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Box score

UMass plods by Maine: Big men pull Minutemen
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 12/24/2001

AMHERST - The wins over Oregon and North Carolina State were terrific, best-case scenarios. The Holy Cross loss was a horrible drop on the intensity gauge.

UMass - Maine Postgame Notes
From UMass Athletics

* This was the 56th meeting between UMass and Maine, and the first since Feb. 16, 1980. With the win, UMass snapped a three-game losing streak to the Black Bears, and now leads the series 41-16.

* The Minutemen led today's contest 28-27 at halftime. The Minutemen are now 3-1 on the season when leading at the break.

* Today's total of 78 points tied a season high for the Minutemen, and the 18-point victory marks the largest margin for UMass this season.

* UMass finished the game with five players in double digits. It is just the second time this season that the Minutemen have had five in double figures, having accomplished the feat at Boston College earlier this month.

* Senior guard Shannon Crooks (Boston, Mass.) was 0-for-2 from three-point range on the evening. Crooks has not made a three-pointer in his last three games, missing six attempts against UConn and four against Central Connecticut.

* Crooks finished with 12 points on the evening, and has now scored at least 10 in every game but one this season.

* Junior forward Micah Brand (Middletown, N.Y.) finished the game with 17 points, his second-highest total of the year.

* Brand's three-pointer with 14 minutes remaining in the game was his first-ever made from long range. The junior had attempted just one other three pointer in his career, earlier this month against Holy Cross.

* Senior center Kitwana Rhymer (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) blocked two shots today. The Atlantic 10 leader in snuffs now has 26 on the season, with at least two in eight of UMass' nine games this season.

* Rhymer finished the game with 16 points, marking the third-straight game he has reached double digits. In his last three outings, Rhymer is averaging 17.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

* Sophomore Jameel Pugh (Sacramento, Calif.) finished today's game with a career-high 12 points. Pugh also eclipsed his career-high with 26 minutes played.

* Sophomore guard Anthony Anderson (Lynn, Mass.) poured in 11 points tonight. It is the fifth time this season that Anderson has reached double digits.

* Maine finished today's game with shooting 36.4 percent from the field. UMass has now held seven of nine opponents this season below 40 percent from the field, and are 6-1 in those contests.

* The Minutemen finished with 20 assists in today's contest, their highest total of the season.

* UMass is now 5-0 this season when holding their opponent to 62 or fewer points, and have won 15-straight games when allowing 62 or less.

Somewhere in between lies the real UMass, and coach Steve Lappas believes he may have finally discovered the true middle ground.

``I learned from the Holy Cross game that this is what we'll be,'' he said after the Minutemen, racing and stalling like a poorly tuned engine, finally blew away Maine over the last 10 minutes yesterday for a 78-60 victory.

But don't let that 18-point margin fool you. The Minutemen aren't a track team, unless the course is covered with mud.

``I'm very pleased to be at 6-3,'' Lappas said. ``If you told me we'd have this record before the season, I'd be happy. We slipped one. But the slip at Holy Cross helped me. I started to think we were better than we were. I have to understand that I'm coaching a tractor pull this year.''

And befitting a tractor pull, the big guys were instrumental in yanking this win out of the muck yesterday.

Micah Brand, the 6-foot-11 junior whose offense seems to come and go like snowstorms, scored 17 points in the second half after going scoreless in the first, and ultimately shot 7-of-11 from the floor with seven rebounds, three blocks and four steals. Kitwana Rhymer, coming off his biggest game of the season against Central Connecticut, finished with 16 points and five rebounds despite foul trouble.

This quality inside work was enough to nullify a 23-point game from Errick Greene, Maine's all-everything guard, and to override yet another slow start and troubling shooting performance by the UMass perimeter.

Though UMass shot 49 percent from the floor yesterday, that figure included a horrid 11-of-29 (.379) effort from the floor in the first half. More to the point, the Minutemen shot only 4-of-15 (.267) from 3-point range for the game.

Considering that the Black Bears managed to prop up their end with a 5-of-13 3-point performance, including a combined 5-of-10 from Joe Campbell and Freddie Petkus, the Minutemen teetered on falling back.

But as usual, the second half was also their saving grace.

The Black Bears (2-8) jumped out to a 35-30 lead over the first four minutes of the second half, allowed the Minutemen back into it when sophomore Jameel Pugh sparked a 6-0 run with a pair of nice passes for Rhymer hoops, and then fought to maintain position.

But Brand was clicking by then, as evidenced by his deep 3-pointer with 14:05 left for a 41-39 UMass lead. The basket sparked a 9-2 UMass run that included a Brand dunk off the baseline and Pugh's midair tip-in of his own miss.

Pugh then cut into a brief 4-0 run by the Black Bears by skying to grab a Shannon Crooks miss and lay it in for a 49-45 UMass edge with 9:13 left.

An 8-0 UMass run, including two hoops from Crooks, followed as the Minutemen started to push the ball through Maine's collection of traps, presses and matchup zones.

Brand and Rhymer, now getting their points from a steady up-tempo attack, finished this one off over the last five minutes as the Black Bears collapsed.

Maine ultimately shot 36 percent from the floor - the number that mattered most to Lappas.

``Thank God we play hard, and we play good defense,'' he said. ``This is what we'll be. We'll be up by one point in these games, and be happy with it. We're not this explosive offensive team. Get used to it. We'll be this way into February.''

Brand gets some fatherly advice
UMass Notebook
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 12/24/2001

AMHERST - Micah Brand, at 6-foot-11, with soft hands, a huge wingspan and a nice touch around the basket, should be a coach's dream.

The problem, UMass coach Steve Lappas said, is that the junior is probably everyone's dream.

``Micah is a very nice kid,'' Lappas said after the Minutemen beat Maine, 78-60, yesterday. ``He's going to be a heck of a father some day. But he has to leave those characteristics of tremendous fatherhood at home.''

It's not hard to understand the coach's frustration after watching his power forward take only two shots and go scoreless in the first half. The fact that Brand returned with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the second half was one of the keys to pushing UMass over the top.

``He's made great strides already this year,'' Lappas said. ``But he still has to make that next step for great intensity. But last year, if he didn't score any points in the first half, you might not see him for the rest of the game.''

Pugh puts on show

Jameel Pugh, in logging his second straight prolonged appearance yesterday, may be making the strongest move yet at small forward.

The athletic sophomore lived up to his entertaining reputation with a tip-dunk and a flying offensive rebound, followed by a putback.

But he also played under control, a quality that hasn't always been apparent in his game. Yesterday, two of Pugh's best moments came on back-to-back feeds to center Kitwana Rhymer for easy baskets.

He finished with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting (2-of-3 from 3-point range), six rebounds, and only one turnover in 26 minutes.

``The beginning of the year he was trying to show the coaches what he could do, and that didn't work because he was trying to do too much,'' Brand said.

Pugh's expanded role came at the expense of sophomore Willie Jenkins, who didn't play yesterday, and freshman Raheim Lamb, who started at small forward but logged only 11 minutes.

Payback time

Justin Rowe, Maine's 7-foot junior center, desperately wanted to play basketball at UMass while growing up in Springfield. Former UMass coach Bruiser Flint thought otherwise. Rowe received his shot at revenge yesterday and had 12 rebounds, four blocks and 12 points.

``I was nervous, but I really wanted to go to school here,'' he said. ``I guess I felt I had something to prove. I wanted to make them feel they made a mistake.''

Second half is a brand-new game
By Jim Greenidge, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/24/2001

AMHERST - The University of Massachusetts led Maine only 28-27 at halftime, but the Minutemen were much better in the second half, especially on offense, in a 78-60 triumph over the shorthanded Black Bears yesterday.

Before 4,651 spectators at the Mullins Center, UMass began to pull away, taking a 55-47 lead on junior forward Micah Brand's basket off a rebound. The Minutemen built on their lead, boosting it to 15 points, 74-59, when senior center Kitwana Rhymer dunked with just 56 seconds left. Rhymer finished with 16 points.

UMass (6-3) is off to its best start since the 1997-98 season.

UMass had five players in double figures, with the 6-foot-11-inch Brand getting all 17 of his points in the second half. Brand also had four steals and seven rebounds.

''He might not have done [all] that in the past,'' said UMass coach Steve Lappas about Brand. ''He's made some nice strides in the past year. In the past, he might not have done anything if he hadn't had any points at halftime. He's matured, though.''

Brand was 0 for 2 in seven first-half minutes. He was impressive after the break, however.

''Coach told me to get in the open areas of their zone, around the baseline and the foul line, and I did quite a bit of moving,'' Brand said. ''As a team in the second half, we stopped shooting flat-footed and stopped with our non-aggressive shots. We were passive and tentative in the first half.''

UMass shot 48.5 percent (32 for 66), and had seven more rebounds than Maine. The Minutemen had 20 assists, but were just 4 for 15 from the 3-point line.

Maine (2-8) was just ordinary from the field, making 36.4 percent (20 for 55), and committing 16 turnovers.

Black Bears center Justin Rowe, a junior out of Springfield who wanted to attend UMass, had 12 points. He made just 3 of 10 shots from the field and 6 of 11 from the line while getting 12 rebounds. He had only 3 points at halftime.

''You go against some big guys out there,'' Rowe said. ''Usually there's only one player like that, but UMass just brings out another and another and another. They're very good on defense. It [was] always focusing on me.''

Lappas liked the way his defense played, especially considering his offense. ''We're not a good offensive team right now,'' he said. ''We don't move the ball that well in zone defenses, and we're not an explosive team, so we're going to have to grind it out from now to February. Thank goodness we play hard and good defense.''

Maine coach John Giannini, whose team has been plagued by injuries, said his players did everything they could.

''I'm very proud of what the guys we put out there did,'' said Giannini. ''UMass just wore us down, it's as simple as that.''

Four of the first seven players in Maine's rotation are non-scholarship, including John Campbell (10 points). The Black Bears only have one ballhandler, senior guard Errick Greene, who had 23 points on 8-for-21 shooting from the field.

''Errick has to do everything for us, get the ball, bring it up, and score,'' Giannini said. ''It's tough for him to go the whole game. He just ran out of gas.''

The Minutemen grabbed their thin halftime edge when Shannon Crooks made a fast-break layup with 15 seconds left. It stayed close for a bit in the second half, but UMass got things rolling, and took an 11-point lead, 66-55, when Brand made a jumper from the foul line with 3:13 left.

Strong second half in UMass win
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/24/2001

AMHERST - The University of Massachusetts didn't find the gas pedal until the second half Sunday, and then the Minutemen used a 19-8 run to pull away and defeat Maine, 78-60, in front of 4,651 fans at the William D. Mullins Center.

Jameel Pugh slams home two of his twelve points.
The second-half efforts of Jameel Pugh and Micah Brand rescued UMass from the less-than-merry Christmas that would have followed a loss to the Black Bears. Brand had all 17 of his points and six of his seven rebounds after intermission.

"He was unbelievable," Lappas said. "He came in and had it all going for him."

Pugh's resurgence continued as the sophomore forward scored a career-high 12 points after getting 11 against Central Connecticut.

Unlike against Central Connecticut, when Pugh's contributions were more icing, his performance on Sunday was the cake as he made several key passes and baskets down the stretch as UMass (6-3) put Maine (2-8) away.

"I'm very pleased with him," Lappas said. "To get that kind of productivity out of that spot is really going to help us. Right now I'd like to see him continue to get better."

Pugh's teammates have taken notice.

"When Jameel plays the way coach Lappas asks him to play - hard on defense, going to get rebounds and taking shots when they come to him - he plays excellent," Brand said.

Errick Greene led the Black Bears with 23 points, while Springfield native and Pioneer Valley Christian School graduate Justin Rowe had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Minutemen return to action Saturday when they travel to Huntington, W. Va., to face Marshall at 7:30 p.m.

With 14:05 left in the game, the Minutemen trailed 39-38 after Maine walk-on freshman Joe Campbell hit an open 3-pointer. Brand, standing high on the perimeter with the shot clock running down, struggled to find an open shot. Lacking an open teammate, Brand launched and made his first career 3-pointer with three seconds on the shot clock, giving UMass a 41-39 lead.

Rickey White drove through the UMass defense at the other end to tie the game at 41-41, but Pugh sliced into the lane and dished to Brand for a one-handed dunk that gave UMass the lead for good.

Maine kept it tight and was still within two when Rowe spun for a lay-up with 8:49 remaining. But Crooks had the first and last baskets of an 8-0 run that deflated the Black Bears.

Using just its starters for most of the contest, Maine hung with UMass in the first half. The Minutemen were sloppy with the ball as the Black Bears capitalized and kept the score tight. Pugh's one-handed dunk after a missed shot was the only thing to get much noise from a nervous UMass crowd as the Minutemen clung to a 28-27 lead at intermission.

"In the first half we've been kind of lackadaisical on defense or offense," Brand said. "Today we weren't taking aggressive shots or open shots when we had them. We have to figure ways to get everyone motivated from the opening jump."

Maine opened the second half on an 8-2 run to take a 35-30 lead, but back-to-back baskets by Kitwana Rhymer on assists from Pugh and a break-away layup by Anthony Anderson set the stage for UMass' game-clinching run.

With two days off for the holiday, Lappas reflected on the team's first nine games.

"I'm very pleased with our record. I'd love to be playing better, but if you told me before the season that we'd be 6-3 with our schedule, I'd have been very happy," Lappas said. "We're not in tremendous shape, but we're in very good shape."

Brand gives UMass a lift
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/24/2001

AMHERST - With 3:17 remaining in Sunday's game and the University of Massachusetts leading Maine 66-55, Micah Brand caught the ball in the middle of the lane.

Despite being wide open, he paused for a moment, looking to pass, as the entire UMass coaching staff yelled, "Shoot." Then he knocked down the short jumper.

The basket accounted for points No. 14 and 15 of Brand's 17-point outburst in the 78-60 win by the Minutemen.

The junior big man, who had six and seven points, respectively, in UMass' last two games, had been a virtual non-factor on offense in those two games, too often looking to pass.

That stretch continued into Sunday's first half, when Brand didn't score and attempted two shots in only seven minutes as some confusion with the officials had the Minuteman bench convinced Brand had two fouls. He actually only had one, but the rest left him fresh for the second half.

With Maine gathering momentum in its quest for an upset, the Minutemen needed Brand to bust out in the second half, and he did.

"He was active, rebounding, active around the basket," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "It was a very important lift for us."

Lappas said Brand still needs to have more consistent intensity.

"Micah is a very nice kid," Lappas said. "I tell him this: 'Hey you're going to be a great father someday, but I'd rather not see some of those characteristics out there.'

"Micah has to work on his intensity," Lappas continued. "I think he's made a big step this year. I think he's much more intense than he's been, but he still has to make that next step when it comes to his intensity and I think he will."

Lappas said Brand has taken some steps already.

"I know last year he was the kind of guy if he came out and had a first half with no points, the rest of the game he wouldn't be anything," he said. "For him to have nothing and finish with 17 says something to me about his maturity."

BLIZZARD-WILLIAMS SCUFFLE - Senior forwards Ronell Blizzard and Eric Williams appeared to have a disagreement during a UMass time-out in the second half. Blizzard took a swing at Williams, causing Lappas to send Blizzard to the locker room for the remainder of the game.

Immediately after the game, Lappas wasn't sure what the disagreement was over.

"There was an argument," he said. "I don't really know what happened yet."

Kitwana Rhymer looks for room against Justin Rowe.
ROWE HOMECOMING - Maine 7-foot junior center Justin Rowe, who went to Pioneer Valley Christian Academy, grew up wanting to play for the Minutemen but wasn't offered a scholarship.

He struggled at times, hitting just three of 10 shots, all from close range, but his 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots made for a happy homecoming.

"I was a little nervous because I did really want to go here," he said. "I had a lot of family here. I had something to prove to try to get them to think maybe they made a mistake."

JENKINS SITS - Lappas said it wasn't disciplinary or injury related, but sophomore Willie Jenkins, who started the first six games, never left the bench. The team's other three small forwards all did play, as did walk-ons Dwayne Killings and Paco Kotaridis.

Lappas said Jenkins hasn't let the decreased minutes get him down.

"Willie's attitude was tremendous after the game," Lappas said.

THREE-POINT STRUGGLES - The Minutemen made just four of 15 shots from the beyond the 3-point arc, including one by Brand. The team is eight-for-47 from deep in its last three games. Jameel Pugh has three of them and Anthony Anderson has two. Senior Shannon Crooks has missed his last 12.

"That is our biggest concern: the way we shoot the ball," Lappas said.

MISCELLANEOUS - UMass' 6-3 start is its best pre-Christmas record since 1995, when the Minutemen were 7-0.

Maine Black Bears 60
Massachusetts Minutemen 78
at the Mullins Center

Maine vs Massachusetts
12/23/01  2:00 p.m. at Amherst, MA(Mullins Center)
VISITORS: Maine ( 2- 8)
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
32 CAMPBELL,Joe         f  4-5    2-3    0-0    1  4  5   3  10   0  3  0  3  40
43 WHITE,Rickey         f  2-8    0-1    2-3    2  2  4   4   6   2  3  1  3  32
44 ROWE,Justin          c  3-10   0-0    6-11   4  8 12   3  12   0  3  4  1  35
14 PETKUS,Freddy        g  3-8    3-7    0-0    0  3  3   3   9   3  5  0  3  40
30 GREENE,Errick        g  8-21   0-2    7-11   4  3  7   0  23   3  2  0  3  38
10 WALLINGFORD,Jon         0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  1  0  0   2
21 TIBBETTS,Todd           0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   1  2  0  0   6
23 DUBOIS,David            0-2    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0   0  0  0  0   5
33 CROOM,Jamar             0-1    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   0   0  0  0  0   2
TEAM ........................................   2  0  2
TOTALS                    20-55   5-13  15-25  13 20 33  14  60   9 19  5 13 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 9-27 33.3% 2ndH: 11-28 39.3% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 36.4% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 3-7 42.9% 2ndH: 2-6 33.3% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 38.5% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 6-8 75.0% 2ndH: 9-17 52.9% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 60.0% 9

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts ( 6- 3) 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 34 LAMB,Raheim f 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 0 2 1 1 1 0 11 40 BRAND,Micah f 7-11 1-1 2-2 3 4 7 1 17 1 1 3 4 25 33 RHYMER,Kitwana c 7-12 0-0 2-5 1 4 5 5 16 1 0 2 1 28 12 ANDERSON,Anthony g 5-7 1-3 0-0 0 4 4 2 11 3 3 0 3 31 30 CROOKS,Shannon g 4-10 0-2 4-5 2 0 2 3 12 5 4 0 4 34 00 MARTIN,Brennan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 4 03 BLIZZARD,Ronell 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 7 11 WILSON,Kyle 0-4 0-4 2-2 0 3 3 2 2 1 1 0 0 14 14 KOTARIDIS,Paco 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 21 WILLIAMS,Eric 3-6 0-1 0-0 4 3 7 2 6 3 4 0 2 18 22 KILLINGS,Dwayne 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 24 PUGH,Jameel 5-12 2-3 0-0 5 1 6 2 12 2 1 0 0 26 TEAM ........................................ 1 1 2 TOTALS 32-66 4-15 10-14 17 23 40 17 78 20 16 8 14 200

TOT-FG 1stH: 11-29 37.9% 2ndH: 21-37 56.8% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 48.5% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 2-10 20.0% 2ndH: 2-5 40.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 26.7% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 4-7 57.1% 2ndH: 6-7 85.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 71.4% 1

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: Carl LaBranche, Joe Pescitelli, Eric Britto TECHNICAL FOULS: Maine - none Massachusetts - none ATTENDANCE: 4,651 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL Maine 27 33 60 Massachusetts 28 50 78

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