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MHERST - From the moment the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team lost to Hartford, last week, senior guard Anthony Anderson knew the next week of practice was going to be difficult as the Minutemen prepared for tonight's game with Vermont (7 p.m., Mullins Center).
It lived up to those expectations, but Anderson thought the Minutemen improved.
''I think the extra days helped us a lot,'' he said.
They'd better have. Tonight's opponent is better than its 0-3 record indicates. The Catamounts came within a missed call of upsetting UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, falling 68-67 on Saturday.
Vermont is the defending America East champion and was picked first in that league's preseason poll, three spots ahead of Hartford. Its roster features the 2001-02 AE Player of the Year in T.J. Sorrentine (who redshirted last year with two broken wrists) and 2002-03 Player of the Year Taylor Coppenrath.
Against UCLA, Coppenrath made a claim on the title of the best mid-major big man in the nation, scoring 38 points. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound junior is averaging 25 points per game so far.
''A guys gets 38 against UCLA, that's a great player in any league,'' UMass coach Steve Lappas said. ''When you have a guy that good, you can beat anybody. We have our hands full with Coppenrath, and we have our hands full with Sorrentine even though he has not played as well as he can because he sat out all last year.''
Junior big man Gabe Lee will get the first shot at guarding Coppenrath.
''He's a very good player,'' Lee said. ''He's big and he can shoot the ball well so it's going to be a big challenge for me.''
Sorrentine, who averaged 18.8 points and 4.0 assists per game as a sophomore hasn't entirely rounded back into form yet as he's averaged 7.7 points and 1.7 assists since returning and has struggled shooting.
Lappas said the Minutemen didn't prepare for Sorrentine, Coppenrath and company until the weekend.
''We spent most of the week working on us,'' Lappas said. ''We have so many guys that have never played together. We worked on our plays and on our defense and on how we want to rebound and then the last couple of days working on Vermont.''
Lappas said despite his frustration at the loss to Hartford, he still felt good about his team.
''I don't feel as good as I would have felt if we won the other day, but I don't feel any worse about this team. These guys are the same guys; they just don't know how to play yet,'' he said. ''They've been together all of four weeks. Anthony Anderson is the only guy that's played significant minutes for more than a year. There's a lot of growing that still has to happen.
''Right now they're thinking a little too much. We had a good week; hopefully that will help us.''
Anderson was looking forward to seeing how much the week helped.
''I can't wait to get back on the court,'' he said. ''It was a tough practicing for a week after a loss. I can't wait to get back out there. ''
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
rrrng! Brrrng! Brrrng!
It's 6 a.m. on a game day, and some groggy coach wakes up to a phone ringing in his hotel room.
Radio personality Tom Brennan is on the line from CHAMP 101.3, pulling one of his favorite on-air stunts.
Since Brennan, one-half of the most popular morning drive-time duo in Burlington, Vt., also happens to be coach of the Vermont team that reached the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in the program's 103-year history, it carries a little extra oomph.
He didn't call John Wooden, when Vermont was in Los Angeles to play UCLA on Saturday.
''I'm not going to call Ben Howland or Coach Wooden. I'll leave it at that,'' Brennan said, before the game. ''I just want to shake his hand. That's why we're coming out.''
His all-timer might have been last March after Vermont won its semifinal game to reach the America East tournament final against Boston University.
''BU won the early game, then Vermont won the late game,'' recalled Steve Cormier, Brennan's on-air partner. ''Tom got in the car, drove back, came in the studio the next morning and called Dennis Wolff, the BU coach, first thing at 6 and said, 'Hey, I don't know if you got the score last night; we won!'
''They usually just kind of groan when he does it. I fight him on it all the time.''
NPR it isn't, but don't underestimate Brennan's bantering wit and storytelling ability. ''Corm and the Coach'' beats both Howard Stern and Don Imus in the local ratings.
''I think he's the most recognizable person in the state if you take away politicians,'' Cormier said. (And yes, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean was on the show several times when he was governor of Vermont.)
''Tom always jokes he could be governor of the state, but there are just too many skeletons in the closet,'' Cormier said.
It all started 11 years ago after a radio executive saw Brennan speak at a Rotary function and suggested Cormier have him on to help with the sports sometime.
Three days into it, Cormier knew he wanted Brennan on the air the whole show, from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.
''Chemistry is a big deal in radio,'' Cormier said. ''I could tell from Day 1 we had great chemistry. We'd never met before, but we hit it off and were just rolling.''
It makes for what would seem like a grueling double life for Brennan, who knows most people are fortunate if they get up and have a job they can't wait to go do.
He has two of them.
''This is probably the only place in America I could do it,'' said Brennan, who until recently made more money from his radio gig than his coaching job at Vermont, where he is in his 18th season.
''I'm up at 4:15, at the station at quarter to five, on the air from 5:30 on to nine, then to the health club and in the office at 10.
''Two nights a week we practice at 7. That's the only problem, when you don't get home until 10:30 and you're wired from practice.''
He usually skips the show when he is on the road.
At home, he has a secret. Naps.
''Usually from 12 to 1:15 in my office,'' he said. ''You can't get near me. We're very guarded, we turn off the phones. ...Hey, don't be putting ideas in people's minds if you don't mind!''
On the air, Brennan and Cormier talk about their lives, their wives, the news, whatever comes to mind. Amid the call-in contests and other shtick, Brennan sometimes pens impromptu poetry, such as these verses after Yankees beat the Red Sox in the American League playoffs.
You hope someday to change things
But you know it ain't gonna happen
You're really feeling like a wishbone
That's how close you are to snappin'
And how about ol' Grady Little
You wonder how he can be so bad
Then you remember
Oh yeah, he's a New Hampshire grad!
His life off the court is so unusual, it's easy to forget Brennan's original calling is as a coach. It took 101 seasons before Vermont ever won 20 games, and now the Catamounts have done it twice in a row.
Brennan, with a 217-263 record at the school, can't argue Vermont didn't have patience.
''My wife had a great line,'' he said. ''I came in one time and said, 'This is nonsense, there's no commitment.' Lynn said, 'You were 14-68 and they didn't fire you. That's a pretty strong commitment.'''
The Green Mountain State isn't a basketball hotbed, but the Catamounts' best player, Taylor Coppenrath, is a 6-foot-9 small-town Vermont kid who scored 38 points in Saturday's loss to UCLA, and has a shot at playing in the NBA.
The program's magic moment came last March in the America East title game when David Hehn made a 10-foot jumper with 5.6 seconds left to put Vermont in the NCAA tournament, sending the 16th-seeded Catamounts into a game against top-ranked Arizona.
''I was speechless,'' Brennan said. ''By the time I figured it all out, we had lost by 29 to Arizona.''
And no, Lute Olson most definitely did not get a wake-up call.
''Lute, there's just way too much dignity there. Lute is not like the rest of us,'' Brennan said.
This season, in addition to Coppenrath, Vermont has guard T.J. Sorrentine back after he missed all of last season after breaking bones in both wrists.
That gives the Vermont has the last two America East players of the year, but it hasn't led to a brilliant start for the Catamounts, who are 0-3, heading into tonight's 7 p.m. game with the Minutemen.
fter a disheartening loss to Hartford at the Mullins Center last Monday, the Massachusetts men's basketball team has spent the past week on the court working on each of the areas it's been lacking, specifically its defense.
After the 72-66 loss, the Minutemen's problems became much more apparent. The young team wasn't able to keep it together long enough to take down the smaller and statistically inept Hawks.
With a week before its next game - tonight at home against Vermont at 7 p.m. - UMass worked vigorously to better itself.
"We spent most of the week working on our stuff, worrying about us," coach Steve Lappas said. "It's been a long week. We spent most of the week just working on the things that we need to improve on and the last two days working on Vermont.
"We worked on our defense really more than anything else. I felt that we didn't play well defensively ... You have to pick something and try and correct it and spend time at that and then work on the next thing.
"I think it was good for us," Lappas said of the week off. "I didn't like it while it was going on because after you have a bad loss you want to play; but it was good for us, so we were able to get a lot out of it, I think."
Tonight's game against Vermont will be a true test for the Minutemen, as the Catamounts were Atlantic East champions last season, and entered the NCAA tournament as a 16 seed, before being knocked out in the first round by Arizona.
UVM lost a 68-67 heartbreaker to UCLA Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion, despite a tremendous effort by junior forward Taylor Coppernath.
Coppernath scored 38 points and grabbed five rebounds while also registering five assists in playing all 40 minutes for the Catamounts.
Coppernath was the 2002-2003 America East Player of the Year, as well as the 2001-2002 America East Rookie of the Year.
The Maroon and White will look to shutdown Coppernath as much as possible, but the team knows Vermont has other players to watch out for also.
"Well he's a great player. They've got a big kid who scores 25 points a game," Lappas said of Coppernath. "He played great the other night against UCLA, so we've spent a lot of time [on] stopping him. They also have a couple other guys who haven't played as well lately who are good players.
"[T.J.] Sorrentine, he's a good player. He was player of the year two years ago he was out all last year so he's kind of been a little slow getting started but we're going to keep an eye on him for sure."
Minutemen center Gabe Lee will look to contain Coppernath, and thinks his diverse abilities could pose a problem.
"You can always watch a good player," Lee said. "But most good players don't do everything they can do on every film. He's big and he can shoot the ball really well so it's going to be a big challenge for me."
Another big matchup in this game will be at the point, between UMass junior captain Anthony Anderson, who's averaging 15.7 points a game, and Sorrentine. Sorrentine was out last season with a pair of broken wrists, but is back as a starter and tri-captain for the Catamounts.
With the emergence of sophomore Rashaun Freeman, the Maroon and White have been stronger underneath than expected. Freeman was voted the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week for the second consecutive time, and is averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. He is also shooting 59.4 percent from the floor.
ith the bittersweet hangover of an historic near-miss lingering, the University of Vermont men's basketball team regrouped Monday afternoon for another run at a big shot.
The Catamounts came within two points and a swallowed whistle of upsetting UCLA on Saturday, but the Bruins escaped with a 68-67 win when the referees deemed the ample contact on T.J. Sorrentine's heave at the buzzer was not foul play.
"You get very few chances in life to be a part of history," said Vermont coach Tom Brennan before Monday's practice at Patrick Gymnasium.
"We were right there; we almost made history."
UVM has no time to curse its missed opportunity, because another prominent foe awaits. The Catamounts head for the University of Massachusetts tonight for a meeting with the Minutemen. Tip off is at 7 p.m. in Amherst.
UMass is 1-2 after a startling 72-66 loss to Hartford eight days ago. Three losing seasons in five years have taken some of the shine off the Marcus Camby-John Calipari glory days in Amherst, but the Minutemen remain a step above the Catamounts' America East station.
"I'm worried if the trip is going to take a lot out of us; can we come back; can we do the things necessary to win this game?" Brennan said. "Also, UMass is very athletic, and athletic teams bother us."
Of less concern, said the coach, is the play of Sorrentine.
The junior point guard has struggled in the Catamounts' opening three losses. Sorrentine scored just two points at UCLA, is shooting only 21.9 percent from the field and has missed 14 of 17 3-point attempts. He has nine turnovers to six assists and remains three points shy of becoming the program's 26th 1,000-point scorer.
"It's frustrating knowing we lost a couple of games we definitely could have won, and it's even more frustrating knowing that if I played better, we could have won those games easily," Sorrentine said of Saturday's loss and a 56-53 setback at Iona last week.
"I'm not playing well. I'm not playing the way I know I can play. I just haven't found a rhythm yet. There's no excuses. I've just got to play better."
Sorrentine, who sat out last season after breaking bones in both wrists, refused to blame the long layoff for his troubles.
"I'm not picking my spots well enough," he said. "I haven't gotten comfortable in the offense yet, and that's not the fault of my teammates, that's me.
"I think I'm thinking too much. I still have confidence, but I think I'm thinking too much about the shots I take; I've just got to play."
Sorrentine is not alone in his lack of production. Coppenrath matched a career high with 38 points at UCLA. The junior is averaging 25 points per game, accounting for 44.4 percent of the team's offense, but no one else is scoring in double figures.
Still, Sorrentine knows his play at point guard is more critical to the team's success than that of his teammates.
"The history is, when I play well, we win, and I'm not playing well," he said. "When I'm not playing well, because I have the ball a lot, we're going to struggle as a team. I've got to pick my play up."
Brennan is more concerned about UMass' athleticism and the effects of jet lag on his roster than he is about his junior tri-captain.
"For a lesser man, this could really be a problem," the coach said, "but I think he understands, and I believe firmly, that one night he's just going to bust out."
Contact Patrick Garrity at 660-1868 or email@example.com
MHERST - Four games into the season, the University of Vermont men's basketball team is already a well-traveled bunch. The defending America East champions have played all of their contests on the road, going cross-country twice and covering 13,500 miles. After being routed, 76-64, by the University of Massachusetts last night, the winless Catamounts would be the first to say it's time for a home game.
First there was a 20-point season-opening rout at Nevada Nov. 17, then a 6-point loss at Iona (White Plains, N.Y.) a week later, and a 1-point setback at UCLA this past Saturday. Last night, the Catamounts ran into a UMass team that had a week off after deflating losses at Texas Tech and against Hartford. From the outset, UMass played at a level UVM could scarcely match.
Senior point guard Anthony Anderson posted career highs in points (29) and 3-pointers (7) to lead a UMass team that shot 52 percent from the floor. The Minutemen (2-2) led by 17 at halftime and by as many as 20 (55-35) with 13:02 left.
Freshman shooting guard Art Bowers added 16 points and a team-high 7 boards for the Minutemen and freshman reserve guard Maurice Maxwell had 14 points.
"I was really pleased with the way the guys responded to the week of practice," said UMass coach Steve Lappas.
Lappas got superb play from his four guards, who combined to go 21 of 32 from the floor, including 11 of 14 from 3-point range.
"Some day our perimeter is going to play like this all the time," said Lappas.Vermont was led by sophomore forward Taylor Coppenrath, last season's America East Player of the Year, who had 23 points. Teammate T.J. Sorrentine, the 2001-02 Player of the Year who sat out last season with two broken wrists, continues to struggle. He had 16 points last night but was 6 of 24 from the floor. "I had good looks, I just wasn't knocking them out," said Sorrentine.
After Anderson's trey put the Minutemen ahead, 55-35, Coppenrath led the Catamounts on a rally, scoring 13 points in a 27-14 run. But the Minutemen prevented UVM from coming any closer, mostly because of Gabe Lee's defense underneath.
Vermont coach Tom Brennan said in the preseason that as his program improved, the schedule must get tougher as well. With the Catamounts 0-4, Brennan now wishes he had spread out his nonconference games. "Our hope was to get better with every game," he said, "and we did until tonight."
UVM plays its home opener Friday against Cornell.
MHERST - UMass point guard Anthony Anderson specializes in creating open looks for other players on the court.
Rashaun Freeman cooled off from his hot rookie start, only tallying 4 points and 3 rebounds.
The senior from Lynn hit 9-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-9 from behind the arc to register a career-high 29 points and lift the Minutemen to a 76-64 victory over America East champion Vermont in a nonleague game before 2,358 at the Mullins Center.
UMass improved to 2-2 and will take on Boston College on Saturday at The Heights. Vermont dropped its fourth straight on the road and will host Cornell on Friday night at Patrick Gym.
With Artie Bowers (16 points), Maurice Maxwell (14) and small forward Jeff Viggiano (nine) draining jumpers from all angles, the Vermont defenders were too spread out to deny Anderson his open looks. Anderson fed off his teammates hot shooting and that shared energy translated into a career game.
``It definitely made it easier for me,'' said Anderson. ``When you come out seeing those guys hit a couple of shots, you want to run a play to get that guy open and that helps out everybody.''
The teams came into the game from two dramatically different situations. Vermont had been going back and forth across the country playing an ambitious nonleague schedule that went from Nevada, back to New York and then out to Los Angeles. The Catamounts were flying high despite losing by a point to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night. After the game, Vermont coach Tom Brennan questioned the logic of traveling over 13,000 miles for four games.
``Not to take anything away from UMass, they caught us with no legs and no spirit,'' said Brennan. ``In the first half, we had no legs and I think the schedule is really taking its toll on us. I'm smart in May and I think we can play anyone anywhere. I overestimated my ability, not the kids. We just had nothing in the tank.''
UMass had a week to correct the mistakes they made in a 72-66 home loss to Hartford on Nov. 24. The Minutemen were fresh and they took the game to Vermont from the opening tap. Anderson and Maxwell put on a 3-point clinic that gave UMass a 30-15 lead with 7:02 to play in the half.
Vermont junior power forward Taylor Coppenrath, the America East Player of the Year, tied his career high with 38 points against UCLA. But UMass coach Steve Lappas devised a low-post double team that held Coppenrath to seven points and four shots from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. Center Gabe Lee fronted Coppenrath while forward Rashaun Freeman protected the baseline. Lappas was pleased with Lee's effort on Coppenrath in the first half.
``One of the chances we have of being a good team is because Gabe Lee goes out there to do a job,'' Lappas said. ``He told me he was going to do a good job and there was no doubt in my mind that Gabe Lee was going to do a great defensive job on that kid.''
UMass went ahead, 55-35, on a trey by Anderson with 13:01 to play in the game. But the Catamounts mounted a comeback that got them to within seven points twice late in the game. Coppenrath (23 points) eventually found his range and drained 9-of-11 free throws while Scott Jones helped out with eight points and eights boards.
Maxwell stopped the first sustained Vermont run with a trey and Maxwell and Anderson halted the second by sinking a pair of free throws.
``I think we got tough because it wasn't the end of the world when they would go on a run,'' said Maxwell. ``We just tried to weather their storm and we did it shooting 3's.''
MHERST - UMass center Gabe Lee handled one dominant big man last night and will confront another Saturday.
The 6-foot-9, 210-pound junior did a good job containing Vermont forward Taylor Coppenrath in last night's 76-64 victory over America East champion Vermont at the Mullins Center. Minutemen coach Steve Lappas is expecting the same kind of effort when Lee matches up against Boston College forward Craig Smith Saturday at The Heights.
``Gabe is already a great defender and playing against those kind of kids is going to make him better,'' Lappas said. ``He takes all those good players as challenges and he studies guys.
``Gabe is a real student of the game and what surprised me is the feel he has for the game.''
Coppenrath, who tied his career high with 38 points against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion last Saturday, was held to seven points in the first half.
He finished with 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. He was 9-of-11 from the free throw line.
Vermont point guard T.J. Sorrentine, who sat out all of last season with two broken wrists, hasn't regained his scoring touch from two years ago. Sorrentine was the America East Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2002.
Sorrentine was 6-of-24 from the floor and 4-of-12 from behind the arc against UMass despite open looks. In four games this season, Sorrentine has shot 13-of-56 (23.2 percent) from the floor and 7-of-29 (24.1) from behind the line.
Sorrentine isn't the only Catamount guard in a shooting slump. Starting 2-guard David Hehn, who hit the winning shot in last season's America East championship game against Boston University, made his first basket of the season on a trey with 7:32 left. . . .
UMass center Alassane Kouyate, sidelined with a foot injury, showed up at courtside wearing a stylish deep green shirt. The shade of green was a dead match for the Catamounts' uniforms.
aybe Steve Lappas should follow Mark Whipple's lead, and eliminate play-down opponents from his schedule.
Eight days after what the Massachusetts men's basketball coach declared a "bad loss" to Hartford, the Minutemen appeared rejuvenated following their gridiron-style layoff, as they downed defending America East champion Vermont 76-64 before 2,358 at the Mullins Center.
"I was really pleased with the way the guys responded to our week of practice," Lappas said. "We had some really hard days in practice working on the things we needed to work on, and I'm glad to see that the things that we worked on and really were talking about were the things that we concentrated on so much tonight."
"We're getting better," junior point guard Anthony Anderson added. "We worked on a lot of things in practice this week, and it showed tonight because we did those things well."
Art Bowers finally found his groove with the Minutemen, connecting on 7 shots including 2 three-pointers.
2002-03 America East Player of the Year Taylor Coppenrath led the way for UVM with 23 points, while junior Point Guard T.J. Sorrentine tossed in 15, including his 1,000th career point early in the contest.
"Credit UMass, they really smacked us," Vermont coach Tom Brennan said. "I think we lost our legs in the second half, but that doesn't take anything away from how they played, because every time we made a run they answered with one big shot after another."
Trailing by 17 to open the second half, the Catamounts clawed their way back into the game with an 8-2 run. Sorrentine opened the scoring with a straight away three and senior forward Scotty Jones chipped in with a pair of buckets, before a Coppenrath free throw cut the lead to 44-33.
However the Maroon and White again answered on the strength of its three-point shooting. Following a pair of trifectas from Anderson and Viggiano sandwiched around a Jones dunk, the UMass captain connected again from beyond the arc to push the Minuteman lead to 55-35 with under 14 minutes to play.
UVM then proceeded to slice into the UMass advantage again when Coppenrath poured in five points and freshman forward Martin Klimes scored a bucket of his own before an Alex Jensen three capped a 10-4 burst to make the score 59-45.
After the Minutemen answered with five consecutive points from Anderson, the Catamounts switched to a man-to-man full court press and responded with a seven consecutive points to cut the lead back down to 10 at 62-52 with 6:27 to play.
The Catamounts got no closer than seven, however, as after a Sorrentine three made the score 69-62 with 2:10 left in the game, the Minutemen finished the contest on a 7-2 run to ice their second victory of the young season.
"We got a little bit of a big head after St. Francis," Maxwell said. "But we really worked hard in practice this week and we played like we wanted to play out there tonight."
Viggiano helped the Minutemen break an early 7-7 deadlock when he contributed three points to a 5-0 UMass run, including a steal and a breakaway dunk at the 13:40 mark of the first half.
The Maroon and White then turned to its long-range shooting to help fuel a 13-6 run that pushed the lead to 25-13. Anderson contributed a pair of three-pointers and a driving lay-up during the stretch, while Maxwell completed the run with a trey of his own as well as a breakaway lay-in.
Anderson then continued his hot shooting from outside. The Lynn native nailed an additional pair of threes before he teamed with Bowers on a 6-2 run to close the half that gave UMass its largest lead of the opening frame.
After Anderson connected from inside the lane to make the score 37-23, Bowers immediately stole the inbounds pass and converted it into two points. Then, following a Coppenrath basket, the Wilmington, Del. native drained the Minutemen's seventh three-pointer of the half at the buzzer to make the score 42-25 heading into intermission.
UMass returns to action Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., when it faces Boston College at Conte Forum in the annual Commonwealth Classic.
That was where Minuteman offense caught fire last night as it shot 63.2 percent from behind the arc, making 12 of 19 shots in its 76-64 win over Vermont. Four players contributed from behind the arc in last night's game, while only three could muster points from the outside when the team shot 21.4 percent in last week's game against Hartford.
In their week off, the Minuteman offense did a complete 180.
UMass' main force from behind the arc was junior captain Anthony Anderson. Anderson scored a career-high 29 points, while shooting seven of nine from behind the arc, compared to four of seven against the Hawks.
Anderson was able to run the game while the ball was in his hands. "When you see a guy hit a couple shots you might want to run a play to get that guy open," he said. "So it definitely helps out a lot, it makes it way easier for me."
Anderson was also able to stand out when he was moved off the ball.
"I feel like that every night," he said of his shooting. "I just put up more shots tonight."
"This is the most shots that somebody else has gotten for Anthony Anderson in the two years that we've been together. Somebody was getting him shots tonight as opposed to the other way around," UMass coach Steve Lappas said.
The contribution of freshmen Maurice Maxwell and Art Bowers, both 2-for-2 from downtown, not only boosted the Minuteman offense, but it also threw off the Catamounts.
"Every time they needed one, [Maxwell or Anderson] made one," Vermont coach Tom Brennan said.
"We knew Anderson was capable," he added, "and he really carried them I thought."
Anderson hit two treys in a row less than halfway into the first half adding to his team's 13-4 run. Each time the Catamounts posted a threat, Anderson, Maxwell or Bowers was there to knock them back down.
Bowers attributes the difference in his shooting to both the week off and the help of his coaches and the older players.
"They have more experience at it so they just tell me keep my mind in it," Bowers said. "They know I can make the shots so they tell me to just keep shooting but pick and choose the good shots and the bad shots, and they let me know why I was missing the ones before ... pretty much not learning how to play with my teammates and rushing."
With just over six minutes remaining in the game, Vermont was able to cut the Minutemen's lead to 10. A quick three from Maxwell and some quick plays resulting in trips to the foul line gave UMass the confidence it needed to close out the game.
Although Lappas was impressed with his freshmen tonight, he knows that this isn't the type of play he can expect on a regular basis at this point in the season.
"Someday they're going to play like this all the time," Lappas said. "We rely so heavily on freshman, and when you rely that heavily on freshman you can't expect them to play like this all the time.
"There are no upperclassmen really to carry them except Anthony... I know those kids can play and I know they're going to be very good and they're going to be consistent it's just that now you never know what's going to happen from one night to the next.
"The goal of our team is to get this inside and outside game working at the same time," he continued, "and I think its going to happen at times right now but its probably not going to happen consistently for a while."
MHERST - After Tuesday's 76-64 win over Vermont, University of Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas was still blaming himself for last week's loss to Hartford.
In hindsight, Lappas thought he should have returned Anthony Anderson to the lineup in the first half against Hartford even though he had two fouls.
''The coach made a big mistake in the last game,'' said Lappas, pointing to himself. ''I'm not making that mistake again. I blew the Hartford game. We need that kid on the court. If he played six minutes with the second foul in the first half of that game, who knows what would have happened. Instead we were down eight at halftime. We need him. He's going to be an iron man.''
Anthony Anderson had a career day in the UMass victory.
Artie Bowers (seven rebounds, three assists) and Maurice Maxwell joined the career-high party with 16 and 14 points respectively.
The Minutemen (2-2) will return to action Saturday when they travel to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College (2 p.m., Conte Forum), while the Catamounts fell to 0-4.
Lappas wasn't the only coach pointing the finger at himself after the game.
''I take full responsibility for this,'' said Vermont coach Tom Brennan, who has taken his team to the West Coast twice and has yet to play a home game. ''I scheduled us into a bad way. In the first half, we had no legs.''
The Minutemen led by 20 with 13 minutes left in the game at 55-35, but the Catamounts mounted a Taylor Coppenrath-led charge that brought Vermont within seven at 69-62 with 2:13 left in the game.
Maxwell then sank a pair of free throws but Coppenrath answered inside.
After both teams missed shots in the paint, Viggiano hit one of two from the line with 1:23 remaining. At the other end Coppenrath drove the left baseline, but Gabe Lee blocked his shot, ending the threat as Vermont did not score again.
''To UMass' credit, every time they needed one, they made one. That's the name of that tune,'' Brennan said.
Coppenrath finished with 23 points, but against strong defense by Lee, he only scored seven in the first half, which led to the Catamounts' early struggles.
''He's a guy that takes challenges like this really seriously,'' Lappas said. ''I had no doubt in my mind that Gabe Lee was going to do a great job on that kid.''
UMass made a season-high 12 3-pointers on 19 attempts.
T.J. Sorrentine (16 points) opened the game with a 3-pointer for Vermont and the Catamounts led 5-4, but Bowers' 3-pointer from the top of the key gave UMass its first lead since early in the team's loss to Texas Tech Nov. 21.
Anderson and Maxwell each had five points in a 10-2 run that ballooned into a 18-6 stretch, putting UMass ahead 33-17 with just over five minutes until intermission. The lead hovered between 12 and 16 points until Anderson drove into the lane and kicked to Bowers for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that put UMass ahead 42-25 at the break.
''I tip my hat to Lap and his group,'' Brennan said ''They played tremendous in the first half and we just dug ourselves too big a hole.''
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MHERST - The shooting numbers were gruesome. In the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's losses to Texas Tech and Hartford, rookie guards Artie Bowers and Maurice Maxwell had shot a combined 12.2 percent, making just 5-of-41 shots.
The duo missed everything from driving layups to NBA-range 3-pointers.
But Tuesday against Vermont, both freshman found their respective shooting strokes and the stagnant UMass offense came back to life in the 76-64 win.
Bowers had a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds. He scored UMass' first points of the game off an offensive rebound and his breakaway dunk clinched the Minuteman win with under a minute left.
In between he buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to beat the first-half buzzer.
Bowers said his teammates encouraged him during the slump.
''They tell me to keep shooting it and pick and choose the good shots from the bad shots,'' he said.
Coming off the bench, Maxwell made his impact felt immediately, hitting a high-arching 3-pointer to beat the shot clock in the midst of a UMass 10-2 run. He finished with 14 points in 22 minutes.
Maxwell said his confidence hadn't been shaken, but was glad to get into a groove.
''I'm still gonna shoot it if I think I'm open, but it was good for them to go in,'' he said, smiling.
Lappas said he enjoyed their performance but isn't ready to expect it every night.
''Some day they're going to play like this all the time. I don't know if that day is here yet,'' he said. ''They're kids. They're not going to do that all the time. You can't expect them to do this all the time.
''I know those kids can play and that they're going to be consistent, but right now, you never know what's going to happen from one night to the next.''
FREE THROW SHOOTING WOES - UMass won despite its continued difficulties shooting free throws as the Minutemen were better from behind the 3-point arc (12-for-19) than from the line (8-for-17).
UMass has made 54.5 percent (42-of-77) of its free throws this year and just 45.8 percent (22-of-48) in the last three games.
Gabe Lee has had the toughest time, making just two in 11 tries (18.2 percent).
''It's a big concern. We have shot more foul shots in the past week than I've shot in 15 years,'' Lappas said. ''I don't have an answer, I don't have an excuse, I don't have a nothing.''
NEXT UP - Boston College, which hosts UMass on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Conte Forum, Tuesday improved to 5-0, beating Holy Cross, 64-51. Craig Smith led the Eagles with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
MISCELLANEOUS - The Minutemen notched their team high in blocked shots for the season with 12, including six by Lee and four from Stephane Lasme.
Sophomore rookie Rashaun Freeman scored fewer than 10 points for the first time in his young career as foul trouble limited him to four points in 16 minutes.
The victory gives UMass the win in the three-sport, three-game, nine-night series between the Minutemen and Catamounts.
UMass beat Vermont 4-2 in hockey last week. The two schools play in women's basketball tonight at 7.
Sophomore big man Alassane Kouyate sat out again for UMass with a knee injury.
Vermont guard T.J. Sorrentine got career-point No. 1,000 on the first shot of the game.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.
|at the Mullins Center|
Vermont vs Massachusetts 12/02/03 7:00 p.m. at Amherst, MA(Mullins Center) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: Vermont ( 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 22 COPPENRATH,Taylor... f 7-13 0-2 9-11 3 2 5 3 23 1 1 1 0 32 32 NJILA,Germain....... f 1-5 0-1 0-0 3 5 8 4 2 1 1 0 0 23 43 JONES,Scotty........ c 4-9 0-0 0-0 3 5 8 4 8 1 2 0 2 25 11 SORRENTINE,T.J...... g 6-24 4-12 0-0 0 3 3 3 16 5 3 0 3 37 24 HEHN,David.......... g 1-4 1-2 0-0 1 2 3 0 3 2 0 0 1 25 12 PHELAN,Jack......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 20 KLIMES,Martin....... 2-2 0-0 0-0 2 1 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 14 21 GOLA,Mike........... 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 0 7 35 JENSEN,Alex......... 2-8 2-6 0-0 0 2 2 3 6 3 3 0 1 22 40 SULLIVAN,Corey...... 0-3 0-2 0-0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 42 HANSON,Matt......... 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 4 TEAM................ 5 2 7 Totals.............. 24-71 7-25 9-11 18 24 42 19 64 15 11 1 7 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 11-30 36.7% 2nd Half: 13-41 31.7% Game: 33.8% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-8 25.0% 2nd Half: 5-17 29.4% Game: 28.0% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 1-2 50.0% 2nd Half: 8-9 88.9% Game: 81.8% 2
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Massachusetts ( 2- 2) TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 01 FREEMAN,Rashaun..... f 2-6 0-0 0-2 1 2 3 4 4 1 0 0 1 16 22 VIGGIANO,Jeff....... f 3-9 1-5 2-4 2 4 6 3 9 2 3 1 1 29 02 LEE,Gabe............ c 1-5 0-0 0-3 1 5 6 2 2 2 2 6 1 35 12 ANDERSON,Anthony.... g 9-13 7-9 4-6 0 4 4 1 29 4 2 0 0 40 34 BOWERS,Art.......... g 7-11 2-2 0-0 1 6 7 0 16 3 0 0 1 25 05 LASME,Stephane...... 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 3 4 3 2 1 3 4 1 19 11 MAXWELL,Maurice..... 5-7 2-2 2-2 1 3 4 0 14 0 2 1 1 22 13 CHADWICK,Chris...... 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 5 0 0 0 14 TEAM................ 1 Totals.............. 28-54 12-19 8-17 7 28 35 13 76 18 13 12 6 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 17-32 53.1% 2nd Half: 11-22 50.0% Game: 51.9% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 7-11 63.6% 2nd Half: 5-8 62.5% Game: 63.2% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 1-2 50.0% 2nd Half: 7-15 46.7% Game: 47.1% 4,1
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Officials: Joe DeMayo, Eric Britto, Kevin O'Connell Technical fouls: Vermont-None. Massachusetts-None. Attendance: 2358 Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total Vermont....................... 25 39 - 64 Massachusetts................. 42 34 - 76