MHERST - UMass enjoyed career-high scoring efforts from two inside players, but couldn't combat the Xavier trio of national Player of the Year candidate David West, Atlantic 10 first-team selection Romain Sato and freshman point guard Dedrick Finn.
Xavier's big three scored a total of 66 points in last night's 86-73 win over UMass (6-10, 0-4). Finn's 21 points were a career-high for the Musketeers (12-4, 3-1).
``We knew they would try to get (West) and Sato out of the game,'' said Finn, who shot 5-of-5 from the field (4-of-4 on 3-pointers) and 7-of-9 from the free throw line. ``That gave me the opportunity to step up.''
Senior Jackie Rogers led the Minutemen with a career-high 23 points. UMass' Gabe Lee, who started at center in place of senior Micah Brand (ankle), also posted a career high with 13 points.
UMass cut the lead to 11 points five times down the stretch, but couldn't cut it to single digits until Rogers made a pair of free throws with 2:26 remaining to make the score 78-69.
The Minutemen cut the lead to 78-71 on a Mike Lasme jumper from the foul line, but never got closer, as Xavier made 6-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes.
The referees made their presence felt in the second half, calling 31 fouls in the final 20 minutes. Xavier went into the bonus with 13:12 remaining. The Musketeers shot 25-for-29 from the free throw line.
UMass coach Steve Lappas picked up a technical with 8:58 left. Lappas was hit with the ``T'' after a collision between West and UMass' Jeff Viggiano warranted no whistle. West made both free throws to put the Musketeers up 63-47. Lappas claimed that what would and would not be called a foul was hazy to him.
``I expressed my confusion to the referee and he was not happy with me,'' Lappas said of his second technical in a week.
Xavier put the game away early in the second half with a 14-0 run. Ahead by just three points, the Musketeers scored six points off turnovers in the run. Finn knocked down a 3-pointer and made a pair of free throws. Sato added a 3-pointer, as well.
Down 38-31 at the break, UMass cut the deficit to three with a 6-2 run to start the second half. Rogers scored on a jump hook and made a pair of free throws to start the period.
Other than an early 4-4 tie, Xavier led throughout the first half, but the Minutemen kept the game within striking distance, never falling behind by double digits.
Finn led the way with 11 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting (3-of-3 from 3-pointers) in the first half. The point guard, who took over the starting job when All-Conference preseason third-team selection Lionel Chalmers broke his foot on New Year's Eve, took the Minutemen out of their box-and-one defense with his sharpshooting.
West scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first half. With injuries to Brand (ankle) and Lasme (wrist, ankle), UMass was forced to use its sixth starting lineup of the season.
UMass announced on Thursday that Lasme would miss at least three weeks with a fractured wrist and would be undergoing surgery on Friday morning. However, the swelling went down and the Abidjan, Ivory Coast, native decided to play through the pain and try to put off surgery until the offseason.
``He's a tough kid,'' Lappas said after Lasme played 19 minutes and scored nine points. ``He was going into (the lane) looking to make things happen.''
Brand played 10 minutes without scoring.
|Player of the Game
MHERST - On many occasions this season, the University of Massachusetts has had stretches - five, 10 minutes, sometimes a half - where it appears the Minutemen can compete with the best teams in college basketball. If those stretches extend to complete games, UMass may become a formidable opponent.
Until then, there will be games like last night's 86-73 Atlantic 10 loss to Xavier, which broke open a close game with a 13-0 run at the start of the second half, then held off a furious rally to drop the Minutemen to 6-10 overall and 0-4 in the A-10. It is UMass's worst league start since 1988-89.
The loss occurred despite the Minutemen shooting 50.9 percent from the floor, marking only the second time in the last 26 games that they lost when shooting at least 50 percent.
Guard Romain Sato had 24 points and six rebounds to overcome six turnovers, national player of the year candidate David West had 21 points and 11 boards, and guard Dedrick Finn added 21 points to lead Xavier (12-4, 3-1), which entered ranked 23d in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and left having scored the most points against the Minutemen this season.
Forward Jackie Rogers had a career-high 23 points, Gabe Lee a career-high 13 points, and Jeff Viggiano added 10 points for UMass, which played much of the game shorthanded. Center Micah Brand (sprained left ankle) played only 10 minutes, all in the first half. Freshman Michael Lasme (sprained right ankle, fractured right wrist) played 19 minutes and was key during the Minutemen's second-half run, but finished just 3 of 10 from the floor.
Still, Xavier never trailed and didn't manage a double-figure lead until the second half. UMass scored 22 points off the Musketeers' 18 turnovers (nearly five above their average) and outscored Xavier, 44-32, in the paint.
Yet despite shooting 56 percent in the first half, UMass still trailed, 38-31, at halftime, in part because the Minutemen missed all eight of their 3-point attempts (they finished 1 of 15). That, and several lapses that resulted in Xavier second-chance baskets and open looks on the perimeter for scores, contributed to the deficit.
''I thought our guys gave a great effort, but great effort doesn't always result in smart things happening out there,'' said UMass coach Steve Lappas. ''We made some mistakes that hurt us, and when you play a team like that you can't have mental mistakes.
''The first 10 minutes of the second half is when the game changed. It's hard to recover because they had the best two players on the court, and when you have that it gives you an advantage.''
Lappas's second-half reference was to the only stretch when Xavier clearly outplayed the Minutemen, and the result was a 13-0 run that gave the Musketeers their biggest lead, 55-37, with 15:19 remaining. Sato and West scored 5 points apiece during the run.
Initially, the Minutemen's attempts to trim the deficit were thwarted by Xavier matching their baskets or by occasional UMass breakdowns. Then, trailing, 66-49, with 8:05 to go, UMass began whittling away at Xavier's lead, attacking the Musketeers' interior and either scoring or getting fouled and converting at the line.
UMass cut the deficit to 70-59 on two free throws by Anthony Anderson with five minutes left. Xavier went back ahead by 14, then Lasme scored all 6 of his points during the Minutemen's best surge of the game, and UMass cut the lead to 78-71 with 1:55 to go.
''We knew they were going to make a run, because they're at home, and you have to protect your home floor,'' said West. ''We were up by 18 and then we may have had three or four straight turnovers. That was fuel for their fire. It gave them an opportunity to make some shots and cut the deficit in half.''
But the Minutemen got no closer. In fact, they didn't score again until Raheim Lamb's layup with 58 seconds left. Sato and Finn each hit two free throws before Lamb's basket and two more apiece afterward for the game's final points.
''We take it as a learning period, that we can play with anybody, but we just don't have enough experience, which is hard,'' said Lee.
|Jackie Rogers and Gabe Lee take turns going at David West.|
MHERST, Mass.- Xavier coaches and players predicted that victory at Massachusetts wouldn't be easy, even though the Minutemen were winless in the Atlantic 10 and were supposed to be without two starters going into Saturday's game.
The Musketeers were right about UMass's toughness, but the Minutemen are still without a conference win after Xavier converted key free throws late in the game and pulled away for an 86-73 victory in front of 4,067 at the Mullins Center.
Xavier, ranked 23rd in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll and playing in its first A-10 road game, moves to 3-1 in the conference and 12-4 overall. Massachusetts falls to 6-10 and 0-4.
The Musketeers will try to extend a three-game win streak Tuesday when they host Duquesne (7-10, 1-3) Tuesday at Cintas Center.
Xavier hardly got off to a roaring start Saturday. The Musketeers allowed UMass to shoot 56 percent in the first half, which is why Xavier's halftime lead was just 38-31.
"For whatever reason, we were sluggish to start the game defensively," coach Thad Matta said. "Offensively, I thought we made plays."
Xavier came out of the locker room after halftime and stepped up its defensive intensity. The Musketeers eventually built an 18-point lead, then withstood a UMass run in the final minutes.
Freshman point guard Dedrick Finn scored a career-high 21 points and keyed a 13-0 second-half run with back-to-back steals. One of the steals led to a pair of free throws by Finn. The other set up a Romain Sato 3-pointer.
"Dedrick Finn was tremendous," Matta said. "We've really challenged him to step up and run this team without Lionel (Chalmers). Those (steals) were big. He's quick and he reads the game well, and I thought that ignited us."
Chalmers remains out of the lineup until February while he recovers from foot surgery.
Sato scored 24 points and made eight of nine free throws, four in the last two minutes after UMass closed the margin to 78-71 with 1:55 to play.
Eighteen of Sato's points came in the second half, after UMass' defense focused on stopping him and David West in the first half.
"In the first half, I wasn't as aggressive," Sato said. "They were playing a box-and-one on me, and I was trying not to force anything. In the second half, I needed to help the team and pick up my game."
Sato made several shots in the lane while drawing contact from UMass defenders but did not get the call.
"I'm trying (to draw contact)," Sato said. "But if they don't call it, I'm going to fight through the contact."
Marcus Cox regained his starting job with Michael Lasme's injury, and contributed 8 points.
Sophomore center Gabe Lee started in Brand's place and scored a career-high 13 points while trying to get West in foul trouble. It didn't work. West committed only three fouls, scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his 57th career double-double.
The forward set a physical tone early in the game when he got Xavier out to a 4-0 lead by converting buckets after two straight offensive rebounds. He also made seven of eight free throws. Xavier made 25 of 29 free throws as a team.
The Musketeers' final eight points came from the free throw line.
"It was tight down the stretch," West said, "and we let them back in it. But it's a good road win."
UMass turned a double-digit Xavier lead into a six-point margin in the last five minutes by driving past Xavier defenders and forcing several Musketeer turnovers. Xavier committed 18 turnovers and had 14 assists, the type of disparity that has prompted concern throughout the season.
Once UMass got the lead into single digits, Matta switched Xavier's man defense to a 2-2-1 zone.
"We were struggling guarding them," Matta said. "And I thought (the zone) might slow them down and take them out of their rhythm. That's exactly what I was hoping for."
Matta's strategy worked. Massachusetts scored just two points in the final two minutes, ending any chance at a comeback win.
"It was tough, because we didn't get any breaks," said UMass forward Jeff Viggiano. "We'd go on a run, and they would push the lead back up."
MHERST - Sitting at the press-conference table after his team's third-straight defeat, University of Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas was torn.
He wasn't happy with the outcome or that his team had lost three straight games, but he found reasons for encouragement in his team's 86-73 loss to No. 23 (coaches poll) Xavier Saturday at the Mullins Center.
"I don't want them to be down," he said. "But I don't want to say moral victory because we want to get to the point, especially in this building, where we can beat anybody. Obviously we're not there yet. But I thought our guys gave a great effort. A great effort doesn't always result in smart things happening out there."
Michael Lasme played fearless, even after removing tape from his injured wrist in the second half.
Lasme's availability came as a surprise as he and Micah Brand returned to action for the Minutemen. Lasme played 19 minutes with his ankle and wrist injuries and scored six points off the bench.
"What can you say about that kid to go out there like that," Lappas said. "He was hurting. He got smacked on the hand again at one point with about five minutes to go. He's a tough kid. He still was driving in there looking to make things happen."
Brand played 10 minutes and didn't come off the bench in the second half.
"Micah was hobbling in the first half and stiffened up at halftime," Lappas said. "I didn't see the need to really push it. Hopefully, he'll be a lot better on Wednesday."
The Minutemen (6-10, 0-4 Atlantic 10) return to action Wednesday at 7 p.m. at La Salle.
The loss wasted career scoring highs from Jackie Rogers and Gabe Lee. Rogers scored 23 points on 6-of-7 shooting and made 11-of-12 free throws. Lee had 13 points many while being guarded by David West.
"When I play against anybody who is supposed to be the best in the country, I'm going to go at him full speed," Lee said.
Marcus Cox takes it to the hole.
"I thought he played very well," Lappas said. "I thought he gave us a lift. I would like him to not shoot as many 3s (0-for-4), but he did the things he can do. He slashed, he finished. He played a little point, little two, little three. That's what we want from him - some versatility."
The Minutemen might have been closer, or leading, at the break if they could have made 3-pointers or if Dedrick Finn hadn't.
UMass held Musketeer stars Romain Sato and West to six and eight points, respectively, in the first half. But the extra attention the duo received left Finn open, and he prospered.
Eleven of his career-high 21 came in the first half. He made all five shots he took from the field including four from behind the arc.
"We prepared all week. We knew they were going to try to take D-West and Sato out of the game," he said. "That just gave me an opportunity to step out and take open shots."
"Dedrick Finn was tremendous (Saturday)," Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "We knew coming in that they were going to maybe try some kind of junk defense against us. I thought he did a good job of recognizing what they were doing."
Finn's 3-point shooting was 93.3 percent better than the Minutemen's. UMass had several would-be 3s come close, but finished 1-for-15 (6.7 percent) from deep.
Finn's 3s took the Minutemen out of their zone that was designed to slow West and Sato.
"The plan was not to play man-to-man for 32 minutes, which we did," Lappas said. "It was the first time this year we really had to get away from what we were trying to do and try something else. That really put us on our heels."
West matched Finn's 21 and also snared 11 rebounds, but Sato dominated the second half, scoring 18 on his way to a game-high 24. He made four free throws in the last 1:37 to clinch to win.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.
MHERST - On the national scene, Xavier basketball is David West. He's the one whose likeness is a bobblehead and whose name is on the Naismith list of player-of-the-year candidates.
But while West did score 21 points and grab 11 rebounds Saturday against the University of Massachusetts, his performance was dwarfed by that of teammate Romain Sato.
The junior swingman from the Central African Republic, whose star stature has been growing, showed why. Spinning, twisting, fading and driving, Sato scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half.
UMass coach Steve Lappas said having two players who were both on the Atlantic 10 preseason all-first team is quite a luxury.
"We made some mistakes that hurt us. When you do that against a team like that, it's very hard to recover because they have two tremendous players," he said. "When you have the two best players on the court, that's a tremendous advantage. When they needed a basket, they had places to go and guys to get the ball to that are easy targets. Every time we looked like we could make a charge, one of those guys did something."
MUSKETEERS HONORED - West was named co-Atlantic 10 Player of the Week, partially for his efforts against the Minutemen, while freshman Dedrick Finn was named Rookie of the Week.
HISTORY MAKERS - With 21 points, Finn became the sixth UMass opponent to hit their season- or career-high against the Minutemen, joining Fordham's Anthonique Wilson (14), UConn's Rashad Anderson (16), Utah's Tim Frost (17), Rhode Island's Dawan Robinson (16), and Saint Joseph's Alexandre Sazanov (12).
TOUGH START - UMass' 0-4 record in Atlantic 10 play is their worst start in the conference since they went 0-6 in the 1988-89 season, John Calipari's first season in Amherst. That team finished 5-13 in league play.
George Washington is the A-10's only other winless team at 0-3. The Colonials play at Richmond, Tuesday before hosting the Minutemen on Saturday.
During a timeout, Steve Lappas found a moment to bark at the refs.
Lappas said it was hard to know what was a foul in the game.
"I was confused. I was quite confused," he said. "I expressed my confusion to the referee."
MISCELLANEOUS - The 86 points given up by the Minutemen were the most they've given up this season, passing the previous high of 84 by Indiana in the first game.
The game was UMass' 400th-ever A-10 game. George Washington also hit the four-century mark Saturday. Those are the only two schools to reach that milestone.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Official Basketball Box Score Xavier vs Massachusetts 01/18/03 6:00 p.m. at Amherst, MA (Mullins Center) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: Xavier (12- 4, 3- 1) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 25 JACKSON,Keith....... f 1-3 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 4 2 4 2 0 0 23 30 WEST,David.......... f 7-13 0-1 7-8 4 7 11 3 21 4 2 0 0 40 24 MYLES,Anthony....... c 4-10 0-0 2-2 3 3 6 4 10 3 5 1 0 29 10 SATO,Romain......... g 7-16 2-10 8-9 0 6 6 2 24 1 6 0 3 40 12 FINN,Dedrick........ g 5-5 4-4 7-8 1 2 3 3 21 2 3 0 1 40 32 CHRISTIANSEN,Keenan. 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 1 1 1 3 0 0 0 0 17 52 CAUDLE,Will......... 2-4 0-0 1-2 1 0 1 3 5 0 0 0 0 11 TEAM................ 3 3 Totals.............. 27-53 7-17 25-29 10 22 32 20 86 14 18 1 4 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 15-32 46.9% 2nd Half: 12-21 57.1% Game: 50.9% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 5-11 45.5% 2nd Half: 2-6 33.3% Game: 41.2% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 3-3 100 % 2nd Half: 22-26 84.6% Game: 86.2% 3,1
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts ( 6-10, 0- 4) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 02 ROGERS,Jackie....... f 6-7 0-0 11-12 3 3 6 4 23 1 3 0 2 31 22 VIGGIANO,Jeff....... f 4-9 0-4 2-7 1 3 4 2 10 3 1 2 2 34 04 LEE,Gabe............ c 6-10 0-2 1-3 0 0 0 4 13 1 1 2 2 31 12 ANDERSON,Anthony.... g 2-6 1-4 2-2 1 4 5 2 7 4 2 0 0 35 50 COX,Marcus.......... g 4-9 0-4 0-1 1 1 2 4 8 2 3 0 0 23 01 LASME,Michael....... 3-10 0-1 0-0 0 2 2 4 6 2 1 0 0 19 14 KOTARIDIS,Paco...... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 20 ONUORA,Arthur....... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 21 KOUYATE,Alassane.... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 34 LAMB,Raheim......... 3-3 0-0 0-0 3 1 4 4 6 0 2 0 1 14 40 BRAND,Micah......... 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 10 TEAM................ 2 2 Totals.............. 28-55 1-15 16-25 9 16 25 25 73 13 14 4 8 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 14-25 56.0% 2nd Half: 14-30 46.7% Game: 50.9% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 0-8 0.0% 2nd Half: 1-7 14.3% Game: 6.7% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 3-7 42.9% 2nd Half: 13-18 72.2% Game: 64.0% 4,1
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Officials: Bernard Clinton, Ron Tyburski, Wally Rutecki Technical fouls: Xavier-None. Massachusetts-TEAM. Attendance: 4067 Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total Xavier........................ 38 48 - 86 Massachusetts................. 31 42 - 73