PRINGFIELD - While yesterday's game between UMass and Lafayette marked the 111th birthday of basketball, there was little else for the 1,738 fans in attendance at the Springfield Civic Center to celebrate.
The Minutemen, who came back from a pair of 10-point deficits, missed two potential game-tying shots in the final seconds and lost to Lafayette, 54-52.
UMass (2-6) took its biggest lead at 52-48 with 2:14 left in the game, but the Leopards (3-5) ended the contest with a 6-0 run.
UMass shooting guard Marcus Cox missed both game-tying opportunities in his team's final two possessions. The UConn transfer misfired on a 10-footer from the baseline with 14.4 seconds left, then missed a fast-break layup with one second remaining.
``What kind of better opportunities can you get than those?'' UMass coach Steve Lappas asked of Cox' two looks.
But Lappas was more upset with Cox' five turnovers than his missed shots.
``He should not be turning the ball over,'' Lappas said of the former Huskies point guard, who has turned the ball over 11 times in the last two games.
The Minutemen had one chance to inbound the ball with three-tenths of a second remaining, but Leopards guard Winston Davis smacked the ball away as time ran out.
After a Micah Brand putback to start the second half cut the Lafayette lead to 29-28, the Leopards scored nine in a row, including four points from guard Andrew Pleick and a 3-pointer from guard Justin DeBerry.
Minutes later, UMass responded with an 8-0 run of its own, tying the game at 40 apiece. Point guard Anthony Anderson made a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to highlight the streak.
DeBerry led all scorers with 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-8 from behind the 3-point arc. Pleick chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds.
Six of Pleick's points came from the charity stripe.
The frontcourt carried UMass, as Brand led the way with 17 points and 13 rebounds and Rogers tossed in 15 points and grabbed eight boards. But the duo received no help from the backcourt.
``The perimeter play in this game was awful,'' Lappas said after Cox and freshman Michael Lasme combined at the two-guard for seven points on a 2-for-13 shooting performance. ``I don't even know who to play on the perimeter.''
Anderson, who carried the team with his 22-point performance in its win over Florida International a week ago, struggled as well. He shot 2-for-7 from the field for seven points.
``If Anthony Anderson plays well (yesterday) and plays well against Central Connecticut (a 46-45 UMass loss on Dec. 2), we aren't in this situation right now,'' Lappas said.
|Player of the Game
PRINGFIELD - Nothing's a given now. No lineup is sure to produce consistent results. No venue guarantees home-court advantage. No opponent should be considered an underdog.
Massachusetts' reeling men's basketball campaign took another major step backward yesterday with a 54-52 loss to a seemingly overmatched Lafayette team whose two previous wins had come against Ursinus and St. Peter's.
UMass (2-6) hadn't played in a week - its longest stretch between contests thus far this season - and was coming off a hard-fought win over Florida International. Lafayette was the second of five opponents on UMass's home schedule before its Atlantic 10 campaign begins, and the Minutemen wanted to begin a winning streak to create momentum after their poor start.
Instead, UMass reverted to poor outside shooting, sloppy ballhandling, and defensive lapses against the Leopards (3-5), who shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half, built double-digit leads in both halves, then made tough shots to prevail after UMass rallied.
The contest was played before a Civic Center crowd of 1,738 on the 111th anniversary of the birth of basketball.
UMass's second-year coach Steve Lappas, who turned around programs at Villanova and Manhattan, is not unfamiliar with such futility. That doesn't mean he finds it easy to stomach. He's angry and expects to make changes, but isn't certain what changes he should make.
Asked to what extent his players are angered by their start, Lappas said: ''I think that unfortunately for us, we're going to have some guys who are angry and some guys who are puzzled. You're better off angry, but [in this situation] you have a lot of young guys who are just stunned. We have a combination of anger and confusion.
''I'm both right now ... I know what we're not doing and what we need to do. There were a lot of things we could have done better that we did not do and we need to do. I'm really disappointed in our perimeter play. It definitely has been our Achilles' heel this year. We have to really go and do some serious soul-searching for us to get it right. To be honest, there is not an obvious move to make for [tomorrow night, when the Minutemen host Rider].''
Lafayette trailed, 52-48, with 2:03 left, but center Rob Dill scored 5 straight points - including a 3-point play after drawing UMass center Jackie Rogers' fifth foul - to put the Leopards ahead for good, 53-52.
With 16.2 seconds left, UMass guard Marcus Cox missed and the ball went out of bounds to Lafayette.
Guard Andrew Pleick added a free throw with 14.4 seconds remaining, and the Minutemen again botched attempts to score. Cox turned the ball over again with 6.4 seconds left and missed on a layup with 0.3 seconds left.
''It just came down to us stopping them, getting the rebound, and getting shots at the other end,'' said Lafayette guard Justin DeBerry, who scored a game-high 20 points. ''Even though we were down, it didn't feel like it was that much of a change in the game. I felt we were right there and that we would win the game the entire time.''
That's a mouthful from a player whose team frequently dribbled the ball out of bounds. Still, Lafayette's zone defense helped neutralize the Minutemen's most consistent players, Micah Brand (17 points, 13 rebounds) and Rogers (15 points, 8 rebounds).
UMass starting guards Cox and Anthony Anderson and reserve Michael Lasme were a combined 4 of 20 from the floor with 9 turnovers. They were the primary reason UMass shot 36 percent from the floor and failed to win despite outrebounding Lafayette, 37-25.
''I think that when we don't get shots and then when Anthony Anderson doesn't make shots, we get flustered, and that affects everyone on the team,'' said Lappas. ''It's a game-to-game thing. They know what they want to do and they want to win. Obviously, they don't know how.''
PRINGFIELD - As he sat facing the media in the postgame press conference following Saturday's 54-52 loss to Lafayette, University of Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas expressed a mix of anger and confusion about the current state of his team.
Micah Brand wrestles for control of the loose ball with Mike Farrell and Justin DeBerry.
"We're going to have some guys that are angry and some guys that are puzzled," Lappas said. "I'm both. I know what we're not doing and what we need to do to get it right. But it's not that simple. I am angry. No doubt about it. There were a lot of things that we could have done better that we need to do and we didn't do."
Senior big man Micah Brand said the Minutemen couldn't dwell on the game.
"It's obviously a disappointing loss," Brand said. "We have one day to learn from the mistakes we made in this game and get ready for the next game. We have to regroup as quickly as possible."
The Minutemen will try to do that tonight when they play host to Rider at the Mullins Center at 7 p.m.
The game wasted big numbers from Brand (17 points, 13 rebounds) and Jackie Rogers (15 points, eight rebounds). Justin DeBerry led Lafayette with 20 points.
The season-long struggle of the UMass guards continued as they hit just 4-of-20 shots against the Leopards' zone.
After turning the ball over six times against Florida International, Marcus Cox had five more while freshman Mike Lasme had four giveaways to go with an 0-for-8 shooting day.
Anthony Anderson didn't turn the ball over, but after seemingly finding his lost shooting stroke against FIU, it disappeared again as he hit just 2-of-7 shots.
"It was among the worst perimeter play I've ever had a team play on any team ever," Lappas said. "I've had some tough starts and some tough play, but the perimeter play in this game was absolutely awful."
Lappas wasn't sure what moves he'd make for Monday's game.
"I don't even know who to play on the perimeter to be honest," Lappas said. "There isn't even an obvious move to make for Monday. I'm really disappointed in our perimeter play. It's been our Achilles heel all season. We have to do some serious soul searching and evaluating of our guys to get it right. I get paid to get it right and we'll get it right."
Jackie Rogers looks for options along the baseline.
Rob Dill put back an offensive rebound to bring the Leopards within two. Turnovers by Cox and Jeff Viggiano burned two UMass chances and Dill's three-point play put the Leopards ahead 53-51 with 35.8 seconds left.
Cox missed while driving the baseline with 16.2 seconds left, forcing UMass to foul. Andre Pleick hit just one of two free throws to make it 54-52.
Lafayette had a foul to give and they used it with 8.6 seconds left. Lasme traveled on the inbound pass.
The Leopards tried to throw a fullcourt pass to beat UMass' press and overthrew it. But Pleick leaped and caught the ball as it was going out of bounds. He called timeout in midair with 5.4 seconds left.
The Minutemen stole the inbound pass and hurried the ball up the floor. Cox drove and missed, but the rebound went out of bounds off Lafayette's Mike Farrell with 0.3 seconds left. Off the inbound pass, UMass only had time for a tip in, but it didn't matter as Lafayette knocked the ball away to emerge with the win.
RIDER - The Broncos are 5-3 and arrive on a three-game winning streak consisting of wins over Delaware, Princeton and Coppin State. Point guard Jerry Johnson leads the team with 18.5 points and 3.8 assists per game.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.
PRINGFIELD - Just when it seemed like it had hit rock bottom, the University of Massachusetts found a power shovel and sank a little deeper.
Micah Brand had a good day (17 points, 13 rebounds) wasted in the loss.
You have to go back to a 70-69 loss to Division II Lowell in 1989 to find a loss as ugly as this one.
There were some unpleasant moments in UMass' first five losses, but at least those teams were all in the NCAA Tournament last year and have the potential to be there again in March. Lafayette isn't even guaranteed to advance to the second round of the Patriot League Tournament.
It's not like the Leopards played out of their heads either, making crazy circus shots. Lafayette was mediocre. The Leopards had several unforced turnovers with nobody guarding them.
UMass coach Steve Lappas expected improvement this season and his squad's obvious regression had him frustrated.
"It's a perplexing thing right now. I think we're better. But we need to play better. This was a very big disappointment. There's no doubt about it," he said. "When they don't make shots they get flustered. When the game starts every thing is fine. The problem is things happen in the game that we don't respond well to. We want to win, but obviously we don't know how."
It's hard to put heavy blame on a point guard that has turned the ball over once in the past two games, but when Anthony Anderson can't score the Minutemen go immediately out of sync.
It's unfortunate to put that much pressure on anyone, but it's a fact of life for UMass.
"If Anthony Anderson plays well today and against Central Connecticut, we're not in the same situation we're in right now," Lappas said. "We have certain positions on the team that need to be givens. If they're not givens, we're in trouble."
The other two perceived givens - big men Micah Brand and Jackie Rogers - were good Saturday, but the question marks - small forward and shooting guard - were bad. Nobody played well at either spot. The inability of Connecticut-transfer Marcus Cox to produce has become a serious concern, one that was exacerbated by freshman Mike Lasme's struggles Saturday.
Cox played well against Indiana and against UConn, but he's too often been a liability otherwise. In addition to struggling to score, he's been sloppy with the ball. He has 11 turnovers in the past two games and an ill-advised and unnecessary intentional foul.
"He should not be turning the ball over because he played a lot of point guard at UConn. I think he's capable of scoring 8-10 points a game and be solid with the ball," Lappas said. "He can make a couple of drives, make some foul shots and make good decisions and give us a little segue into Mike Lasme. That's what I would have envisioned."
It would have been a natural time to wonder if Lasme should become the starter, except he was equally off Saturday.
Kyle Wilson might get a chance to matter again. The Minutemen were a better basketball team when he was in the game. He was unspectacular, but steady, when the Minutemen went on their 10-0 run to get back into the game late in the first half.
Lappas' decision to make Raheim Lamb into a power forward has logic to it, but this was a guy who was UMass' best player against Indiana. He might have been worth a try yesterday at small forward.
Unless they get much better fast, this has the makings of a long winter because the opponents get better from here.
Lafayette lost to Drexel by 18, which would otherwise be just another loss to a mid-major. But because "You-know-who" is coaching Drexel and the general frustration in UMass fandom, that can't help.
It's not fair to skewer any coach until he's had at least three years. Don Cahoon looks like a miracle-worker with the UMass hockey team now, but a year ago that team won eight games.
But that won't stop an impatient, fickle fan base from starting the arrow-slinging, which can't help the team's focus any.
The Minutemen have hit a lot of bogies so far this season, in this case a double-bogey through the sand trap. Without a few birdies soon, the season will be lost in a hurry.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Micah Brand gets up a little too early on Jamie Hughes.
Steve Lappas tries to get an explanation for the whistle.
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Gabe Lee gets a friendly roll off the short shot. (file size = 1.5mb)
UMass moves the ball around and finds Anthony Anderson for the open 3. (3.9mb)
Jackie Rogers stays with the play and converts a blocked shot into two points. (2.7mb)
Micah Brand with the offensive rebound and basket. (2.7mb)
The defense collapses on Jeff Viggiano, leaving Rogers unattended. (2.2mb)
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|at the Springfield Civic Center|
Official Basketball Box Score Lafayette vs Massachusetts 12/21/02 1:00 p.m. at Springfield,MA (Sprngfld Civic Center) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: Lafayette ( 3- 5) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 40 FARRELL,Mike........ f 4-5 0-1 0-1 1 3 4 1 8 1 2 0 1 32 33 DILL,Rob............ c 4-6 0-0 1-1 2 0 2 4 9 0 2 0 1 23 10 DEBERRY,Justin...... g 8-14 4-8 0-0 1 3 4 1 20 5 0 0 1 38 12 PLEICK,Andrew....... g 2-5 0-3 6-8 1 5 6 2 10 3 6 0 3 37 21 DAVIS,Winston....... g 3-13 1-9 0-2 0 5 5 1 7 4 3 1 1 39 03 DAWSON,Drew......... 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 04 BETLEY,Pat.......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 44 CAPUSAN,Andrei...... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 7 54 HUGHES,Jamie........ 0-2 0-0 0-2 1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3 0 18 TEAM................ 2 2 Totals.............. 21-46 5-22 7-14 6 19 25 14 54 13 14 4 7 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 12-23 52.2% 2nd Half: 9-23 39.1% Game: 45.7% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-8 25.0% 2nd Half: 3-14 21.4% Game: 22.7% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 3-5 60.0% 2nd Half: 4-9 44.4% Game: 50.0% 4
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts ( 2- 6) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 00 MARTIN,Brennan...... f 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 12 02 ROGERS,Jackie....... f 6-9 0-0 3-4 5 3 8 5 15 1 1 0 1 30 40 BRAND,Micah......... c 7-13 0-0 3-4 5 8 13 1 17 3 2 0 1 34 12 ANDERSON,Anthony.... g 2-7 1-4 2-2 0 2 2 4 7 3 0 0 2 35 50 COX,Marcus.......... g 2-5 0-0 1-2 0 1 1 3 5 1 5 0 0 24 01 LASME,Michael....... 0-8 0-5 2-2 2 2 4 1 2 1 4 0 1 23 04 LEE,Gabe............ 1-4 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 13 11 WILSON,Kyle......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 6 22 VIGGIANO,Jeff....... 1-5 1-5 1-2 1 2 3 2 4 2 2 0 0 21 34 LAMB,Raheim......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 TEAM................ 3 1 4 1 Totals.............. 19-53 2-16 12-16 17 20 37 18 52 13 16 1 5 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 9-30 30.0% 2nd Half: 10-23 43.5% Game: 35.8% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 1-8 12.5% 2nd Half: 1-8 12.5% Game: 12.5% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 7-10 70.0% 2nd Half: 5-6 83.3% Game: 75.0% 2,2
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Officials: Joe DeMayo, Eric Dean Anderson, David Walker Technical fouls: Lafayette-None. Massachusetts-None. Attendance: 1738 Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total Lafayette..................... 29 25 - 54 Massachusetts................. 26 26 - 52