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MHERST - After spending most of January trying to end one streak, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team will try to continue a new one at 7 tonight at the Mullins Center when it hosts Fordham.
Coming off a 66-65 win over Temple that saw the Minutemen build and then blow a 23-point lead only to win in the final minute, UMass will try to feed off the positive energy.
''Who knows? Maybe all we need is a win like that,'' said sophomore forward Jeff Viggiano. ''Maybe that will get the ball rolling.'' On paper Fordham looks like a good opponent for a team needing a win.
The Rams (4-12, 1-4 Atlantic 10) are struggling, as they have been for most of the past decade. Fordham's four victories are as many as it had all last year.
New coach Dereck Whittenburg has been frustrated by his talent, but not the effort.
''We're nowhere near being an Atlantic 10 team. We're like on one leg, out there trying to battle,'' said Whittenburg, who took over for Bob Hill. ''We've been in every game. We've had a chance. As soon as we get a lot of adversity, it seeps in and we can't recover.
''We probably only have about four Division I players and Michael Haynes and Mark Jarrell-Wright are the only Atlantic 10 athletes we have right now. It's really not a good basketball team. But we've shown at times that we'll play hard. We've got some structure going. Our defense has kept us in the game. Our offense is the one that's hurt us.''
Haynes is exempt from that criticism. The 6-foot-7 senior swingman who can play either forward spot leads the team with 15 points per game to go along with 6.8 rebounds.
Fellow senior Mark Jarrell-Wright has battled injuries this year but had returned and is averaging 13.2 points per game.
Lappas isn't taking Fordham lightly as the Minutemen have split with the Rams each of the past two seasons.
''We're going to have our hands full with these guys,'' Lappas said. ''The thing they're weak at is something that is hard for us to take advantage of right now because we're small. They get outrebounded regularly.''
UMass is small because junior center Gabe Lee is out for the season, which has moved Viggiano, a small forward, to power forward.
He said the transition has been easier on offense than on defense.
''On defense it's a little bit difficult because the guys are so much stronger. But on offense it's easier to go around them,'' Viggiano said. ''Now I look to drive to the hoop more rather than sitting out at the perimeter and bombing away.''
Fordham, like most teams in the A-10, doesn't have a lot of size.
''They might have an inch or two on me and a couple of pounds, but I think I'm strong enough to hold my own with them,'' Viggiano said. ''I'm just happy I can be a versatile player and help the team out. I just like being out there. I love to play.''
NOTES: The game will mark the return to the Mullins Center of former UMass crowd favorite Ross Burns. The ex-walk-on from Greenfield is an assistant coach at Fordham.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MHERST - For the last two games, at least, UMass seems to have pushed its troubles into the background by flat-out shooting the basketball.
Art Bowers gets crafty on Drew Williamson, who whacks him in the head.
Rashaun Freeman posted his eighth double-double of the year for UMass with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Art Bowers added 18 points, eight assists and seven boards, while Anthony Anderson (14) and Jeff Viggiano (11) also reached double figures for the Minutemen (7-11, 2-5 Atlantic 10).
For Fordham (4-13, 1-5), Michael Haynes posted game highs in points (28) and rebounds (12).
``We had an unbelievable first half, but a mediocre second half with some bad turnovers,'' said UMass coach Steve Lappas, whose Minutemen won their second straight since a seven-game losing streak. ``We have to play this efficiently on offense without turning the ball over. I think our guys are enjoying what they're doing right now.''
Bowers scored 14 points in a first half that saw UMass take a 41-25 lead.
The fact that they committed 11 turnovers kept the Minutemen from enjoying a 20-point lead or better at the half.
Bowers, who accounted for the game-winning 3-pointer with 32 seconds left on Saturday that finished off Temple, scored eight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, in a 10-0 run that put the Minutemen ahead, 15-8.
Leading 20-15, the Minutemen then went off on an 11-1 run, capped by a four-point play from Viggiano, who drained a 3 as he was floored by Fordham's Dominic Osei and then sank the free throw for a 31-16 lead. Bowers closed the half with a 3-pointer and a fast-break layup off an Anthony Anderson pass to make it 41-25.
A pair of 7-0 runs, 11 quick points by Haynes and a Derrick Breland 3-pointer allowed the Rams to close to within 49-45 at the 11:59 mark of the second half. Bowers answered with a trey of his own and Chris Chadwick made four free throws to push the Minutemen advantage back out to 56-45.
The Minutemen led by seven, 70-63, with 3:36 left, before Haynes scored in traffic, Jermaine Anderson hit a floater in the lane and Breland made one of two at the free throw line to cut it to 70-68.
A held ball on Breland's missed free throw gave UMass possession, and Freeman scored with 52 seconds left for a four-point lead.
UMass made four more foul shots in the last 34 seconds to seal the victory.
The Minutemen's season-high 59.5 percent shooting from the field (25-of-42) beat their previous best of 55.8 percent, which was set on Saturday at the Mullins Center against Temple.
UMass took only 16 shots from the floor in the second half, but made nine of those attempts. . . .
Freeman's double-double was his third in the last four games. . . .
With three blocked shots against the Rams, UMass remained atop the Atlantic 10 with an average of 5.67 blocks per game. . . .
Haynes came off the Fordham bench to record his game highs in points and rebounds. . . .
Fordham assistant coach Ross Burns, a Greenfield native, played at UMass as a walk-on from 1996-99.
'm trying to picture the 2005-06 version of Rashaun Freeman and I can't.
It's been so long since the University of Massachusetts has had a player this good this young that it's truly hard to imagine how much better he could some day be.
In a frustrating season, Freeman has been a consistent bright spot for the Minutemen.
His biggest play in Wednesday night's game came with under a minute left when he turned a two-point lead into a two-possession game with a spin move that fooled Fordham center Mushon Ya'akosi and gave the Minutemen at 72-68 lead. ''Freeman made some big shots for them,'' said Fordham coach Dereck Whittenburg, the newest member of Freeman's growing collection of admirers. ''For a (rookie) I thought that was tremendous.''
But it was the play immediately after that basket that most reflected the 6-foot-9 sophomore rookie's development.
Fordham hurried the ball down the court and got it to Derrick Breland for a 3-point attempt. The ball skipped off the rim toward the right baseline. Ya'akosi, who resembles Andre the Giant on the Atkins Diet, tried to fight for the offensive rebound but never got near it.
Freeman boxed him out perfectly and hauled in his 10th board of the night.
A good box out is hardly newsworthy, but Freeman's struggles on the defensive end earlier this year had been significant despite being overshadowed by his standout offense.
But in the past few games, Freeman has gone from a substandard defender to a rapidly improving one and while he isn't perfect boxing out yet, he's drastically improved.
It shouldn't be surprising. This is a kid who had to sit out his freshman year for academics and now takes considerable pride in the success he's achieved in the classroom.
Despite playing no organized basketball a year ago, Freeman already looks polished offensively. He's adapted quickly to teams designing their defenses around stopping him and has continued to score consistently.
It's that capacity to improve that makes the prospect for his future so tantalizing.
But what makes Freeman truly stand out is his ability to score on the block.
His array of drop steps, fakes and pivot moves are so advanced for a first-year collegiate player. He can score spinning, fading and driving and lately has been effective finishing baseline drives with a reverse layup.
Freeman looks comfortable utilizing those moves even with the game on the line as he's called for the ball down the stretch at the end of UMass' victories Saturday and Wednesday night.
He's had to carry a heavy burden for a first year player as UMass' most reliable offensive option. If Freeman doesn't score, the Minutemen will have a hard time winning on most nights.
But he seems unaffected by the responsibility. Even though he's a lock to wrap up the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors, he doesn't seem too satisfied with his own play.
In the press conference following Wednesday night's win, he was asked about his key basket that gave the Minutemen breathing room. But he wanted to make sure he took the blame for ones he didn't make before accepting any credit.
''I took a couple of shots I shouldn't have taken,'' Freeman said. ''But that last shot, I just felt comfortable and it went in and it was a big boost for us.''
Even against ranked teams, when the rest of the team has struggled and the Minutemen lost - Texas Tech (18 points), UConn (15) and Saint Joseph's (17) - Freeman has still been effective. He's scored in double figures in 16 of 18 games and has eight double-doubles.
His share might continue to increase as Freeman likely has three seasons remaining after this year (he's eligible to earn last year back). It's not a stretch to think he'll be a contender for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
I can't quite envision it yet, but it could be fun to watch.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.
he blown lead was smaller and the final margin of victory was more comfortable this time. Artie Bowers was still a hero, but not quite as dramatically as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's 76-60 win over Fordham Thursday followed a script similar to the last game.
Four days after the Minutemen lost a 23-point second-half lead against Temple but battled back to win, UMass nearly blew a 16-point lead against the Rams, but escaped again.
''I see us getting better,'' UMass coach Steve Lappas said. ''That's the most important thing. We're improving. We're getting better as a team and better as individuals. It's fun to see.''
With 1 minute and 21 seconds remaining and UMass clinging to a 70-67 lead, Fordham guard Derrick Breland drove into the lane and got a shot off despite being fouled by Chris Chadwick. The ball nearly went in, which would have given the Rams a chance to tie the game with the ensuing free throw, but it bounced off the side.
Instead Breland made the first and missed the second of his free throws. Fordham nearly recovered the offensive rebound, but Rashaun Freeman tied up the ball and the possession arrow gave it to the Minutemen.
At the other end, UMass got Freeman the ball on the block. He spun around on Ram center Mushon Ya'akosi and dropped in a baseline fade-away that put the Minutemen ahead 72-68 with 52 seconds left.
UMass hit enough free throws down the stretch to escape with the victory.
''We knew they were going to make a run,'' senior guard Anthony Anderson said. ''We needed to make a couple stops here and there.''
UMass (7-11, 2-5 Atlantic 10) will return to action at noon Saturday at Rhode Island.
Freeman had 12 points and seven rebounds in the second half to lead the Minutemen and finished with 18 points and 10 boards.
Bowers followed his breakout game against Temple with another strong performance with 18 points, seven rebounds and a career-high eight assists.
Anderson and Jeff Viggiano scored 14 and 11 points respectively.
Michael Haynes led Fordham's comeback with 21 second-half points and finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds.
The Minutemen spent most of the game running motion offense, which Lappas prefers but has used sporadically in his three seasons at UMass. But with the smaller lineup necessitated by the loss of Gabe Lee, it's become a more natural system.
Freeman was the biggest beneficiary of the change because with four Fordham defenders committed to the perimeter, he had more room to operate inside.
''He's tough to guard when he has that kind of space,'' Lappas said. ''That's something that he really thrives on.''
After hitting the game-winning shot against Temple Saturday, Bowers led the Minutemen's first-half surge last night scoring 14 points prior to intermission, pacing UMass' 61.5 percent shooting in the half.
When Fordham committed more defensive attention to him in the second half, Bowers drove to the basket and was effective dishing the ball to open teammates.
''I got out to a good start so I figured they'd play more intense on me,'' he said. ''When I got into the lane I tried to just create or kick it.''
NOTES: The Minutemen survived 21 turnovers including an abundance of traveling calls. ... The Minutemen shot 59.5 percent, which was a season high. ... Former Minuteman Micah Brand was in attendance.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ver the five-game stretch that opened the Massachusetts men's basketball team's Atlantic 10 conference schedule, the Minutemen seemingly found five different ways to lose.
Jeff Viggiano tries to get over Fordham big man Mushon Ya-akosi.
After downing Temple 66-65 to post its first league victory despite blowing a 22-point lead, UMass again raced out to a double-digit lead last night, and again had to hang on down the stretch, this time outlasting Fordham 76-70 before 2,988 at the Mullins Center.
The Minutemen (7-11 2-5 A-10) return to action Saturday afternoon, as they will travel to Kingston, Rhode Island for a 1 pm tip-off with URI at the Ryan Center.
"I think our guys are enjoying what they're doing right now, because they sure look like it to me," Lappas said. "We had an unbelievable first half and a mediocre second half, but still made the right plays when we needed to down the stretch to pick up a win."
Mike Haynes led all scorers with 28 points, while the backcourt combination of Mark Jarrell-Wright and Derrick Breland chipped in with 12 points and 10 points, respectively for the Rams (4-13 1-5 A-10).
On the UMass side, it was again the youngsters that came up big as Art Bowers had 18 points and eight assists while Rashaun Freeman tossed in 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Junior captain Anthony Anderson (14 points) and sophomore forward Jeff Viggiano (11 points) were also in double figures for the Minutemen.
"We've got three freshman and a sophomore out there, a lot of new guys," Lappas said. "I see them getting better, and that to me is the most important thing, that we're improving."
"We're getting better as a team, we're getting better as individuals and it's fun to see," he said.
Stephane Lasme and Ya-akosi battle for the rock.
Nonetheless, Fordham would not go away, as five more points from Haynes and a pair of buckets from guard Mark Jarrell-Wright helped the Rams climb back to within six at 66-60 with under five minutes left.
Haynes then answered a Freeman basket when the sophomore made the first of a one-and-one situation, before grabbing the rebound of his missed second shot and converting a lay-up to make the score 68-63.
Freeman came back with another tough basket off of a solid post move, but Haynes responded with another two of his own before an Anderson basket and a Breland free throw narrowed the edge to 70-68 with just under two minutes to play.
The Minutemen hung tough, however, as another low post basket by Freeman pushed the lead to four with 34 seconds remaining. The Rams were then unable to come up with anything offensively, settling for a long three from Haynes before a free throw apiece from Freeman, Chadwick and Maxwell all but sealed the deal for the Maroon and White.
"Any time a team shoots 61 percent in the first half, and you still have a chance to be in the game, is incredible," Fordham coach Dereck Whittenburg said. "We came out in the second half and played man-to-man and got right back in the game."
"We had our chances, but Freeman just made some great plays when they needed them ¼ I thought that was tremendous."
The Minutemen turned an early deficit into a 15-8 advantage with a 10-0 run that included eight points and a pair of 3-pointers from freshman guard Art Bowers.
UMass then built its lead to 31-16 at the 3:44 mark on the strength of a 9-1 burst that culminated with forward Jeff Viggiano connecting on the Maroon and White's first four point play of the season. The sophomore was fouled as he connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing and subsequently added the free throw.
After Fordham trimmed the lead to eleven at 36-25 on a Derrick Breland trey, Bowers answered with a three of his own before closing the half with a layup off a feed from Anthony Anderson to push the Minuteman lead to 41-25 at intermission.
The Rams fought back again, however, as after Stephane Lasme opened the half with a basket for UMass, the Rams ripped off nine straight points and pulled within single digits at 43-34 when Haynes converted a strong move to the hoop into a three-point play with just under 17 minutes remaining.
After a Lasme free throw bumped the UMass edge back to ten, the teams traded baskets for the next two minutes before a Breland 3-pointer capped five consecutive Fordham points and pulled the Rams within seven at 52-45 with just over twelve minutes remaining.
reshman guard Art Bowers has stepped up in all aspects of the game for the Massachusetts men's basketball team since returning from an ankle injury in late December. He came back slowly, but in the past four games he has provided clutch shots and strong stat lines for the Minutemen.
"I just wanted to come out and play a whole lot more confident. Instead of hesitating on shots, start believing in myself and just play hard," Bowers said after last night's game against Fordham.
"Once I got down, my ankle got hurt, I wasn't as mobile, my shots weren't falling and my leg wasn't as strong," he said. "I missed a couple of shots and I got down on myself, but I've just been in the gym working hard and I got my confidence back up."
Last night, Bowers helped his team out to an early lead with a quick bucket followed by back-to-back three's. He shot four-for-five from three-point land, a place where in previous games he had been struggling to find his rhythm.
Bowers had 14 points in the first half, shooting five-for-seven (3-of-4 from 3-point range), forcing the Rams to play him closer in the second half and forcing Bowers to work more on his dishing abilities.
"The second half was a whole lot more intense." Bowers said. "I would get in the lane and I would draw a player and I was just kicking it out to the perimeter and getting it into [Rashaun Freeman] and they were finishing it."
Bowers' regained confidence has been useful in clutch situations for the Minutemen. In Saturday's 66-65 win over Temple, Bowers hit a 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining to give his team a one point lead and their first win in eight games. Bowers registered a career high 19 points in shooting 7 for 11 from the field.
Fordham head coach Dereck Whittenburg wasn't blind sided last night when Bowers stepped up for his team again, he knew from watching the tape what Bowers was capable of.
"I just thought he made shots, lot of shots at key times and I wasn't surprised."
With junior center Gabe Lee out for the rest of the season due to an ankle injury, the Minutemen will be looking to its guards to help out more underneath.
"We've been playing very small so the guards have to come in and rebound," Bowers said. "The past three or four games I've been trying to get seven or above, that's been helping us, [rebounding] has been a big factor of why we've been losing in the past."
Coach Steve Lappas also believes that UMass' recent wins have something to do with the younger players, particularly Freeman and Bowers, getting more comfortable with their surroundings.
"He's another guy who's just understanding positioning so much better," Lappas said of Bowers. "He knows where he is a lot better now too and he's starting to figure out what's going on out there defensively and now where he needs to be to get a box out on a guy."
Bowers also attributes some of his confidence to the fact that UMass has been playing small.
"Playing four out is different. It's opening up the floor for our team, if [Freeman] inside has a good look they go down and double him, he kicks it out, four guys out can hit it and I've just been making my shots."
Bowers finished last night's game against the Rams with 18 points, 7 rebounds and a career high 8 assists.
"I figured I just want to pick everything up in every area and just work harder at everything I'm doing," Bowers said.
|at the Mullins Center|
Official Basketball Box Score Fordham vs Massachusetts 01/28/03 7:00 p.m. at Amherst, MA(Mullins Center) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: Fordham ( 4-13, 1- 5) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 11 JARRELL-WRIGHT,Mark. f 5-11 0-2 3-4 0 4 4 3 13 2 5 2 3 33 31 OSEI,Dominic........ f 0-0 0-0 1-2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 51 YA'AKOSI,Mushon..... f 2-6 0-0 0-1 3 2 5 5 4 1 2 1 1 32 05 ANDERSON,Jermaine... g 4-9 1-5 1-2 0 1 1 2 10 3 1 0 3 37 13 BRELAND,Derrick..... g 3-7 3-4 3-4 0 1 1 4 12 3 0 0 2 37 00 CARR,Ryan........... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+ 01 HAYNES,Michael...... 10-18 1-6 7-11 3 9 12 4 28 3 2 0 1 35 02 PEREZ,Miguel........ 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 03 WILLIAMSON,Drew..... 0-3 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 3 0 1 1 1 1 16 22 COOPER,Brandyn...... 1-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 4 33 TUBRIDY,Tom......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+ TEAM................ 3 3 Totals.............. 25-55 5-19 15-24 10 17 27 22 70 13 12 4 11 200 TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 8-26 30.8% 2nd Half: 17-29 58.6% Game: 45.5% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 3-9 33.3% 2nd Half: 2-10 20.0% Game: 26.3% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 6-8 75.0% 2nd Half: 9-16 56.3% Game: 62.5% 3 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts ( 7-11, 2- 5) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 11 MAXWELL,Maurice..... f 2-4 0-1 3-4 0 1 1 3 7 2 6 1 1 19 22 VIGGIANO,Jeff....... f 4-6 1-2 2-2 1 2 3 4 11 1 1 1 1 24 01 FREEMAN,Rashaun..... c 8-13 0-0 2-5 0 10 10 2 18 1 5 0 0 33 12 ANDERSON,Anthony.... g 4-6 4-6 2-2 1 4 5 0 14 4 2 0 0 40 34 BOWERS,Art.......... g 6-11 4-5 2-4 3 4 7 0 18 8 3 0 1 36 00 MARTIN,Brennan...... 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 7 05 LASME,Stephane...... 1-1 0-0 1-2 1 0 1 4 3 0 1 1 1 14 13 CHADWICK,Chris...... 0-0 0-0 5-6 0 5 5 3 5 3 3 0 1 27 TEAM................ Totals.............. 25-42 9-15 17-25 6 26 32 17 76 20 21 3 5 200 TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 16-26 61.5% 2nd Half: 9-16 56.3% Game: 59.5% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 6-12 50.0% 2nd Half: 3-3 100 % Game: 60.0% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 3-4 75.0% 2nd Half: 14-21 66.7% Game: 68.0% 2 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Officials: Mike Roberts, Fran Connolly, George Harry Technical fouls: Fordham-None. Massachusetts-None. Attendance: 2988 Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total Fordham....................... 25 45 - 70 Massachusetts................. 41 35 - 76 Points in the paint-FORDHAM 36,UMASS 24. Points off turnovers-FORDHAM 26,UMASS 14. 2nd chance points-FORDHAM 12,UMASS 10. Fast break points-FORDHAM 12,UMASS 6. Bench points-FORDHAM 30,UMASS 8. Score tied-1 time. Lead changed-2 times. Last FG-FORDHAM 2nd-00:02, UMASS 2nd-00:53.