.
"We definitely deserved it," he said. "We watched the tape and it was even worse. Everybody was expecting it and it got us going."
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Tuesday's UMass-UConn game at 9 p.m. at the Mullins Center isn't sold out yet. The UMass ticket office in the Mullins Center will be open from 10-5 Saturday and 10-4 on Sunday.
hey don't get any bigger than this.
The Massachusetts men's basketball team travels to the state capital on Saturday night for the seventh annual Commonwealth Classic against the 13th-ranked Boston College Eagles at the sold out Conte Forum. The Minutemen will be looking to win their sixth unofficial state title as well as to show that Tuesday night's loss to Holy Cross was an aberration. In their last game the Minutemen (4-1) were defeated for the first time under new Head Coach Steve Lappas, dropping an ugly 67-56 decision to the Crusaders.
"Everybody's ready to go, everybody understands that we shouldn't have lost on Tuesday but we did and there's nothing you can do about it," sophomore point guard Anthony Anderson said. "But we're not talking about Holy Cross anymore - we know what we have to do and everybody's ready to go."
Boston College (6-0) comes into the game as winner of its last 10 regular season contests and 22 straight at the Conte Forum. The last time the Eagles fell at home was all the way back on Feb. 23, 2000 in head coach Al Skinner's third season at the Heights, when they dropped a 70-60 contest to Pittsburgh. Two of those 22 victories came at the expense of Lappas and his Villanova Wildcat squad. This will be the 20th meeting with B.C. for Lappas, as he comes in with an 11-8 all-time record against the Eagles.
Saturday's game will be a homecoming of sorts for three Minutemen who hail from the Boston area. Senior guard Shannon Crooks as well as sophomores Anderson and Raheim Lamb all grew up in Beantown, and will be all that more fired up to take on the Eagles in front of their friends and family.
"That's a big game. I live five minutes away from there, all my family is going to be at the game," Lamb said. "I'm just going to be up and ready to play."
In order to knock off the Eagles and make it a happy homecoming for that trio, UMass will need to shut down one of the nation's best backcourts in junior Troy Bell and sophomore Ryan Sidney. Bell, a preseason All-American, has not missed a step since returning to the B.C. lineup for its season opener back on Nov. 18 against Boston University. After missing all of the preseason while recovering from knee surgery, Bell has come on strong, averaging 20.5 points per contest, good enough for second on the squad.
Bell's partner in crime, Sidney, has gone from one of the Big East's best bench players to one of the conference's best players, period. After averaging 9.4 points per game last year as a freshman, Sidney has exploded out of the gates in 2001-02, leading the Eagles in scoring at 21.3 per game as well as rebounds, grabbing 10 per contest. Last Saturday Sidney dropped a career-high 29 points and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds in B.C.'s 83-74 come-from-behind win over the Michigan Wolverines. However, Sidney suffered a fractured jaw yesterday at practice and will need to have his jaw wired. Despite the injury, his playing status for Saturday is uncertain.
"Part of [shutting down the B.C. backcourt] will be not turning the ball over. That will help stop them if they're not stealing the ball and going in transition," Lappas said. "If we can make it more of a half court game, that will help us."
UMass' backcourt of Crooks and Anderson will be given the task of shutting down these two, but they will not be alone out there. If either Bell or Sidney is successful at penetrating into the lane, they will then find Kitwana Rhymer waiting there for them. Rhymer has blocked at least two shots in each of the Minutemen's five games this season and tied a career-high on Tuesday with six rejections against Holy Cross. However, Rhymer twisted a knee in practice yesterday and while he will play, it is unclear as to whether or not he will be at 100 percent. If he isn't, look for Lappas to switch up his defensive sets more than he customarily would.
"They're a team that you have to use a little bit of everything [defensively to beat]," Lappas said.
At the other end of the floor, the Minutemen will look to exploit the inexperience of Eagle center Nate Doornekamp. The seven-foot freshman from Canada will be put to the test by UMass' big man trio of Rhymer, Micah Brand and Eric Williams. Those three will need to manage more than the 25 points and 15 rebounds that they tallied against Holy Cross if the Maroon and White wants to beat B.C.
MHERST - When the University of Massachusetts takes the floor Saturday night at Boston College for the annual Commonwealth Classic, Minuteman coach Steve Lappas will get a chance to end a streak that he started.
On March 4, 2000, Lappas brought his Villanova team to Conte Forum and left on the losing end of a 79-67 score. The Eagles haven't lost in their home gym since, a span of 22 games.
But for Lappas and his team, snapping BC's winning streak there is low on the list of motivations for wanting to win the game.
For starters, the Minutemen are still smarting from Tuesday's embarrassing 67-56 loss to Holy Cross at the Mullins Center. Beating the Eagles, who are ranked No. 13 in the country, would go a long way to restoring the positive energy that UMass created with a 4-0 start prior to the loss to the Crusaders.
Add to that the rivalry factor. After UMass won the first five Commonwealth Classics, the Eagles cruised past the Minutemen 74-65 last year.
While he played at Everett High School, Shannon Crooks insists his home town is Boston, where his mother currently lives. This will be his final game in that city. Sophomore Raheim Lamb also calls Boston home, and this is his first collegiate contest in the city. While Crooks downplayed the significance, Lamb didn't try to hide his excitement.
"That's a home game for me. That's like five minutes from the house. All my fans are going to be there. I'm definitely going to be up for this game," said Lamb, who said he has attended this event as a fan. "I was at a couple of them when (BC) had Granger, Duane Woodward and the big heavy-set kid (Danya Abrams). That's when they had it at the FleetCenter. It's a big rivalry, so I'll definitely be up for it."
Lappas was a little leery of players returning home.
"A lot of times in these 'home' games you have a lot of things going on in your mind, so you don't really focus," he said. "I'm going to keep a tight rein on them so it feels more like a road trip."
The big question mark hanging over the game is whether Ryan Sidney will play. BC's sophomore guard, who was leading the Eagles with 21.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, broke his jaw during practice on Thursday. A final decision on his status might not come until right before game time.
If Sidney doesn't play, BC would likely start Jermaine Watson, a 6-foot-3 freshman from Dorchester, who played at Tabor Academy and for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, the same AAU team that produced several present and former Minutemen, including Crooks.
Watson would be joined by All-American Troy Bell, who was the Big East Co-Player of the Year and Tournament Most Outstanding Player last year. Bell is averaging 20.5 points per game and would probably be asked to shoulder even more of the scoring load if Sidney doesn't play.
The absence of Sidney might cause Lappas to change his defensive strategy. Freshman Anthony Anderson would still likely guard Bell in man-to-man sets, but Crooks, who was scheduled to guard Sidney, might then guard senior small forward Kenny Walls, who has averaged 15.2 points per game.
Lappas expected to use several defensive schemes against the Eagles regardless of Sidney's status. He'd consider playing a box-and-one on Bell, the same strategy that worked effectively against N.C. State point guard Archie Miller.
Inside, the Minutemen will need a better performance from the Kitwana Rhymer-Micah Brand tandem, which combined for just nine rebounds Tuesday. BC will counter with junior Uka Agbai at power forward and freshman Nate Doornekamp at center. Agbai has improved each year he's played at The Heights and is averaging 10.7 points and six rebounds. Doornekamp is averaging 3.8 points and 4.3 boards.
Lappas said his familiarity with his former Big East rival made preparation easier, but it doesn't make the game any less difficult.
"It's easier in that I know exactly what they do, exactly who the kids are, but they're a tough one to prepare for nonetheless," he said.
is mouth wired shut to protect his newly broken jaw, Ryan Sidney had no trouble answering the question whether he'll play when No. 13 Boston College faces rival UMass in the seventh Commonwealth Classic at Conte Forum tonight (8 p.m., Ch. 56).
``Hell, yeah! What kind of question is that?'' Sidney said in the BC training room yesterday before joining his teammates for practice.
Thursday night, hours after her son collided with teammate Brian Ross early in the BC practice, Cynthia Sidney said from her Ann Arbor, Mich., home she thought her son would play if there were no post-surgery problems. Yesterday, Ryan Sidney backed up his mother's words.
BC coach Al Skinner, who spoke to Dr. Gerald Fine, the surgeon who performed the wiring surgery Thursday night, said Sidney passed yesterday's test and will be evaluated again today. If there are no complications, the hottest player in the Big East will be in the lineup when the Eagles try to go 7-0 with their 23rd straight home win.
Sidney went through all the BC drills, saying he was having a little trouble breathing and getting saliva to the back of his throat. His face was slightly distorted and the silver could be seen in his mouth, but other than that, all was normal.
``I knew he was going to play,'' BC guard Troy Bell said. ``It's not like he hurt his knee or anything.''
That's what Bell did, when he had to undergo arthroscopic right knee surgery Oct. 31 and was back for the Nov. 18 opener.
Skinner, standing near Bell when he made his comment, said, ``That's right. You hurt your leg. You can hurt a knee and you can't play, but he can break his face . . .''
And play - 48 hours-plus after it happened.
``It's all a matter of how he functions,'' trainer Sid Basiel said. ``Providing he doesn't have any problems with anything like (practice) . . . you never know, he could get congested or not being able to breathe and that could cause him problems.''
Basiel said he was assured by Fine that everything would be fine and that Sidney would not wear any kind of protection on his face.
``He said it's stable and that if he can function well, he doesn't have any problems with him playing,'' the trainer said.
Said Skinner: ``It looks to me like he's going to be fine. If for some reason it doesn't work out for him, then he won't (play).''
BC lost the first five Classics, but then beat the Minutemen in a consolation game of a tournament in Puerto Rico two seasons ago and won at Amherst last season. The Eagles know UMass lost to Holy Cross at home the other night, but they also know the Minutemen will come in flying tonight.
``It's valuable to UMass because of who we are and the nature of the game - regardless of what the previous games said,'' Skinner said.
espite suffering a fractured jaw in Thursday's practice, Boston College guard Ryan Sidney will attempt to play in tonight's Commonwealth Classic against the University of Massachusetts at Conte Forum.
Known as BC's most outspoken player, Sidney, who practiced yesterday, managed to talk - even through gritted teeth with his jaw wired shut - about playing through his pain to face the Minutemen (4-1).
''My pain threshold is high at this point in time,'' said Sidney, the leading scorer (21.3 points per game) and rebounder (10 per game) of the No. 13 Eagles (6-0). ''The pain is there and I can feel it. But I'm more focused on what I have to do in the game than I am on the pain. I can always take something for the pain.''
The 6-foot-2-inch sophomore guard from Ann Arbor, Mich., suffered the injury in a collision with teammate Brian Ross during a drill. Sidney's jaw will be wired for the next four weeks and he will be limited to a liquid diet.
Sidney said he is not concerned about aggravating his injury, given his aggressive style of play. ''If I get hit, I get hit, and my mouth just hurts some more. So that's all I'm really thinking about. I was going to have to deal with it, so I'm just going to deal with it now rather than later and play with it and see what happens.''
After yesterday's practice, Sidney said he saw his doctors to have a wiring adjustment. ''I had to get more rubber bands put in there,'' he said. ''I had taken my rubber bands off from the night before, because I was feeling nauseous and so I cut them off. I just had them put more on so they could stabilize it.''
If Sidney is unable to play, freshman guard Jermaine Watson and sophomore forward Andrew Bryant would likely be called upon.