Panasonic Holiday Festival

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Box score

St. John's 51, Massachusetts 49
From The Associated Press, 12/28/2005

NEW YORK - Aaron Spears made a layup with 32 seconds left to give St. John's the lead, then blocked Massachusetts' final shot and the Red Storm beat the Minutemen 51-49 on Wednesday night to win the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden for the second straight year.

Spears, a junior college transfer, scored on a pass inside from fellow big man Lamont Hamilton to break a 49-all tie. On Massachusetts' final attempt, guard Chris Lowe drove but Spears got a piece of the shot from behind and the buzzer sounded while there was a scramble for the rebound.

Hamilton had 12 points for the Red Storm (7-4), who were making their 40th appearance in the Christmas-week tournament. The win gave them a 64-39 overall record and a 13-11 record in championship games.

St. John's, which played both games without injured leading scorer Daryll Hill, beat then-No. 17 North Carolina State in last year's title game. Hill, averaging 13.7 points per game, reinjured his left knee in the loss at No. 1 Duke last week.

Stephane Lasme had 15 points for the Minutemen (5-4), who overcame a horrible first half to tie it twice in the last 3 minutes.

St. John's led 27-14 at halftime after Massachusetts went 5-for-27 from the field (18.5 percent).

Rashuan Freeman scored the first seven points of the second half and then assisted on Lasme's three-point play as the Minutemen got within 27-24. The Red Storm got the lead back to 45-37 on a layup by Eugene Lawrence with 8:16 to play, but Massachusetts answered with a 7-0 run capped by a 3-pointer by James Life with 6:19 left.

Lowe's short jumper with 2:06 left tied it at 49 and after an exchange of possessions, Spears, who finished with eight points, connected on the winning layup.

Massachusetts turned the ball over with 7.5 seconds left when Lasme was called for an illegal screen. The Red Storm didn't take advantage, however, as a crosscourt inbounds pass went out of bounds off Spears's hands with 6.5 to go.

Lawrence, selected the tournament MVP, finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four assists.

The Minutemen were trying to win their first regular-season tournament since the 1995 Rainbow Classic, the season they reached the Final Four. First-year coach Travis Ford was trying to become the first to win the Festival as a player and coach. He was the point guard on Kentucky's 1992 title team.

Chris Lowe gets hacked and loses the handle.

Jeff Viggiano tries to shake off Anthony Mason Jr.

Rashaun Freeman gets the short shot off.

Maurice Maxwell disrupts Cedric Jackson.

Stephane Lasme loses track of Lamont Hamilton.

Chris Lowe was forced to take the final shot, but missed...
and as Jeff Viggiano launched a shot after the buzzer...
Eugene Lawrence and the Red Storm walked off victorious.

Red Storm snuff UMass
Poor first half foils Minutemen
By Elliott Denman, The Boston Globe Correspondent, 12/29/2005

NEW YORK -- Today is Travis Ford's 36th birthday, but there's little to celebrate.

His UMass team, now 5-4, dropped a bitterly fought, 51-49 decision to St. John's (7-4) in the final of the 54th Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden last night, losing a last-ditch attempt to tie when a Chris Lowe drive was blocked by the Red Storm's Lamont Hamilton, and a tap attempt went wild as the final seconds clicked off.

For Ford, it was a first formal visit to the Garden in 13 years -- the former point guard had led his Kentucky team to the 1992 Festival crown -- but never a joy.

''Everybody's got to step up," Ford said. ''We weren't executing. We weren't making shots. Obviously, we played a lot better in the second half [after a 27-14 deficit at the break] but not good enough."

UMass, which had mauled St. Peter's of Jersey City, 66-49, in its Festival opener Tuesday night, simply couldn't stage a repeat in the face of a stifling Red Storm defense. The Minutemen made just 15 of 47 (31.9 percent) from the floor.

Festival MVP Eugene Lawrence led the Red Storm with a 9-point, 7-rebound, 3-steal performance. Stephane Lasme (15 points, 4 blocks, 5 rebounds) powered UMass before fouling out with 7.5 seconds left.

UMass comeback falls short 51-49
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/29/2005

NEW YORK - Chris Lowe's floater and Dante Milligan's rebound both bounced out in the final seven seconds as the University of Massachusetts' furious second-half comeback fell short and the Minutemen lost to St. John's 51-49 Wednesday in the Panasonic Holiday Festival final at Madison Square Garden.

UMass trailed for most of the game, but Stephane Lasme's dunk on a nifty pass from Maurice Maxwell tied the score at 47-47 with three minutes left. Two free throws by Lamont Hamilton regained the lead for the Red Storm 25 seconds later.

After Lowe hit a pull-up in the lane to tie the game at 49-49, both teams struggled to find offense. Lowe drove again, but missed this time and Aaron Spears grabbed the rebound and called time-out with a minute left.

The Minutemen forced St. John's deep into the shot clock at the other end, but Hamilton lofted a nice high-low pass to the right block, where Aaron Spears scored over Freeman to make it 51-49.

Lasme was called for an illegal screen, his fifth foul, at the other end which took the ball away from UMass. But facing a five-second violation, Anthony Mason Jr. overthrew the ensuing inbounds pass which gave the ball back to UMass with 6.5 seconds left. Lowe attacked the basket and ran into Hamilton.

There was no whistle and the shot bounced off the rim. Milligan tried to put the rebound in, but was well off as the clock ran out.

"I thought it was a foul, but I know it's crunch time and the ref's not going to call it," Lowe said. "I just tried to get it up on the rim. I thought my big man could come and get a tip back or something."

Ford said the Minutemen have been forced to rely on Lowe late in games.

"He's one guy that can create his own shot," Ford said. "Late in the game we had the shot clock down way too many times. He had to go one-on-one because he's the only guy that can create."

Lasme led the Minutemen (5-4) with 15 points, five rebounds and four blocks. Rashaun Freeman added nine points and seven rebounds.

Hamilton led St. John's (7-4) with 12 points as the Red Storm won its second straight Holiday Festival.

UMass returns to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday at No. 13 Boston College.

The first half featured woeful offense early by both sides, but St. John's finally found the range. After a layup by Milligan with 5:05 to play in the first half, the Red Storm ran off 14 straight points before Chris Lowe made two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to make it 27-14 at halftime.

"In the first half we played hard, but we weren't focused. I'd call plays and we wouldn't even be in the right place," Ford said. "We weren't mentally sharp."

Ford switched from a two-three zone defense that had been effective to man-to-man in the second half.

"Our zone really hurt our offense. We were standing around too much. That's why I switched at halftime," said Ford, who didn't yell at his team during the break. "I told our guys. 'We'e OK. We're going to get back in this game. We're only down 13 and we shot 18 percent (5-for-27). We'll get back in this game.' "

He was right. The Minutemen came out inspired to start the second half. Freeman scored the first seven points and Lasme the last three of a 10-0 UMass run that cut its deficit to 27-24 with 17:32 left.

St. John's pulled its lead back to seven at 45-38, but the Minutemen charged again with a 9-2 run that tied the game at 47-47 to set up the final sequence.

Lowe was positive after the game.

"It was a good comeback. We fought strong. That's all coach could ask for," Lowe said. "We didn't play to the best of our ability in the first half, but we fought strong in the second half.

"I wish I could have made that shot at the end and forced overtime. I think we could have pulled it out," Lowe added. "It's not a bad loss. This is a good learning loss ... We learned we have to play hard for 40 minutes."

Matt Vautour can be reached at For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to

Maxwell shoulders blame after defeat
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/29/2005

NEW YORK - University of Massachusetts junior guard Maurice Maxwell has been willing to be a leader for most of his collegiate career. After Wednesday's 51-49 loss to St. John's, Maxwell was willing to put some of the Minutemen's troubles on his own shoulders.

The numbers don't lie, Maxwell said. 'This season, honestly, I've been pretty bad. I haven't lived up to a lot of expectations of myself and probably a lot of others. I take a lot of responsibility for the games we lost because my production has been down a whole lot. ... I feel like if I'd been more productive in the games we lost our record (5-4) would be a lot more positive than it is right now.'

Maxwell, who is adjusting to playing significant minutes at point guard, has struggled with his scoring this season. After averaging 11.4 points as sophomore, he dropped to 6.9 per game after being held scoreless Wednesday night.

But Maxwell didn't blame his new position or the new system for his decreased production.

'It's a good system,' he said. 'Other players have been flourishing. I'm the only one who hasn't had a breakout game. The way I've been playing hasn't been good.'

Maxwell listed the steps he hoped would remedy his problems.

'Look at some film. Get in the gym. Talk to coach Ford,' Maxwell said. 'Stay positive and try not to get too down.'

While Maxwell pointed the finger at himself, there were plenty of culprits in Wednesday's loss. UMass' perimeter players shot 5-for-23 in the game. James Life has been very good at times, while all but disappearing offensively at other points. After a hot start, Brandon Thomas has slowed down. Jeff Viggiano, who had been hot lately, cooled off Wednesday.

'We didn't do a good job the whole game executing our offense. We're not going to win too many games when we shoot (5-for-23) from our guard play,' said Ford, including Viggiano among the guards. 'We have to shoot the ball a little better than that. Everybody has to play better on a consistent basis.'

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM - Stephane Lasme and Rashaun Freeman were named to the Panasonic Holiday Festival's all-tournament team. They were joined by Anthony Mason Jr. of St. John's, Keydren Clark of St. Peter's and Justin Armstrong of Columbia's. Eugene Lawrence of St. John's was the tournament's most valuable player.

Lasme was the only player on either team in the final to score in double-figures in both games.

LOW HALF - The 14 first-half points were the fewest by the Minutemen before intermission since Feb. 26, 2003, when they trailed Temple 42-14 at halftime.

NEXT UP - The Minutemen stay on the road for their next game as they play No. 13 Boston College at Conte Forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Eagles are in the Atlantic 10 stretch of their schedule, beating Duquesne Tuesday and meeting Rhode Island Saturday.

MISCELLANEOUS - Ford missed a chance to become the first person ever to win a Holiday Classic as a player and a coach as he helped Kentucky win the 1992 event.

Former New York Knick Anthony Mason was in attendance to watch his son Anthony Mason Jr. play for St. John's. The ex-NBA player has gained considerable weight since his playing days.

Matt Vautour can be reached at For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to

Massachusetts Minutemen 49
St. John's Red Storm 51
Panasonic Holiday Festival
at Madison Square Garden, New York NY

Official Basketball Box Score
UMass vs St. John's
12/28/05 8:30 p.m. at New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden)
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
01 Rashaun Freeman..... f  4-10   0-0    1-1    2  5  7   1   9  1  2  2  0  36
13 Stephane Lasme...... f  5-9    0-0    5-5    3  2  5   5  15  0  4  4  1  35
22 Jeff Viggiano....... f  1-4    1-3    2-2    1  1  2   1   5  1  1  0  0  29
03 Maurice Maxwell..... g  0-5    0-2    0-0    0  1  1   2   0  4  3  0  1  32
14 Chris Lowe.......... g  1-5    0-1    3-4    0  0  0   2   5  1  3  0  1  23
02 Brandon Thomas......    2-5    1-3    2-4    0  2  2   1   7  0  0  0  1  24
05 James Life..........    1-4    1-3    2-4    0  1  1   3   5  0  1  0  1  12
20 Dante Milligan......    1-5    0-0    1-2    3  2  5   2   3  0  0  1  0   9
   TEAM................                         2  3  5
   Totals..............   15-47   3-12  16-22  11 17 28  17  49  7 14  7  5 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  5-27 18.5%   2nd Half: 10-20 50.0%   Game: 31.9%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  1-8  12.5%   2nd Half:  2-4  50.0%   Game: 25.0%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  3-4  75.0%   2nd Half: 13-18 72.2%   Game: 72.7%   0,4

HOME TEAM: St. John's 7-4
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
02 MASON, Anthony...... f  3-7    2-4    0-0    1  2  3   2   8  2  2  0  1  33
34 HAMILTON, Lamont.... f  4-12   0-1    4-5    1  3  4   3  12  2  2  3  0  27
40 SPEARS, Aaron....... c  4-7    0-0    0-1    2  2  4   3   8  1  3  2  1  25
04 LAWRENCE, Eugene.... g  4-7    0-3    1-2    3  4  7   3   9  4  6  0  3  35
11 JACKSON, Cedric..... g  3-5    0-1    0-3    1  6  7   3   6  3  3  1  2  35
01 MAYBANK, Jermaine...    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   0   0  0  0  0  0   3
10 JASIULIONIS, Tomas..    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   0   0  0  0  0  0   4
15 MISSERE, Phil.......    0-0    0-0    0-0    1  0  1   4   0  1  1  1  1   8
23 WILLIAMS, Ryan......    0-5    0-1    0-0    0  1  1   0   0  3  0  0  0  14
24 GRAY, Dexter........    4-6    0-0    0-0    2  0  2   1   8  0  1  1  0  16
   TEAM................                         2  3  5
   Totals..............   22-49   2-10   5-11  13 22 35  19  51 16 18  8  8 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 12-28 42.9%   2nd Half: 10-21 47.6%   Game: 44.9%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  2-7  28.6%   2nd Half:  0-3   0.0%   Game: 20.0%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  1-4  25.0%   2nd Half:  4-7  57.1%   Game: 45.5%   1,3

Officials: Tim Higgins, Jeff Clark, Pat Driscoll
Technical fouls: UMass-None. St. John's-None.
Attendance: 7408
Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
UMass.........................   14   35  -   49
St. John's....................   27   24  -   51

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