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o alumni and fans across the state, Saturday's Commonwealth Classic between the University of Massachusetts and Boston College (2 p.m. Conte Forum, NESN) is about a year's worth of bragging rights.
But for Anthony Anderson, the lone Bay State-born starter on Minutemen, the game has more practical implications.
''We need to win. I think we should be 3-1. We're down one from where we should be. So we need to win. Forget about all the bragging rights,'' said Anderson, who didn't entirely discount the rivalry aspect. ''It's definitely special. We almost got them my freshman year, then they came here last year and beat us up, so we definitely want to get this one.''
Beating the Eagles seemed like an easier proposition before the season than it does now. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year at the Heights. BC lost both starting guards from last year's team that advanced to the National Invitation Tournament.
Senior Troy Bell graduated and was drafted into the NBA, but his controversial running mate Ryan Sidney left the team with a year of eligibility remaining. Top recruit Dan Coleman reneged on his letter of intent and enrolled at Minnesota and coach Al Skinner dismissed forward Andrew Bryant from the roster.
All that made most people believe the Eagles were in for a long year, but instead they have come out of the gate 5-0.
The wins have come over Appalachian State, Monmouth, Wichita State, Boston University and Holy Cross, which isn't exactly a slate that is going to drive up BC's standing in the Rating Percentage Index, but the Eagles lost some games like those last year.
''A lot of our success is really attributed to the efforts that our players have made,'' Skinner said. ''They've really come into the situation focused on trying to get a good understanding of the way we want to play. The credit has to go to them. They had excuses for not being successful, but they've used it to their advantage.''
Pacing BC is the play of its frontcourt. There's been no sophomore slump so far for Craig Smith, who is averaging 16.4 points and 8.6 rebounds after winning Big East Rookie of the Year honors last season.
He's joined, or more accurately rejoined, by senior Uka Agbai, who played alongside him early last season before suffering a season-ending neck injury that forced him to be a medical redshirt.
Agbai has averaged 11.8 points and 4.2 rebounds since returning this year.
UMass sophomore rookie big man Rashaun Freeman said of the teams the Minutemen have faced this season, BC's roster most closely resembles that of the Harlem Globetrotters.
''This is sort of like the Globetrotters. They have two big guys on the box,'' Freeman said. ''Gabe (Lee) and I have to come together once again and have the best defensive game we could possibly have.''
UMass coach Steve Lappas said the Minutemen have worked on zone this season, but he wasn't ready to commit to using it to counteract the Eagles' size.
''We have zone in our repertoire so that's something we could use,'' he said. ''We'll see. We've been a pretty good man-to-man team all year.''
From coaches Jim O'Brien to Skinner, the Eagles have never had a roster stocked with blue chip recruits, but Danya Abrams, Troy Bell, Sidney and Craig Bell have gone from overlooked to All Big East.
Freshman Jared Dudley signed shortly after Bryant was dismissed. The 6-foot-7 forward was last week's Big East Rookie of the Week. He's averaging 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds and could be a candidate to follow the sleeper-to-star path.
After three years of Troy Bell and Sidney manning the backcourt, the Eagles are inexperienced at guard.
Sophomore Louis Hinnant has been joined by freshman Sean Marshall in the backcourt. Hinnant is playing despite a fracture in his left wrist.
Off the bench junior Jermaine Watson has provided an offensive spark with 10.8 points per game, while freshman Steve Hailey has been solid at point guard with a 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.
This is the second road contest of the year for UMass. Lappas hopes his team took lessons from its 90-50 beating at the hands of Texas Tech.
''We learned that you have to keep your poise on the road more than anything else,'' he said. ''If you go through a drought, that happens. You can't let that drought become and insurmountable lead.''
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.
hen it comes to rivalries, it's one of the Massachusetts men's basketball team hasleft.
In the seven years since the Minuteman basketball team vacated the national spotlight, games with traditional rivals Connecticut and Temple have lessened in appeal each year.
So while the Huskies are simply too powerful for their neighbors to the north, and John Chaney's bunch wallows in mediocrity as well, UMass-alum Al Skinner's Boston College Eagles have provided the Minutemen with the most spirited competition among the team's they love to hate.
Thus, when the two squads meet at BC's Silvio O. Conte Forum on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. for the ninth annual Commonwealth Classic, there will certainly be more than just a victory at stake.
"We have a lot of UMass graduates in Boston, so it's important for us to go there and play well," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "We've got so many young guys it's great, because they get excited about every game, but I'm sure they'll be very excited to go to Boston and play."
Lately, the series has been dominated by the Eagles (5-0), as BC has posted three consecutive wins in the teams' annual meeting, and four straight against UMass (2-2) overall while leading the all-time series 18-17.
Two years ago, it was junior captain Anthony Anderson - then in his first year with the Minutemen, who nearly pulled off a rousing comeback for the Minutemen with down the stretch with a flurry of three pointers before BC eventually prevailed 80-78 at the Heights.
Last season at the Mullins Center, in what was a six-point game at halftime, guards Troy Bell (21 points) and Ryan Sidney (18 points) helped key a 14-0 Eagle run that eventually led to an 80-62 runaway.
The game, however, was overshadowed by the antics of the UMass student section, which was part of the season's largest crowd at 6,392. Beginning with an unidentified fan throwing an object onto the court, and culminating with chants of vulgarity directed at Bell after the Eagle's all-time leading scorer lashed out at former Minuteman Jackie Rogers following a hard foul, the crowd's actions inspired Lappas to chastise the student's behavior over the public address system.
So with emotions having run high in such recent meetings, Lappas feels it's time for the Minutemen to assert themselves competitively in the intra-state rivalry.
"We need to start winning some games in this rivalry," he said. "A rivalry usually goes back and forth and it's about time we start going back and forth again.
"We know we're capable of coming out and playing with Boston College."
For the Maroon and White, whether or not they can play with, and beat, the Eagles depends on their ability to stop the inside presence of the combination of Uka Agbai and Craig Smith.
Agbai, a 6-8 262-pound senior who missed all of last season after being awarded a medical red shirt following a serious neck injury, has averaged 11.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game this season in what will be his last in a BC uniform, and sits just 26 points shy of the 1,000 mark.
Smith, meanwhile, is in just his second season at the Heights, and appears to have a bright future ahead of him after setting the BC freshman scoring record with 617 total points.
The Los Angeles, Calif. native averaged 19.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in his first year and was listed as a preseason top 50 candidate for the 2004 John R. Wooden All-America team. This season he leads the Eagles in both points per game (16.4) and rebounds per game (8.6) while averaging a team-high 30.6 minutes per contest as well.
"Their inside kids are tremendous," Lappas said of the pair. "They have a lot of new kids on the perimeter, so their strength is on the inside right now.
"Both kids are very strong and very physical and good scorers around the basket, so we're going to have our hands full, especially since we have young big guys."
Down low, the Minutemen will continue to rely on two-time defending Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week Rashaun Freeman, as well as junior center Gabe Lee to contain Smith and Agbai as well as create offense in the paint for themselves.
Freeman, a sophomore in his initial year of eligibility, is coming off of his worst game of the season in which he scored just four points against Vermont. However, he posted impressive numbers in his first three games, scoring 15.7 points per game while also grabbing 8.7 rebounds a contest.
Lee, meanwhile, has been a defensive force for the Maroon and White. The Camilla, Ga. native and Northfield/Mt. Hermon graduate leads the team with a whopping 5.25 blocks per game, including seven blocks apiece in a win over St. Francis and a loss to Hartford.
Also important for UMass will be whether or not its backcourt can duplicate its performance against Vermont in which Anderson drained seven three pointers en route to a career-high 29 points, and freshman Art Bowers and Maurice Maxwell combined for 30 points on 4-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
"It's something we've got to look to build off of," Lappas said. "I think it helped some of the young kids' confidence, Maxwell and Bowers in particular.
"We still need to be able to look inside and outside. [Against Vermont] we had a great outside game but didn't have our inside game. We need to get to the point where we're doing both of those things."
he Boston University and Holy Cross games had local implications.
But the University of Massachusetts? Well, that's a different story. Always has been, always will be for the Boston College men's basketball team.
The Eagles (5-0) will play their third consecutive home game against a local nonconference opponent when they host the Minutemen (2-2) in the Commonwealth Classic today at 2 p.m. at Conte Forum.
While the back-to-back victories over the Terriers of America East (67-44) and the Crusaders of the Patriot League (64-51) kept BC undefeated, it's always been about so much more against UMass in the Commonwealth Classic, which the Minutemen won in the first five meetings.
"These are the games that always mean more to the older guys," said BC coach Al Skinner, who has won the last three Commonwealth Classics against his alma mater, improving BC's record in its series with UMass to 19-17.
"For the younger guys, it doesn't matter to them."
The reason this game matters more to BC's upperclassmen than the BU or Holy Cross games has to do with the hardware, the Governor's Cup, which goes to the victor of the Commonwealth Classic.
BC fifth-year senior forward Uka Agbai has no intention of surrendering it.
"All the young guys, they still don't know much about it, but UMass is a rivalry," Agbai said, after leading the Eagles with 15 points against Holy Cross, leaving him 26 shy of becoming the 30th player in BC history to score 1,000 career points.
"The Governor's Cup, that's a big thing for me. I know about that. But all these games, I feel like we should win. It's just a matter of by how much."
Said Skinner, "That's the confidence that he brings and it's up to him to get them to play up to that level. If that's the way he feels, then that's the way he feels. I have no problems with that."
Asked if he felt the Minutemen might misinterpret his comments, Abgai said, "I don't mean it to sound like I'm being cocky, but they could take it that way. They could take it however they want. It's really nothing against them. I don't know much about them. I just know about us."
And after the first five games of the season, Agbai has to like what he sees from the Eagles. Freshman forwards Jared Dudley, who last week was named Big East Rookie of the Week, and Sean Marshall have started all five games, with Dudley averaging 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds and Marshall 7.2 points and 2.4 rebounds.
Freshman guard Steve Hailey, meanwhile, earned the second start of his career against Holy Cross in place of injured sophomore Louis Hinnant, who aggravated a left wrist injury against BU that he initially suffered in the opener against Appalachian State in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Hinnant, who did not practice for two days, did not start but entered the game when Hailey drew two early fouls and played with a hairline fracture and torn ligament in his wrist.
"It's going to take 3-4 weeks of rest to heal, but I'm not going to sit out 3-4 weeks," said Hinnant, whom Skinner expects to be in the lineup today.
With Hinnant and junior Jermaine Watson (10.8 ppg) coming off the bench to provide a boost, BC survived its wrestling match with the scrappy Crusaders. Now the Eagles will have to step it up a notch against the Atlantic 10 portion of its schedule, which continues against St. Joseph's Tuesday afternoon at 4 at The Palestra in Philadelphia.
"UMass is very capable," Skinner said. "It's not like we can just show up and win."
UMass snapped a two-game skid Tuesday night with a 76-64 victory over Vermont, the America East preseason favorite, which suffered a 1-point loss last Saturday at UCLA. Anthony Anderson, a 5-foot-11-inch senior guard from Lynn, leads the Minutemen with 16.8 ppg, having hit a team-high 15 of 27 from 3-point range, while 6-9 sophomore forward Rashaun Freeman from Schenectady, N.Y., has chipped in 12.8 ppg and 7.3 rpg.
Freshman guard Art Bowers, the gem of coach Steve Lappas's newcomers, is the only other UMass player with a double-digit scoring average (10.5 ppg).
"Hey, it's UMass," said Craig Smith, BC's leading scorer (16.4) and rebounder (8.6). "We just got to go out and show 'em who's best in Mass."
Mass enters tomorrow's Commonwealth Classic looking to reverse one of many disturbing trends around Amherst.
The Minutemen, who once owned Boston College with five straight wins in the Classic, have lost the last three annual get-togethers and the last four overall games against the Eagles - a run that started with BC's consolation win over UMass in the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic.
The four straight BC wins give the Eagles a 19-17 lead in the all-time series. The four consecutive losses have coincided with UMass' recent fall - the Minutemen changed coaches after the 2000-01 season, going from Bruiser Flint to Steve Lappas.
Honor for Al
UMass will retire Al Skinner's uniform number when the Minutemen host Rhode Island on Feb. 18.
Skinner played 79 games for UMass from 1971-74, leading the team in scoring two years, and in rebounding, minutes played and field goal percentage each of his three varsity seasons. He is third on the school's all-time list in field goal percentage (.557), ninth in assists (320) and rebound average (9.5) and 16th in points (1,235). . . .
Skinner has been very pleased with the defensive play of his team, which has yielded an average of 58.6 points in the first five games of the season. On the other side, Lappas' team has given up 71 a game (three fewer than it has scored), including 90 in a 90-50 loss to Texas Tech in the preseason NIT. . . .
The BC women have matched the men with a perfect 5-0 start, marking the first time in school history both teams have been 5-0 at the same time. In fact, two wins by the BC women this weekend at the Brown Classic - the Eagles play Liberty tomorrow and either Brown or New Hampshire Sunday - will give them the first 7-0 start in the history of the program. . . .
With wins against Boston University and Holy Cross already in the bank, tomorrow concludes BC's three-game run against the locals.
UMass isn't playing any of the other state teams this season.
omeday, the Commonwealth Classic may again recapture the excitement of the first games of the series between Boston College and UMass. But for now, today's annual meeting is just another game between two neighboring teams.
In other words, today's game (NESN, 2 p.m.) with the Minutemen is the same for BC as the two the undefeated Eagles (5-0) just played and won against Boston University and Holy Cross.
``The (previous) hype comes from the success the two teams are having at the time,'' BC coach, and UMass alum, Al Skinner said yesterday. ``It all depends on how good they were.''
Anyone who remembers the excitement of the Dec. 9, 1995 renewal of this series - the packed house, the tough ticket, Marcus Camby, Danya Abrams, John Calipari, Jim O'Brien - yearns for a return to that glory. For now, though, the two sides will have to be content to just play each other.
``This is a great game for both schools,'' said UMass coach Steve Lappas, 0-2 against BC since moving from Villanova to Amherst. ``Obviously, it's a good local rivalry. We have a lot of alumns in Boston and there are a lot of people out here that went to Boston College.''
Said BC director of athletics Gene DeFilippo: ``As far as we're concerned we're going to play UMass on the first Saturday of December every year. It's a good game for us. We want to continue to play Holy Cross, continue to play UMass and the city schools. It's good. Al went to UMass, I'm from Western Mass. and we have a lot of alumni over in Western Mass.''
The Minutemen (2-2) dominated this matchup early, but BC has won four straight and comes into today's game in better shape than the visitors. ``Six guys are freshmen and sophomores in our top seven,'' Lappas said. ``It makes it obviously a little up and down, but I like them.''
A sign of the UMass youth? How about 55 assists and 81 turnovers.
Skinner, whose team has 81 assists and 61 turnovers, is pleased by his team's start. ``You couldn't ask for anything better,'' he said. ``The thing is our guys know they still have to get better and to improve, but they've been able to win some games which makes you happy.''
Skinner said point guard Louis Hinnant, who has a break and ligament tear in his left wrist, has been practicing and will continue playing. ``It's going to be nagging him all year long,'' Skinner said. . . .
Skinner said he got a call from UMass chancellor John Lombardi two weeks ago with the idea to retire Skinner's No. 30, which will be done Feb. 18. ``Obviously, it's a recognition of some individual success, but I think it's also a recognition of what our teams accomplished,'' said Skinner, whose three UMass teams were 55-24 and went to two NITs under Jack Leaman from 1971-74. . . .
here weren't a lot of people on hand to watch yesterday's Commonwealth Classic because of the weather, but Boston College and UMass lit up Conte Forum with a game that could bring the excitement back to the intrastate rivalry.
Rashaun Freeman and Uka Agbai battle for the rock.
``In order to have a real classic, there has to be more games like this,'' added Eagles coach Al Skinner, whose team won in front of a crowd of just 2,133 and not the expected 7,000. ``They've got a young club so there's a chance to do that.''
This was the ninth Commonwealth Classic and easily was the best.
BC, which won its sixth straight as it heads to Philadelphia to meet No. 12 St. Joseph's at the Palestra on Tuesday, also is a young club. That youth showed in several areas yesterday.
The Eagles got out to a sluggish start that led to a nine-point deficit, and they failed to hold the lead when they went ahead. BC could not put a scrappy, talented UMass away, failing to score in the final 3:31 of regulation.
``We stumbled along the way, there's no question about it,'' said Skinner, who scored his fifth straight win against his alma mater and his fourth straight in the Classic series that used to be dominated by UMass. ``At the end of the day, we got what we needed.''
Craig Smith, who missed two free throws with 1:41 left in regulation that would have given the Eagles a five-point lead, got to the line off a pass from Sean Marshall with 14.6 seconds left in OT. Smith made the shots to give BC its 76-75 edge.
``This is what makes good players great players - stepping up to the challenge,'' Smith said.
|Audio clip: Lee hits the 3 to tie it at 70.|
Courtesey: UMass Sports Network
UMass (2-3) missed five straight free throws in a span of 1:10 (four on one possession) to keep BC alive.
``We did everything we had to do to win the game and we were in position to win the game,'' said Lappas, 0-3 in the series. ``I feel bad for our guys because I feel they played their heads off.''
Smith, who had a tough time all day with a collapsing UMass defense, had his second straight double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Marshall had a career-high 21 points (5-for-11 on 3-pointers). An injured Hinnant had 11 points and six assists, Uka Agbai added 10 points and Jared Dudley had eight points and a career-high 12 rebounds (six offensive).
Anderson had 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals for UMass, which also got 13 points from Brennan Martin and 11 points and seven rebounds from Rashaun Freeman.
oston College power forward Craig Smith could have ended yesterday's ninth annual Commonwealth Classic in regulation.
Smith made amends for his two costly miscues in the final minutes of the second half by sinking a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Eagles to a 76-75 victory over UMass at Conte Forum.
``I just felt confident and when I'm in a zone like that there's no stopping me,'' Smith said. ``When I went to the line with 14 seconds left I went there knowing I'm knocking them down. I always feel good in overtime, and it's a time that no matter what, you can redeem yourself and that's what I tried to do.''
With 1:41 to play, Smith went to the line with an opportunity to give the Eagles a five-point lead and tossed up a pair of clunkers. UMass center Gabe Lee tied the game, 70-70, with his only 3-point shot of the season with 31 seconds remaining.
The clock then wound down to 10 seconds and Smith received a pass at the foul line. The 6-foot-7 sophomore from Los Angeles powered his way through a gauntlet of UMass defenders, but Smith was tagged with a charging foul just as his runner fell through the twine.
``It was tough to find buckets in the final minutes,'' Smith said. ``We were just scraping, and they won the battle in the final two minutes. It was frustrating, but we came back in OT.''
Smith finished with 19 points to become the only BC player to score in double figures in all six victories this season. He combined his points with 11 rebounds to register his second double-double of the season.
Smith spent the bulk of his 41 minutes on the floor engaged in a low post war with Lee and power forward Rashaun Freeman. Smith was on the business end of some hard fouls and two WWF quality takedowns. Smith also got poked in the eye and kicked in the head. But he never lost his composure even when it looked like his temper was about to take over.
``It was an all out battle and I think it was a little bit too much of a battle,'' Smith said. ``Guys were getting very scrappy with hard fouls and low blows but that's all part of the game, and I just got a little ticked off.
``I haven't gotten a beating like that in a while, not since UConn anyway, so that's pretty exciting. I keep getting beatings and I'm still coming back, and I love it because I love the game.''
UMass coach Steve Lappas used different defenses to employ a similar strategy on Smith that he tried on Vermont power forward Taylor Coppenrath in Tuesday night's win at the Mullins Center. BC coach Al Skinner said Smith was the primary focus of the Minutemen's zone defense.
``They fronted and backed Coppenrath, but they were in a man defense,'' Skinner said. ``Today they played zone and they double teamed him every time the ball went down low.''
Mass coach Steve Lappas had more on his mind after yesterday's game than just losing a tough overtime thriller to a local rival.
``I'm more worried about where we're at physically,'' Lappas said after three players were injured in the Minutemen's 76-75 loss to Boston College. ``We don't have a lot of depth. We have nine guys on scholarship.''
The Minutemen have to play Central Connecticut Tuesday. Both Art Bowers and Gabe Lee suffered right ankle injuries, while Anthony Anderson was cramping in both calves.
``I don't know how he stayed in the game, to be honest with you,'' Lappas said.
Bowers left early, tried to return but couldn't and later went for X-rays. Lee returned and was a factor, hitting his first career trey to force OT and then missing the game's final shot - later blaming himself for two of the five free throw misses his team had late in OT.
Lappas left the game with ``a ton of positives'' for a team that will win a lot of games if it plays like it did yesterday. The Minutemen led by nine in the first half, gave up a 15-0 run, responded with a 10-0 run of their own early in the second half and fought back at the end of regulation.
Wrist bothers Hinnant
BC's Louis Hinnant, again playing with his left wrist (fracture, ligament tear) wrapped, hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the second half but took a blow to the wrist taking a late charge.
Steve Hailey was running the offense through much of crunch time, but Hinnant grabbed the game-ending rebound. . . .
There were several reasons why yesterday's game was not postponed. BC director of athletics Gene DeFilippo said before tipoff the teams, officials and television truck were on hand. Another factor was rescheduling.
``Trying for a makeup date isn't easy,'' DeFilippo said. ``UMass exams are not the same time as our exams and neither of us wants to play in January.''
The upside, he said, was the game was likely heavily watched on NESN by snowed-in fans. . . .
BC didn't get its third foul of the game until there was 11:42 left in regulation, finishing with 13. . . .
UMass' Brennan Martin came in 1-for-6 from the field on the year, all from 3-point range, and nailed four straight treys before missing three. He is now 5-for-13 for the year, all on treys. . . .
UMass was extremely quick slapping the ball away from BC players inside.. . .
BC was 9-for-18 on 3-pointers (UMass 10-for-27), but coach Al Skinner felt his players had even more chances to shoot from deep.
he Commonwealth Classic finally became a Commonwealth Instant Classic.
When Gabe Lee's last-gasp, 8-foot baseline shot bounced high off the rim and to Boston College sophomore guard Louis Hinnant, the Eagles were finally able to exhale and exult in their pulsating 76-75 overtime triumph over the University of Massachusetts yesterday at Conte Forum.
"I remember [NESN analyst] Bob Wenzel asked me what I was expecting from the game," said BC coach Al Skinner. "And I said that all I expected was to have a 1-point victory. Boy, was I ever right. I won't ever say that again."
Gabe Lee tries to control the rebound away from Nate Doornekamp.
"It was the best one and the most exciting one, I guess," said BC senior forward Uka Agbai (10 points, 2 rebounds), who was joined by his coach at midcourt after the game to collect the Governor's Cup. "I didn't want it to be that way, though. I just wanted to make it a nice routine win, but we got a W, and that's what really mattered."
BC's Governor's Cup seemed to runneth over after the Eagles got double-figure scoring from four starters, including a career-high 21 points from Sean Marshall, who capitalized on the open looks UMass's 2-3 zone defense gave him on the perimeter. The 6-foot-5-inch freshman from Rialto, Calif., who made his Commonwealth Classic debut on the same day he witnessed his first snowfall, led the Eagles by knocking down 7 of 14 shots, including 5 of 11 from the 3-point arc.
Freshman Jared Dudley had 8 points and a career-high 12 rebounds to help the Eagles outrebound UMass, 42-31, but it was sophomore forward Craig Smith (19 points, 11 rebounds) who redeemed BC by atoning for a pair of missed foul shots with 1:41 remaining in regulation when he calmly hit two free throws with 14.6 seconds left in OT to put the Eagles ahead.
"It was crazy," said Smith, who got his right eye poked, his head kicked, and was knocked to the floor about a half-dozen times (and that was just in the first half). "No matter how many times people keep giving me beatings, I'm still coming back. I have too much love for the game to ever quit."
So when he stepped to the line with 14.6 seconds left in OT, and his team in dire need of two foul shots? "It was total confidence," he said. "That's what makes good players great players; stepping up to the challenge."
The Minutemen (2-3), who were led by Anthony Anderson's 20 points, showed they were just as capable. Despite losing freshman starting guard Art Bowers (injured right ankle) in the first half, UMass surged to a 24-15 lead with 7:42 to go in the half.
Undaunted, BC mounted a 15-0 run -- highlighted by the perimeter shooting of Hinnant (11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers) and Marshall -- to take a 30-24 lead with 1:05 left. Brennan Martin, a 3-point shooter who has yet to take a 2-pointer this season, had 13 points for UMass on 4-for-7 shooting, hitting his first four from the arc before missing his last three attempts.
Martin drilled a trey to answer one by Marshall that enabled the Minutemen to pull within 33-30 at halftime. UMass built off that momentum to take a 40-35 lead in the second half on Lee's transition hoop with 17:31 to go, a play in which Lee, too, injured his right ankle.
"There were a ton of positives," said UMass coach Steve Lappas, "but I am more concerned about where we are physically."
After both teams battled through five lead changes and five ties, BC surged to a 70-64 lead on Agbai's turnaround jumper. UMass, however, came back and tied it at 70 with 30.8 seconds left when Lee knocked down an unlikely trey (on his first attempt of the season, no less). "I wanted to fall down right there," Smith said. "Hey, he made a great shot."
UMass surged to a 75-74 lead, but missed five of its last six foul shots in OT to open the door for Smith to redeem himself.
"I'd say it was an Instant Classic, yeah," Agbai said. "It'll be something that people will talk about and, hopefully, will want to watch again."
hey know they've improved over recent years, and the hope is that by season's end their record will substantiate that claim. Many who saw the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in a 76-75 overtime loss at Boston College in yesterday's Commonwealth Classic are already convinced.
Anthony Anderson starts to break past Sean Marshall.
Then starting center Gabe Lee turned his right ankle with 17:31 remaining. He left but returned three minutes later. Point guard and leading scorer Anthony Anderson suffered leg cramps throughout the second half but played the entire game.
Despite those setbacks -- plus missing 5 of 6 free throws over the last 1:37 -- UMass had a chance to win. Lee missed an 8-foot baseline jumper with a second remaining to seal BC's fifth straight win in the series as the Eagles remained unbeaten after six games. For the Minutemen (2-3), it was an opportunity lost for claiming a significant win before the Atlantic 10 schedule begins.
"I feel bad for our guys because I thought they played their heads off," said UMass coach Steve Lappas. "It was tough conditions. They lose guys to injury and they hung in there and hung in there. They gave everything they had."
The Minutemen next play Central Connecticut, which they lost to last season after leading by 11 at halftime.
Bowers was taken to St. Elizabeth's Hospital for X-rays, and though Lappas said he did not know the extent of the injury, he said, "It doesn't look good."
This is a team that lines up in the shadow of the program's glory teams of the 1990s. Many are eager for UMass to return to such winning and each victory prompts optimism. By contrast, a 40-point defeat at Texas Tech and a home defeat to Hartford dealt a serious blow to the optimism gained by a convincing opening win over St. Francis.
If there is such a thing as a moral victory, yesterday's defeat was just that.
"This year it seems like their chemistry is a little bit better, and they have a better idea of what they want to do," said BC coach Al Skinner, a UMass graduate and former player. "It seems like they have a leader in Anderson, and they're doing a nice job handling the ball, showing some patience, moving the basketball. There's not a lot of selfish play.
"In years past I didn't think they had good basketball players. I think they have better basketball players, or at least guys willing to understand and accept their roles. I think there is really an improvement. It showed in the way they played and the way we reacted to it."
Lappas has insisted that this team is better in terms of talent and cohesiveness. He knows that in playing five newcomers in the rotation, the Minutemen are likely to have setbacks.
"I told the guys that if you play basketball games and it comes down to you missing shots, whether foul shots, jump shots, whatever they are, you're not trying to miss them," Lappas said. "Just do the other things that we need to do to win the game, and we did. We did everything we needed to do to win the game, and we were in position to win, and that's all we can ask for.
"I know we have good, young players that are going to bring this program back. They just need some time, that's it. And that's something they have."
Anderson, a senior who sat out his freshman year because of academic eligibility requirements, said he intends to return for a fifth season, meaning that every player in the Minuteman rotation will likely have another shot at beating BC before leaving Amherst.
But they know they squandered a chance yesterday, and Lee, who missed two free throws with the Minutemen leading, 75-74, with 29.4 seconds left, shouldered the blame.
"I missed two free throws and it hurts. Basically I take full blame for losing us the game," said Lee, whose first collegiate 3-pointer in four tries sent the game to overtime. "I make two free throws and we may have another overtime or a chance to win. But we just have to move on from here."
Lappas said he will not determine any changes in the lineup or rotation until he knows the extent of Bowers's injury. Though he would be missed, the Minutemen played the last 33 minutes without him and came within a basket of victory.
"I still feel like this team, when we come around, will be way better than my last two years," said Anderson.
HESTNUT HILL - University of Massachusetts big man Gabe Lee had not yet been asked about his missed free throws late in overtime, but he was ready to take responsibility for them after the Minutemen lost to Boston College 76-75 Saturday at Conte Forum.
I missed two free throws, I take full blame for us losing this game, Lee said. ''If I make two free throws we have (at worst) another overtime. I just have to move on.''
Lee accepted the blame despite the fact there would have been no overtime without his first career 3-pointer that tied the game late in regulation. Senior captain Anthony Anderson said Lee didn't deserve blame, but he respected Lee's willingness to assume it.
''Of course not. You're not going to make every shot, every foul shot. People miss layups,'' Anderson said. ''For him to say I take most of the blame is big.''
For the first time in several years, the Commonwealth Classic lived up to the second half of its name as the game had 15 lead changes. But five missed free throws in the last 97 seconds caused the Minutemen to leave brokenhearted.
''I feel bad for our guys,'' UMass coach Steve Lappas said. ''They played their heads off in tough conditions. They really hung in there. They gave everything they had. ... We had it in position to win. If all you can say at the end of a game is 'we missed some shots,' then you did a helluva job.''
With UMass leading 75-74, BC forward Jared Dudley drove hard to the basket and was called for the charge with 30.5 seconds left. The Eagles guarded the inbound well, forcing the Minutemen to give the ball to Lee, who has struggled from the free throw line this year.
After Steve Hailey committed the foul, Lee airballed the first free throw and missed the second one, but Rashaun Freeman grabbed the rebound. Dudley fouled him, but again both free throws didn't drop.
BC got the board this time and pushed the ball to sophomore Craig Smith inside. He backed in on Lee, who committed the foul. Smith made both free throws, putting the Eagles ahead 75-74.
BC smothered Anderson, who was looking for the would-be game-winning shot. Instead he dumped the ball down to the baseline to Lee, whose 8-footer hit the rim and bounced out as time expired.
In addition to losing the game, UMass lost freshman Artie Bowers early when he landed hard on his right ankle.
The Minutemen (2-3) return to action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Central Connecticut at Mohegan Sun.
Anderson led UMass with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Brennan Martin had a career-high 13 points, while rookies Freeman and Maurice Maxwell has 11 and 10 respectively.
Sean Marshall led BC (5-0) with 21, while Smith had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
BC coach Al Skinner said the Minutemen have a bright future.
''They have a young club. The potential is there for them,'' Skinner said. ''Their chemistry is better and they have a better idea what they want to do. They're doing a nice job handling the ball and showing some patience. I think they're clearly improved. It showed in their play'' Saturday.
The Eagles led 70-64 with 3:21 left in the game, but the UMass zone defense, which had been strong throughout the game, tightened and allowed the Minutemen to make a run. After Maxwell made one of two free throws, Freeman blocked Uka Agbai's shot, starting a fast break that Jeff Viggiano finished with a layup that made the score 70-67 with 2:19 remaining. The teams traded turnovers and offensive fouls into the final minute.
After Anderson was whistled for a charge, Smith's inbound pass sailed over everybody, giving the Minutemen the ball with 46.7 seconds left. UMass called time-out and designed a shot for Anderson, but when the Eagle defense came out and double-teamed him, he fed the ball to Lee, who was open in front of the UMass bench. Lee had only tried four other 3-pointers in his career - and none of those went in - but this one splashed through perfectly, tying the game at 70.
Smith was called for a charge at the other end, giving the Minutemen an opportunity to win in regulation. Anderson pushed the ball up the floor and fired from NBA 3-point range, but the ball skipped off the rim and hit an Eagle on its way out of bounds with 0.4 seconds left. UMass got the ball to Freeman for an 8-footer on the baseline, but it just missed, forcing overtime.
Maxwell and Smith traded hoops to open the extra five minutes, but both offenses seemed a bit out of synch until Freeman made a great spin move inside on Agbai to put UMass ahead 74-72. Agbai backed down Lee at the other end where he scored over him and drew the foul, but missed the free throw. Trying to rebound his miss, Agbai fouled Maxwell, who made one of two free throws to set up the game's final sequence.
Anderson remained confident despite the disappointment.
''We're 2-3, but I still feel like this team is going to come around and be way better than we were my first two years,'' he said.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OSTON - The good news for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team is that freshman guard Artie Bowers' injured right ankle wasn't broken Saturday. X-rays taken after the game revealed no fractures.
But Bowers' ankle is sprained and UMass coach Steve Lappas said his status for Tuesday's game against Central Connecticut State (7:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun) is questionable.
If he can't go, freshman Maurice Maxwell would likely make his first career start.
Bowers played 12 minutes and landed on a teammate's foot after scoring his only two points with 10:13 left in the first half. He hobbled off the floor. He tried to play on it, coming back for a few minutes late in the half, but he didn't return in the second half.
''It's unfortunate because he was playing well,'' Lappas said.
Bowers wasn't the only one to get banged up. Gabe Lee left the game with an injured ankle early in the second half, but returned a short time later. Anthony Anderson, who played the entire 45 minutes, had cramps in both calves late in regulation.
''I'm concerned where we are right now physically for Tuesday,'' Lappas said. ''We had a lot of guys play a lot of minutes. We don't have a lot of guys on scholarship right now.''
MARTIN TO THE RESCUE - Junior Brennan Martin's primary role since joining the Minutemen has been to be a 3-point shooter off the bench, especially when UMass is struggling to score against a zone. He filled that role perfectly Saturday. With the Eagles starting to break away late in the first half, Martin came in and buried two big threes to keep the Minutemen within three at halftime.
Martin played 20 minutes in the second half and overtime and made two more 3-pointers and a free throw to give him a career-high 13 points. He played defense well enough to stay in the game for 22 minutes, also a career-high, with Bowers out.
''That's a guy who hasn't had to play a lot of minutes before and tonight got thrust into a different role,'' Lappas said. ''Brennan always has a good grasp of what we're trying to do and he understands the game plan. But a kid like that needs to make shots. That gave us a tremendous lift.''
ANDERSON HONORED - Anderson's first back-to-back 20-point games of his career helped the senior point guard earn co-Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors. He averaged 24.5 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists during the week in UMass' win over Vermont and Saturday's loss. He shared the honor with Saint Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson, who has won or shared the award each of the first three weeks.
Richmond guard Daon Merritt broke Rashaun Freeman's hold on the Rookie of the Week honors. Freeman won the award the first two weeks of the season.
UMASS IN PARADISE JAM - The Minutemen, who have played in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, will add the Virgin Islands to that list next year as interim athletic director Thorr Bjorn said that UMass has signed to play in the Paradise Jam in November.
NEXT UP - Central Connecticut State, the Minutemen's next opponent, had its game Saturday with Quinnipiac postponed because of the weather. The two teams play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mohegan Sun.
MISCELLANEOUS - BC now holds a 20-17 lead in the all-time series between the two Bay State schools and has won the last four meetings. ... There were over 7,000 tickets distributed for the game, but the snowstorm thinned the crowd to 2,133.
Sophomore Jeff Viggiano fouled out with just under a minute left. It was the fourth time in his career that he's been whistled for five. - The Minutemen are winless (0-3) in their new maroon uniforms, including the preseason loss to the Harlem Globetrotters. ... Former Minuteman Shannon Crooks was in attendance.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.
HESTNUT HILL - Call Steve Lappas prophetic.
Speaking to reporters in the press conference following his team's win over Vermont on Tuesday night, the Massachusetts men's basketball coach
described his young squads free throw shooting woes as "a major concern" and that he "didn't have any idea of what to do about it."
Thus, it surely did not surprise the third-year UMass coach when his team missed its final five crucial free throws and fell to Boston College 76-75 in overtime in the ninth annual Commonwealth Classic before 2,133 at Conte Forum.
Over 7,000 tickets were sold for the game, but many were kept away by the blizzard-like conditions in the area.
The Eagles have now won four consecutive Classics, though the Minutemen retain the overall lead in the series at 5-4.
UMass returns to action Tuesday night, when it will travel to Uncasville, Conn. to face Central Connecticut at Mohegan Sun Casino.
"Kids are going to miss shots," Lappas said. "All you can do is concentrate on doing all the other things we can do to win the game, and we did those."
The Minutemen were once again led by junior captain Anthony Anderson, who scored 20 points, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, dished out four assists and recorded three steals, playing all 45 minutes.
Junior forward Brennan Martin also came up big for UMass, scoring 13 points, including four first-half three pointers. Sophomore forward Rashaun Freeman chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Highly-touted freshman guard Art Bowers left the game after just twelve minutes when he came down awkwardly on an opposing player's foot following his only basket of the game.
He was taken to St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton for X-rays, but Lappas did not seem optimistic.
"I'm not feeling real good about that," he said. "It must be hurting him, because he would have killed to be in that game."
Freshman forward Sean Marshall led Boston College with 21 points, including five 3-pointers, while sophomore All-Big East candidate Craig Smith chipped in with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman forward Jared Dudley was the Eagles' leading rebounder, pulling down 12 boards, and senior captain Uka Agbai tossed in 10 points as well for BC.
"[NESN analyst] Bob Wenzel asked me what I was expecting from the game," BC coach Al Skinner said. "And I said that all I expected was to have a one-point victory. Boy, was I ever right. I won't ever say that again."
The Minutemen scored the last six points of regulation, including a rare 3-pointer by Lee with 32 seconds remaining that sent the contest to overtime tied at 70. It was the first 3-pointer of Lee's career, on just his fifth attempt.
"I wanted to fall down right there," Smith said. "Hey, he made a great shot."
The Maroon and White did have a pair of chances to win the game in regulation, but 3-point attempts by Anderson and Freeman both rimmed out, Freeman's at the buzzer.
UMass led twice in the extra frame, however Lee and Freeman missed a pair of free throws apiece with just over 20 seconds remaining, and Smith, who was battered and bruised all game long by a physical UMass frontcourt, connected on a pair from the foul line with just under 15 seconds remaining to give BC a 76-75 advantage.
"When I went to the line with 14 seconds left I went there knowing I'm knocking them down," Smith said. "I always feel good in overtime, and it's a time that no matter what, you can redeem yourself and that's what I tried to do."
Faced with no timeouts and a chance to win, Anderson advanced the ball up court as the prime option for the final shot, but the Lynn native was greeted with double coverage.
He then found Lee open on the left side, but the center's leaner from the baseline came up short and into the hands of the Eagles' Louis Hinnant as the final horn sounded.
"We beat ourselves," Lee said. "I missed two free throws, and Rashaun [Freeman] missed two. If we make those, we win by three.
"But I take full blame for this loss. I had a shot at the end [of overtime], and I just missed it. I also missed two free throws - I just messed up."
Despite playing without Bowers, UMass surged out to a 24-15 advantage at the 7:42 mark of the first half.
BC responded, however, with a 15-0 run large in part to the outside shooting of Hinnant (11 points including 3-for-4 shooting from behind the arc) and Marshall, to take a 30-25 lead with 1:05 remaining in the first half.
Marshall and Martin then traded treys as the Minutemen pulled to within 33-30 at intermission.
UMass came out of the blocks quickly in the second half, as it jumped ahead to take a 40-35 lead on a layup by Lee in transition with 17:31 to play. On the play Lee rolled his ankle as well, and appeared to be in considerable pain while lying on the court. However the 6-foot-9-inch center returned to the game a few minutes later.
The two teams proceeded to battle back and forth through five lead changes before Agbai's turnaround jumper gave the Eagles a 70-64 edge with 3:31 left in the game.
However UMass battled back again on the strength of a free throw by freshman guard Maurice Maxwell (10 points, four assists in 33 minutes) and a Jeff Viggiano layup to set up Lee's heroics that sent the game to overtime.
"I'd say it was an Instant Classic, yeah," Agbai said. "It'll be something that people will talk about and, hopefully, will want to watch again."
|Boston College Eagles||76|
|The Commonwealth Classic|
at the Mullins Center
Official Basketball Box Score Massachusetts vs Boston College 12/06/03 2:00 p.m. at Silvio O. Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: Massachusetts 2-3 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 5-10 0-1 1-4 3 4 7 2 11 1 2 1 1 31 22 VIGGIANO,Jeff....... f 4-8 0-4 0-0 2 0 2 5 8 1 1 0 0 28 02 LEE,Gabe............ c 4-11 1-1 0-2 1 5 6 3 9 2 3 3 0 42 12 ANDERSON,Anthony.... g 6-12 4-10 4-6 1 8 9 1 20 4 4 1 3 45 34 BOWERS,Art.......... g 1-4 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 2 3 0 0 0 12 00 MARTIN,Brennan...... 4-7 4-7 1-2 0 0 0 2 13 0 0 1 0 22 05 LASME,Stephane...... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 11 MAXWELL,Maurice..... 4-10 1-3 1-2 0 3 3 0 10 4 1 1 1 33 13 CHADWICK,Chris...... 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 8 TEAM................ 4 4 1 Totals.............. 29-63 10-27 7-16 11 22 33 16 75 15 12 7 5 225
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 13-30 43.3% 2nd Half: 14-27 51.9% OT: 2-6 33.3% Game: 46.0% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 4-11 36.4% 2nd Half: 6-14 42.9% OT: 0-2 0.0% Game: 37.0% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 0-0 0.0% 2nd Half: 6-10 60.0% OT: 1-6 16.7% Game: 43.8% 3
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Boston College 6-0 TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 01 SMITH, Craig........ f 7-16 0-0 5-8 4 7 11 3 19 2 3 0 2 41 03 DUDLEY, Jared....... f 4-7 0-1 0-1 6 6 12 2 8 3 6 0 0 33 00 AGBAI, Uka.......... c 5-10 0-0 0-1 1 1 2 1 10 1 0 0 1 34 11 HINNANT, Louis...... g 4-6 3-4 0-0 0 3 3 2 11 6 3 0 2 30 23 MARSHALL, Sean...... g 7-14 5-11 2-2 0 5 5 1 21 2 1 0 0 35 04 WATSON, Jermaine.... 2-5 1-1 0-0 1 1 2 0 5 2 1 0 1 19 12 HAILEY, Steve....... 0-2 0-1 2-2 0 0 0 2 2 2 1 0 2 16 13 DOORNEKAMP, Nate.... 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 14 24 EVERTSEN, Devon..... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 3 TEAM................ 3 3 6 Totals.............. 29-62 9-18 9-14 15 28 43 13 76 18 16 1 8 225
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 13-25 52.0% 2nd Half: 14-27 51.9% OT: 2-10 20.0% Game: 46.8% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 4-9 44.4% 2nd Half: 5-8 62.5% OT: 0-1 0.0% Game: 50.0% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 3-5 60.0% 2nd Half: 4-6 66.7% OT: 2-3 66.7% Game: 64.3% 1,1
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Officials: Mike Kitts, Patrick Driscoll, Michael Stephens Technical fouls: Massachusetts-TEAM. Boston College-None. Attendance: 2133 Score by Periods 1st 2nd OT Total Massachusetts................. 30 40 5 - 75 Boston College................ 33 37 6 - 76
Points in the paint-UMASS 22,BC 30. Points off turnovers-UMASS 16,BC 14. 2nd chance points-UMASS 11,BC 17. Fast break points-UMASS 0,BC 0. Bench points-UMASS 25,BC 7. Score tied-13 times. Lead changed-12 times. Last FG-UMASS OT-02:09, BC OT-01:39.