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UMass Wraps Up Bahamas Tour With 138-86 Win
Thomas nets tour-best 32 points; Forbes tallies 27 and hands out nine assists
From UMass Athletics, 8/23/2006

NASSAU, Bahamas - UMass finished up its Bahamas training trip with its highest scoring game, a 138-86 win over the Rattlers on Wednesday night at Loyola Hall. Senior Brandon Thomas scored 32 points, the most for any player in a game on the trip as he also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. Junior Gary Forbes netted 27 points and had nine assists as he played point guard for much of the second half.

The Minutemen wrapped its five-game, seven-day tour with a perfect 5-0 record, averaging 126.0 points per game. Thomas was the top scorer on the trip, averaging 19.6 points per game while Forbes was a close second at 19.0.

"This was a great game for us to wrap up our trip to the Bahamas," said head coach Travis Ford. "That opponent was more physical and I was glad we got some strong competition in the first half. I think we played our best basketball tonight. We gave up too many points, but overall I was very pleased with the last-game performance. We fought through adversity early and kept our composure."

Six Minutemen scored in the double-figures in the game as senior Rashaun Freeman registered 19 points as he averaged 16.0 in the five games. Senior James Life also netted 19 points as he hit a game-best five 3-pointers. Junior Etienne Brower had 11 as did sophomore Luke Bonner - which was his best-scoring game of the tour.

Playing without point guard Tiki Mayben, sophomore Chris Lowe had a personal-best 11 assists along with Forbes big game as the back-up point guard.

The third quarter saw UMass turn up the defense and pump in the shots. After Lowe was called for a technical foul midway through the quarter and the Rattlers made a free throw to make it 72-59, UMass went on another patented scoring run which they have done often in the Bahamas. The Minutemen ended the quarter on a 28-7 run led by Thomas, who added nine more points in the spurt. Bonner scored the final seven points of the quarter for UMass including a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the 100-66 lead at the end of three.

The Minutemen built up their advantage in the second quarter, leading 64-45 at intermission with Thomas topping the team in scoring with 18. Freeman excelled late in the quarter with the final seven points of the second to give him nine in the first half. Forbes also had 12 in the first half.

UMass faced its stiffest competition of its tour which was evident in the first quarter as the Minutemen led by just seven points, 33-26 at the end of the period. The Rattlers closed the quarter on a 13-5 run. Thomas keyed UMass in the quarter with 11 points.

Freshman point guard Mayben was held out of the game because of a mild concussion suffered on Tuesday night when he accidentally collided with referee Fred Brown.

The UMass men's basketball team opens its regular-season on Nov. 11 against Dartmouth at the Mullins Center. Regular-season tickets are on sale by calling 1-866-UMASS-TIX.


Physical finale for UMass
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 8/24/2006

NASSAU, Bahamas -- His players were pushed, shoved, elbowed and trash-talked to for three quarters, but Travis Ford loved it. Maybe not while it was happening, but the University of Massachusetts coach was glad to see his team challenged by a difficult situation even if it was still pulling away to a 138-86 win over the Rattlers on the scoreboard.

'We needed that. I liked that, that team was talking the whole game,' Ford said. 'That team was very competitive as far as their spirit. We needed to face a little adversity to see how our guys would respond to the situation. We got carried away at times. But I liked the way we responded. That could have been a 25-point game, but we ended up winning by 50 which was good.'

The Rattlers were a team of All-Stars from the New Providence Basketball League. They replaced the Shockers, UMass' scheduled opponent. After playing with just one official on Tuesday, UMass got three on Thursday, but that didn't stop the game from getting a little nasty, in fact it may have contributed to it. The third official didn't whistle a single foul all night against the Rattlers, which infuriated Ford, who pleaded, cajoled and accused to no avail.

'I thought we played against five players and two refs tonight,' Ford said.

Senior Rashaun Freeman thought the game would have value later on.

'Even though we won by a lot a game like this can help us prepare to play good games on the road,' Freeman said.

Sophomore point guard Chris Lowe earned a technical for complaining about an uncalled forearm to the face causing Ford to take him out of the game.

'They were playing really dirty and I was getting really mad,' Lowe said. 'That was like playing Rhode Island, because they're big, strong and tough. We just had to keep focusing to fight adversity.'

'I told Chris that's the way it's going to be,' Ford said. 'I told him you have to keep your cool and you have to really adjust. I don't think he adjusted well early.'

While it rattled Lowe, Luke Bonner, who both gave and received his share of the physical play, seemed to feed off it. He finished with 11 points, including two 3-pointers and nine rebounds.

'He does that. He keeps getting better each game. I thought he was terrific tonight,' Ford said. 'The way he shot the basketball, the way he handled the basketball and the way he rebounded it, I thought he was very compete tonight. He brings a very stabilizing mentality when he comes in.'

The UMass defense, which had been so dominant the night before, gave up the most points it had all tournament, but the offense more than compensated as six Minutemen reached double figures. Brandon Thomas finished his standout scoring stretch with 32 points, while Gary Forbes added 27 points and nine assists. Rashaun Freeman had 19 points and eight rebounds.

The Minutemen fly home Thursday afternoon and begin classes on Sept. 6. Full practices begin Oct. 14 and the regular season gets underway Nov.11 when Dartmouth comes to the Mullins Center.

MAYBEN SITS ' Freshman point guard Tiki Mayben didn't play in the game. He bumped heads with referee Fred Brown Tuesday night and suffered a mild concussion and was still feeling the effects of it Wednesday. The team elected to sit him out as a precaution. Mayben averaged 9.8 assists per game in the first three games.

Without him, Forbes, became the No. 2 point guard and Etienne Brower was No. 3.

NUMBERS ' Seven Minutemen averaged double figures in scoring for the trip led by Thomas who had 19.6 and Forbes (19.0) over the five games. Thomas had the single best total with 32 points Wednesday.

STARTING LINEUP ' Ford, who mixed lineups all trip, started Freeman, Brower, Forbes, Stephane Lasme and Lowe.

MAKING FRIENDS ' A husband and wife and their two sons from Manchester, England, who were vacationing at the Atlantis, met and grew fond of some of the Minutemen at the resort. They altered their plans to attend Wednesday's game and cheer for UMass. After the game they got T-shirts, autographs and their pictures taken with the players.

CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS ' UMass players saw former New York Knick star Patrick Ewing and supermodel Naomi Campbell as both were staying at the Atlantis. Rumors abounded that Boston Celtics Hall of Famer Larry Bird was also there, but nobody reported seeing him in person.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. For more UMass coverage, including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.


Breaking down the players' performances
By Matt Vautour, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 8/24/2006

NASSAU, Bahamas -- University of Massachusetts coach Travis Ford won't be in Amherst long before the tapes come out.

Poor lighting in both D.W. Davis Gymnasium and Loyola Hall will make the video of the team's five games in the Bahamas lousy from an aesthetic standpoint. But they're plenty good as teaching tools.

Ford was generally happy with his team's play, but knew there'd be plenty to work on in fall workouts that begin in early September and already had some ideas.

The following is a look at each player, who made the trip and how he did:

Rashaun Freeman ' Division I college players often struggle to keep Freeman from scoring and rebounding so the Bahamians, most of whom were smaller, didn't have much luck. Ford thought his positioning could improve.

'Rashaun is putting the ball on the floor way too many times. He got stripped a lot,' Ford said. 'We have to work on him getting deeper in the post and turning and scoring and using his body.'

Stephane Lasme ' The big man from Gabon was a crowd favorite among the locals as he showed off his impressive athleticism on dunks and blocked shots throughout. Ford wanted him to improve at the free throw line and be more aggressive offensively.

'He got a lot of 10-15 foot jumpers the way we were playing. We need to work on that with him,' he said. 'I thought he was a little hesitant to go with his jump hook which he's very good at.'

Gary Forbes ' After sitting out last season following his transfer from Virginia, Forbes is being counted on to score and he did plenty of that against the Bahamian players. But Ford wanted more than that.

'He's got to learn to affect the game in more ways that just scoring, which he can do,' he said. 'He's got to become a more consistent 3-point shooter. I liked his leadership. He's a guy that you can give the ball to and he can break guys down and score. He still had a little rust on him after sitting out a year.'

Brandon Thomas ' No returning player gained as much for this trip as Thomas. Freed from last year's multi-positional responsibilities, Thomas looked comfortable and played well on the wing. He was among the team's most consistent outside shooters.

'What's made him look good is his 3-point shooting,' Ford said. 'He's taking the easy shot. Last year he got caught up forcing too many things. He needs to become a better rebounder. He's understood his role and not tired to do too much. He's let the game come to him.'

Tiki Mayben ' Obviously there's much tougher competition ahead, but Mayben's talent looks like everything it was hyped up to be. He was a bit turnover prone as he sometimes tried to complete difficult passes. But his ability to get teammates the ball in good position to score is obvious. He was solid defensively pressing and trapping. It's too early to judge his man-to-man skills.

'Tiki has to work on when to make the simple play and when to make the spectacular play. That's going to be a little adjustment for him because his game is a lot about flare and a lot about instinct. I don't think he's trying to be a hot dog,' Ford said. 'He usually hits the right play. Sometimes he makes things more difficult than they need to be, but there are other times that a play wouldn't have been completed if he hadn't made it the way he did. It's a fine line. You don't want to take away his strength, creating and making things happen, but he has to learn when to do it and when not to do it.'

Chris Lowe ' Among the trip's more encouraging revelations was Lowe's jump shot. The sophomore guard spent most of his summer working on his 3-point shooting and it looks like it improved dramatically. Ford said Lowe played well but needs to work on his leadership.

'We were very pleased the way he shot the ball. He's got to become more talkative on the court. He often stays within himself,' Ford said. 'That's his personality. But he needs to change that. He needs to be more of a leader and a rah-rah guy on the court.'

Dante Milligan ' The pace of the game seemed to suit Milligan well, who rebounded the ball and was active throughout.

'I thought he had a good trip,' Ford said. 'He has to understand what makes him good, being active. He needs to be stronger around the basket. He needs to come down with more rebounds that he gets his hands on, but I was happy with the way Dante played.'

Luke Bonner ' His potential impact on this team is hard to project from these games. None of the opponents had a legitimate post presence meaning he was guarding players as much as nine inches shorter than him at times. He displayed a decent jump hook that could prove to be more of a weapon later in a halfcourt offensive set.

Ford was pleased with his play, but said the things he needs to work on couldn't be accomplished in these games.

'He has to work on playing to his size, getting in there and rebounding with bigger guys,' he said. 'He needs to be able to score with his back to the basket. We know he can shoot threes but he needs to work on his inside game.'

Etienne Brower ' He won't need to be a big scorer on this team and his intangible skills weren't as recognizable in the lopsided victories. Ford used him at power forward at times in small lineup. His length and quickness look like they could be assets defensively and his outside shooting was a pleasant surprise.

'His one-on-one moves with the ball were very rusty, but he was very good at catching and shooting,' Ford said. 'He struggled when he put the ball on the floor. He needs to become a better rebounder for his size. He's got to work on his low post game. Defensively he got a lot of deflections. He's very active around the ball.'

James Life ' Defensively Life seemed more comfortable as part of a press and a trap than he did in last year's man-to-man. His 3-point shooting was solid, albeit a bit streaky. He seemed less likely to force a shot and more likely to make the extra pass. Life was a popular visitor at the Atlantis performing an impromptu acapella concert in the breakfast area one morning, and shook hands seemingly with almost everyone staying at the resort.

'I'm as happy with James as anyone. He's starting to understand what we want out of him,' Ford said. 'We need him to be a catch-and-shoot guy. A lot of times he got us out of our offense last year trying to do his thing. He turned the ball over way too many times last year when he wasn't strong with the ball. I didn't see that on this trip. On this trip he became a better playmaker and took good shots most of the time. I thought he was a lot more focused on team play.'

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.


Note: Bahamas team rosters are unofficial, and game statistics were done by hand during the game. Every effort was made to record accurate stats, but may not be exact.
Massachusetts Minutemen 138
Rattlers 86
Exhibition
at Loyola Hall
Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas

UMass 138 (FG FT-FTA=Pts)
Etienne Brower 3 5-5=11, Stephane Lasme 3 0-2=6, Rashaun Freeman 8 3-3=19, Chris Lowe 2 2-2=6, Gary Forbes 10 5-7=27, Brandon Thomas 13 5-8=32, Luke Bonner 2 5-8-11, James Life 7 0-0=19, Dante Milligan 2 0-0=4, Matt Pennie 1 0-0=2. TOTALS 51 25-35=138

Rattlers 86
Farrington 3 0-2=6, Banks 2 4-8=9, Rose 5 5-9=15, Hannah 8 3-3=20, Prothrow 2 2-2=6, Mortimer 1 2-2=4, Cardio 5 1-4=13, L. Carter 2 3-4=8, Thompson 2 1-3=5, D. Carter 0 0-0=0. TOTALS 29 21-37=86.

Score By Quarter
UMass 33-31-36-38-138
Rattlers 26-19-21-20=86

3-Pointers: UMass - Life 5, Bonner 2, Forbes 2, Lowe 1, Thomas 1. Rattlers - Cardio 2, Banks 1, L. Carter 1, Hannah 1.


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