AMHERST - Mum was the word around University of Massachusetts basketball practice Thursday as Bruiser Flint declined to reveal any lineup changes and Lari Ketner, who played poorly in Tuesday's loss to College of Charleston, refused to talk at all.
"We won't know until Saturday," said Flint, who had announced changes would be made after his team's 77-75 loss Tuesday. "We need to stir some things up. We just need a change. We need to get some guys going. If that's a way to get some guys going, then that's the way we go about it."
He may have tipped his hand to what those changes might be.
"I thought we played hard (against Charleston)," Flint said. "We dove, we battled, but Lari gets five points and no rebounds. Charlton Clarke only shot 2-for-11. I thought our guys played hard and our bench guys gave us some pretty good minutes, but there are certain guys on this team, if they don't do certain things, we're going to struggle.
"Charlton had a tough game in terms of shooting, but he played hard," Flint added. " You go back to Lari had five points and no rebounds and I thought that hurt us a little bit."
Chris Kirkland, who would be a potential candidate to start, didn't practice due to a knee injury he sustained in Tuesday's game, but Flint said he was unsure whether that would affect his status for Saturday.
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Channel 40 (WGGB-TV) announced it will televise Saturday's 7 p.m. game at Marshall using the feed from the Huntington, W.Va., station.
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A limited number of tickets for Wednesday's game against Connecticut are still available, according to James Toney, UMass assistant athletic director for ticket sales, as are seats for the Dec. 12 Commonwealth Classic between UMass and Boston College at the Worcester Centrum.
Tickets for the UConn game are $35, while prices for the Boston College game range from $22.50 to $35. Tickets for both games can be purchased at the UMass ticket office, while seats for the BC game also can be bought at the Centrum.
AMHERST - Bruiser Flint isn't talking about what changes will be made for tomorrow night's University of Massachusetts men's basketball game at Marshall. Lari Ketner isn't talking, period.
Flint has indicated lineup changes in the wake of UMass' 77-75 loss at College of Charleston Tuesday, and while he wouldn't specify what changes would be made, his harshest criticism by far was directed at Ketner. The 6-foot-10 senior center scored five points in 13 minutes Tuesday, and was held without a rebound for the first time in his career.
Charleston's center, 6-8 Jody Lumpkin, scored 22 points with seven rebounds. Yesterday, Ketner refused interview requests, and while Flint avoided directly saying whether Ketner would not start tomorrow night's game, he didn't alter his earlier statement that changes were necessary and forthcoming.
"I think we need to stir things up," he said as UMass (1-2) prepared for today's trip to Huntington, W. Va. "We need a change."
Tomorrow's 7 p.m. game at Marshall (3-2) will be broadcast live on Channel 40 at 7.
Asked earlier in the day what lineup changes would occur, Flint said "I'm not telling." After his radio show last night, he said his lineup might be determined as late as tomorrow.
Complicating matters is that junior forward Chris Kirkland has a minor knee injury and didn't practice yesterday. Kirkland is expected to be available, and if Ketner doesn't start, one possible lineup would include power forward Ajmal Basit moving to center, with Mike Babul and Kirkland (each 6-6) at the forward spots.
Flint said Monty Mack and Charlton Clarke would remain his starters in the backcourt. With Mack, it was obvious since the junior guard is averaging 24.3 points per game and had a career-high 34 against Charleston.
Clarke's play has been uneven, but Flint likes the 6-3 senior's constant hustle. And even though Clarke struggled for most of Tuesday's game and missed a chance to send the game into overtime with last-second foul shots, he scored eight points in the final 39 seconds as the Minutemen rallied.
Flint also praised Babul's hustle, even though the junior forward wasn't as effective as he had been in a Nov. 18 loss to St. John's. And Basit played some of his most effective basketball this season until running into foul trouble.
Of the starters, that leaves Ketner, who Flint said "was awful" and "stunk" after Tuesday's game. Anthony Oates, another option at center, "played pretty well Tuesday," according to Flint, but is still adjusting to the college game after two years in junior college.
Babul said UMass shouldn't push the panic button, but he sees tomorrow's game is essential.
"It's do or die," he said. "We've had tough situations before since I've been here, though, and we've come back. We have to keep from hanging our heads, and I think we'll be all right.
"We're upset, but we shouldn't panic," Babul said. "We have plenty of games left."
But UMass desperately wants to avoid taking a three-game losing streak into Wednesday's game against top-ranked Connecticut at Mullins Center. Yesterday, UMass ticket manager Dennis Toney said "a few tickets in the corners" remain for the UConn game, priced at $35 apiece. He said the game may be sold out today.
Flint has been especially upset that UMass has been beaten on the boards. St. John's and Charleston both had smaller lineups than the Minutemen, but outrebounded UMass by 12 and 13, respectively, in addition to winning the battles for loose balls.
Marshall University is another of those programs that looks at the arrival of a team like UMass as one of the events - perhaps even the main act - of the on-campus season.
UMass coach Bruiser Flint can only hope that his players learned their lesson from Tuesday night, when they were feted as the guest of the year by the College of Charleston.
The result was a 77-75 Charleston win that ranks high on the list of Southern Conference wins over opponents from more reputable conferences.
Charleston was on top of its game. UMass looked like a shell of past Minuteman teams.
Enter Marshall, from the Mid-American Conference, in tomorrow's game in Huntington, W. Va. The Thundering Herd feature Travis Young, who probably is one of the best unknown guards in the country.
Marshall has a quick, athletic team, just like the two other programs that have somehow outmuscled the bigger Minutemen this season.
This is also another of those road games where the arrival of UMass somehow becomes compared with royalty.
Make that faded royalty.
``Last year they hammered Wake Forest down there, man,'' Flint said yesterday. ``We're a huge game for them. People still look at us as an NCAA tournament team.''
The Minutemen, of course, have looked like anything but postseason material over their first three games.
``I can't put on my (sneakers), man, my eligibility is over,'' said Flint. ``We need some guys to finally step up.''
Though Flint intends to make lineup changes, he declined to get specific about which players can expect more bench time.
Center Lari Ketner, however, appears due for a wakeup call of some sort, be it coming off the bench or reduced minutes.
``The game against Charleston was tough because I thought we played hard,'' said Flint. ``But if certain people on this team don't play well, then we're going to struggle. I need Charlton (Clarke) and Lari to step up. Charlton is playing hard, but he's pressing offensively.''
Thus far, UMass' saving grace has been junior guard Monty Mack - the one player who appears capable of picking this team up during the hard times.
``I hope he can be a leader on this team, but I don't know if personality-wise he can step up and do that for us just yet,'' said Flint. ``But he took some tough shots for us (against Charleston). He hit any big shot that we asked him to take. He was the only person in the offensive end of the floor who was doing anything for us.
``Now, he's not the type of player who's going to score 30 points per game for you,'' he said. ``Monty is streaky. He could also go 8-for-20 or 6-for-20 on some nights. But one thing I liked about him against Charleston was that he took the ball to the basket when he got the chance. Last year he settled for the jumper too often in those situations.''
Mack's game obviously has matured this season. Flint can only hope that the rest of the lineup fills in around him.