he Massachusetts men's basketball team can probably assume that three positive things will come out of what coach Steve Lappas has called the strangest week he's experienced in 20 plus years as a college headman.
First, Lappas was able to get some recruiting done during the middle of this week, something he doesn't get to do too much during the season.
Second, the Maroon and White (11-16, 6-9 Atlantic 10) will almost definitely become immortalized as a Trivial Pursuit answer to the question, "What Atlantic 10 program was set to host St. Bonaventure's men's basketball team on March 5, 2003, before the Bonnies called off their season with two regular season games to go?"
Finally, and most importantly, the forfeit win clinched a first round home matchup for the Minutemen in the first round of the A-10 Tournament on Monday.
Otherwise, tomorrow's game against Saint Joseph's (21-5, 11-4 A-10) could have been a huge contest for the Minutemen. It could very well have been for the right to host a home playoff game on Monday.
Instead, UMass will celebrate Senior Day for its two captains, forwards Jackie Rogers and Micah Brand, while trying to get back on track before Monday's second-season opener.
Rogers, who transferred to UMass from junior college before the 2000-2001 season, leads the Minutemen in scoring (12.7 points) and rebounding (5.5 boards). Brand, meanwhile, is forth on the team in points (7.5) and third in rebounding (4.1).
While Senior Day normally marks the last time a player will compete on his home court, Rogers and Brand will get one more game at the Mullins Center - Monday's playoff contest against either George Washington or Duquesne. The two squads are currently tied for fifth place in the A-10 West Division. The fifth-place team will place against the Minutemen on Monday night.
Though the Minutemen are playing a game Saturday, two other games will actually affect of their destiny more than their own. GW will host Fordham, which had just one conference win before the St. Bonaventure fiasco upped its total to three, while Duquesne will host Rhode Island.
As for the matchup with St. Joe's, the Minutemen won't have to deal with the Hawks leading scorer, Delonte West (18.5 ppg), whose team has already clinched the A-10 East Division title. West, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right fibula, will sit out the contest in hopes of resting it for the playoffs.
West dropped 19 on the Minutemen in their first meeting, a 76-47 loss at SJU Fieldhouse on Jan. 11. It could have been more, but the sophomore played just 28 minutes because of the insurmountable lead.
While West will be out of action, UMass will still have to worry about his backcourt mate, and Preseason All-Conference First-Team Selection, Jameer Nelson. Nelson, who scored 12 points and dished out eight assists in the win, currently ranks sixth in the A-10 in scoring (18.3 points), just behind West, and third in assists (4.96).
The Minutemen are coming off a loss at Rhode Island that saw them give up a nine-point half time lead and eventually fall 65-58. Brand led UMass with 18 points, including a 10 for 10 performance from the free throw line.
MHERST - In the standings, the game means nothing.
Neither teams' place in the Atlantic 10 standings can change. Win or lose, Saint Joseph's is in first and is pretty much all set for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, if they don't win the A-10 Tournament, and the University of Massachusetts has no chance for an at large-bid and is locked into fourth place.
So on paper, Saturday's 1 p.m. contest at the Mullins Center doesn't matter. But both teams are coming off losses and are looking to gain momentum heading into next week's A-10 Tournament.
"We need something right now to get rolling going into the tournament," junior point guard Anthony Anderson said.
"It's another chance for us to get a little better," said UMass coach Steve Lappas. "(It's) another chance for our young guys to play against a good team."
The game will feature the annual Senior Day trappings as big men Micah Brand and Jackie Rogers will be honored prior to the game.
Anderson said sending them out winners is an added incentive.
"It's Senior Day. On your Senior Day you want to win, so you try to get a win for the people that are leaving this year," Anderson said.
This will not be the final home game for Brand and Rogers, however, as the Minutemen will host somebody Monday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the A-10 Tournament. Their opponent will be George Washington (which plays host to Fordham at 2 p.m.) or Duquesne (which plays host to Rhode Island at 4 p.m.), but the Minutemen won't find out until later in the afternoon Saturday.
UMass will play the Colonials if they win or Duquesne loses. The Minutemen will get the Dukes if Fordham upsets GW and Duquense upsets Rhode Island.
Lappas said even on Saturday he will have an eye on the postseason.
"We certainly want to play well and win the game. We're trying to improve, especially on the offensive end of the floor," he said. "But obviously the most important thing is for us to be ready for Monday."
St. Joe's arrives in Amherst of the heels of a near upset over No. 11 Xavier, Wednesday at home, despite playing without leading scorer Delonte West (18.5 points per game). The Musketeers prevailed 88-80 in overtime despite 33 points by Saint Joseph's point guard Jameer Nelson.
The Hawks didn't need extra time to dispatch the Minutemen earlier this year at Hawk Hill as St. Joe's hammered UMass, 76-47, on Jan. 11. The Hawks' perimeter pressured the Minuteman guards into a season-high 26 turnovers.
"We know they pressure a lot," Anderson said. "Last time was kind of early in the year and they kind of shocked us. We'll be ready for it this time."
Brand was the one Minuteman in double figures with 10 points.
West, who led the Hawks with 19 points in that game, is questionable for the rematch. He's suffering from a stress fracture in his foot and with no tangible gain possible from a win, coach Phil Martelli might save him for the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
NOTES: Jeff Viggiano will become the first UMass true freshman to start 20 or more games in a season since 1989-90 when Tony Barbee and Harper Williams both did. ... The Hawks lead the nation in field goal percentage defense (.368) and are No. 3 in scoring defense at 59.5 points per game.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MHERST -- Saint Joseph's 52-49 victory over UMass yesterday should have been played in the Twilight Zone instead of the Mullins Center, because when the coaches spoke afterward, one had to wonder if they saw the same game.
Gabe Lee contorts his way to the hoop.
That was Phil Martelli, the coach of the winning team, Saint Joseph's, which improved to 12-4 in the Atlantic 10 and 22-5 overall.
Martelli saw his team fall apart in the second half, shooting 4 of 21 from the floor and not making a field goal in the final 12 minutes 37 seconds, and nearly being forced to overtime when freshman Jeff Viggiano's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer clanged off the rim.
''This is as concerned as I've been all year because this is as bad as we've played all year,'' said Martelli. ''I don't understand that get-it-out-of-your-system stuff. All I know is we're going to have to practice our [butts] off [tomorrow] because our performance here doesn't bode well for what we are about to face.''
Martelli's UMass counterpart, Steve Lappas, wasn't thrilled that his team lost, finishing the regular season with a 6-10 A-10 record and 11-17 overall mark. However, he saw some encouraging signs.
''The guys gave a tremendous effort,'' said Lappas. ''What can I say about our defense? We lead the league in defending against the 3-point shot.'' UMass held Saint Joseph's to 3 for 20 from outside the arc.
''One thing about these guys this year,'' Lappas added, ''we cannot fault their effort. This is what we are. We are going to scratch and claw and play hard. Some time when we make some baskets and play the defense we do, we'll win some games. We've got to make some baskets.''
Junior guard Jameer Nelson was everywhere for the Hawks, who were without Nelson's running mate, Delonte West, who has been bothered by a stress fracture in his right fibula.
Nelson scored a game-high 28 points, making 15 of 20 free throws. He was also a factor on the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds, including seven offensive.
Three UMass guards - Michael Lasme, Anthony Anderson, and Marcus Cox - fouled out trying to guard Nelson, forcing Lappas to bring walk-on and crowd favorite Paco Kotaridis in for the final seconds.
''Maybe sometime in my career I played a walk-on player when the game was on the line, but I honestly can't remember,'' said Lappas. ''If that shot when in at the buzzer, that kid would have played the entire overtime because I had nobody else to play.''
Anderson, who fouled out with 21 seconds to play, kept the Minutemen in the game. In the first half, when UMass was held to 17 points - the Minutemen's worst opening 20 minutes of the season - Anderson had 13. He finished with a team-high 18 points.
''There was a lot of hand checking called that probably shouldn't have been called,'' said Anderson.
Lappas also wasn't happy with the officiating. ''I don't think we got many whistles in this game,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes. It changes game to game.''
But it wasn't the officiating that cost UMass a victory. ''Except for Anderson, we got 5 points from our perimeter players,'' said Lappas. ''That's not going to do it. If you told me what we would do today, I would have figured that we would have been destroyed.''
All UMass can do now is prepare for tomorrow's first-round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Saint Joseph's, which doesn't play its first tournament game until Thursday, has time to regroup and give West a chance to heal. ''We're practicing Tuesday and he will be reevaluated and we're hoping he'll be able to practice. We're expecting that he'll be able to play on Thursday,'' said Martelli.
And don't tell Martelli that yesterday's game was meaningless, as was suggested by some before tipoff. ''How can you call it meaningless? You only play 27 games a season. That's not many,'' he said. ''You have to take advantage of everyone. You're only young once. You have to maximize your opportunities and we didn't maximize our opportunities today.''
Despite the win, its must have been a long ride home to Philadelphia for the Hawks.
fter Saint Joseph demolished the Massachusetts men's basketball team, 76-47, in their first matchup on Jan. 11 on Hawk Hill, many pointed out that SJU point guard Jameer Nelson had Anthony Anderson's number.
In that contest, Nelson scored 12 and dished out eight assists while holding Anderson to just five points while making five turnovers.
In Saturday's regular season finale, however, Anderson held his own, but Nelson beat the entire UMass team (11-17, 6-10 Atlantic 10) with a game-high 28-point performance in 39 minutes of play.
Anderson scored 13 of UMass' first 14 points and 18 for the game, but it wasn't enough as Saint Joseph's won the contest 52-49 and improved to 22-5 (12-4 A-10).
With seven seconds left and UMass down by six, freshman Jeff Viggiano drove to the lane and was fouled by John Bryant. Viggiano made his first attempt from the foul line, and his second shot came off the rim. Senior Jackie Rogers grabbed the offensive rebound for the easy putback to cut the deficit to three with five seconds remaining.
After a UMass timeout, Viggiano stole the Hawks' inbound pass in the corner and heaved a desperate 3-point attempt that clanked off the rim at the buzzer.
"I was at the baseline," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "I saw it coming. I thought it had a chance."
The Minutemen trailed throughout the second half, but stayed within striking distance the whole way, thanks to a terrible 4-for-21 performance from the Hawks in the second half.
"That's as bad as we've played all year," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "Offensively, that's discouraging. That's not good basketball at all."
But the Hawks were able to hold off the Minutemen thanks to 27 second-half free throws. Nelson was the main beneficiary, shooting 15-for-20 from the charity stripe.
In fact, Nelson drew so many fouls - knocking out Anderson and backcourt mates Marcus Cox and Mike Lasme - that Lappas had to play junior walk-on Paco Kotaridis for the final minute of the game.
"I can't think of the last time I had to play a walk-on player in a game we were still trying to win," said Lappas, who coached four years at Manhattan and nine at Villanova before coming to UMass prior to last season.
The game had no bearing on the Atlantic 10 standings, as Saint Joseph's had already clinched the East Division title before the game and the Minutemen were guaranteed the fourth seed in the conference tournament.
MHERST - University of Massachusetts freshman guard Jeff Viggiano had a chance to make up for a miserable shooting performance Saturday with a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime against St. Joseph's.
Senior Alexandre Sazonov intimidates first-year player Gabe Lee under the basket.
"I saw it coming. It had a chance," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "No doubt I was thinking it had a chance."
In a game that had no baring on the Atlantic 10 standings, the Minutemen finished the season at 11-17 (6-10, fourth in A-10 East). UMass will next face George Washington tonight at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center in the first round of the A-10 Tournament.
"I'm upset, but I've got to get ready to get these kids ready for (today)," Lappas said. "I want them to feel proud of what they did tonight so they come out (today) with some confidence."
St. Joseph's (22-5, 12-4) heads into the tournament with a first-round bye and will play host to Fordham or La Salle Thursday at 12:05 p.m.
The Hawks earned the victory despite a field goal drought that lasted the final 13:05 of regulation. Junior guard Jameer Nelson did his best to compensate for his team's lackluster effort with game-highs of 28 points, 12 rebounds and five steals. He pulled down seven offensive boards to keep numerous Hawks' scoring chances alive and was 15-for-20 from the foul line, all coming in the second half.
"I'm really disappointed in that performance," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "Offensively, that's discouraging. It's discouraging to play that poorly. No field goals in the last 12 or 13 minutes of the game, that's not good basketball at all."
In their final regular-season games for UMass, senior forward Jackie Rogers scored 13 points with a team-high six boards while senior center Micah Brand had 11 and three, respectively. Junior guard Anthony Anderson led the Minutemen with 18 points and four steals.
Anthony Anderson breaks away from the Hawk defense.
For St. Joe's, Nelson paced the offense with 13 first-half points. Pat Carroll finished with six on two 3-pointers.
"We've had some pretty good defensive games during the season," Brand said. "We definitely did a great job. We know they have the best 3-point shooter in the country (in Carroll) and he only hit two 3s and was 2-for-10 (in total shots)."
Of the game's first six baskets, five were from beyond the arc. St. Joe's held a 23-17 lead at halftime.
Rob Fucci can be reached at email@example.com.
|Saint Joseph's Hawks||52|
|Atlantic 10 Tournament, First Round|
at the Mullins Center
OFFICIAL BASKETBALL BOX SCORE -- G A M E T O T A L S St. Joseph's vs Massachusetts 03/08/03 12:00 p.m. at Amherst, MA (Mullins Center) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: St. Joseph's (22- 5, 12- 4) 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 33 CARROLL,Pat f 2-10 2-8 0-0 0 3 3 3 6 2 2 0 0 32 40 MALLON,Dave f 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 9 51 SAZONOV,Alexandre c 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 2 0 2 1 0 13 12 BARLEY,Tyrone g 3-7 0-1 1-1 0 3 3 5 7 2 1 0 2 27 14 NELSON,Jameer g 6-18 1-6 15-20 7 5 12 2 28 2 4 1 5 39 01 COLOGER,Chris 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 3 05 LEE,Dwayne 2-4 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 4 0 2 0 0 16 13 STACHITAS,Chet 0-4 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 11 21 JONES,Dwayne 0-1 0-0 3-4 2 5 7 2 3 0 1 2 0 23 34 BRYANT,John 0-2 0-0 2-2 2 3 5 4 2 0 0 0 0 27 TEAM ........................................ 3 0 3 TOTALS 14-50 3-20 21-27 15 21 36 20 52 6 13 4 7 200
TOT-FG 1stH: 10-29 34.5% 2ndH: 4-21 19.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 28.0% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 3-11 27.3% 2ndH: 0-9 00.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 15.0% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 0-0 00.0% 2ndH: 21-27 77.8% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 77.8% 3, 2
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts (11-17, 6-10) 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 02 ROGERS,Jackie f 6-11 0-0 1-2 2 4 6 4 13 1 4 0 0 20 22 VIGGIANO,Jeff f 1-10 0-6 1-2 1 3 4 3 3 2 3 1 2 32 40 BRAND,Micah c 3-7 2-2 3-4 0 3 3 2 11 2 0 1 1 27 01 LASME,Michael g 0-3 0-3 2-2 1 3 4 5 2 2 4 0 1 27 12 ANDERSON,Anthony g 5-8 3-6 5-9 1 4 5 5 18 2 3 1 4 39 00 MARTIN,Brennan 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 04 LEE,Gabe 1-3 0-0 0-2 2 2 4 0 2 0 2 2 0 26 14 KOTARIDIS,Paco 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+ 50 COX,Marcus 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 5 0 3 3 0 1 25 TEAM ........................................ 1 2 3 TOTALS 16-44 5-17 12-21 9 24 33 24 49 12 19 5 9 200
TOT-FG 1stH: 5-21 23.8% 2ndH: 11-23 47.8% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 36.4% Deadbl 3pt-FG 1stH: 3-12 25.0% 2ndH: 2-5 40.0% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 29.4% Rebs FThrow 1stH: 4-9 44.4% 2ndH: 8-12 66.7% OT: 0-0 00.0% Game: 57.1% 5
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OFFICIALS: Rich San Fillipo, David Walker, D.J. Cartensen TECHNICAL FOULS: St. Joseph's - none Massachusetts - none ATTENDANCE: 3,563 SCORE BY PERIODS: 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 OT3 OT4 TOTAL St. Joseph's 23 29 52 Massachusetts 17 32 49