PHILADELPHIA - UMass will never be allowed to escape from here with its ears unscorched.
Just ask Lari Ketner, a Philadelphia native who made the unpopular decision to attend UMass after turning down the courtship of La Salle coach Speedy Morris.
Philadelphians haven't forgotten. And now that Ketner is struggling through his worst season as a college basketball player, he won't get off the hook in the near future.
Consider the scene toward the end of UMass' 63-55 win over St. Joseph's Wednesday night, when Ketner was standing in position beside the lane, waiting for Charlton Clarke to shoot his free throws.
Things were quiet until a St. Joseph's student sitting behind Ketner decided to apply the needle.
``Hey, Ketner, nine points, that's real small, Ketner, real small,'' the fan shouted at Ketner's back. ``Some lottery pick. And you screwed Speedy Morris, too. You hear that, Lari? You're a stiff, a big stiff.''
Ketner finally turned around, briefly, with a faint smile on his face, and looked at the fan.
It's been that kind of year for the UMass center, who has admittedly put too much pressure on himself and suffered as a result.
But his coach sees something different taking place.
Since a team session that players and coaches now refer to as ``The Meeting'' the day before a Jan. 7 win over Fordham, the Minutemen have gone 4-1.
And Ketner, the focus of the meeting, has at least raised his play to a consistent, if still somewhat unremarkable, level.
His nine-point, five-rebound, four-block performance against St. Joseph's was typical of the center's game of late.
Although Ketner's performance wasn't exactly dominating, he provided what UMass coach Bruiser Flint considers to be just enough presence to back down another team.
``He's been playing a lot better since Fordham,'' said Flint. ``He's put a lot of pressure on himself and it was eating him up. But his demeanor has been very different since that meeting.''
Now that teammates like Mike Babul and Chris Kirkland are making more of a contribution to this team in the offensive end, Ketner has been able to settle back into a role player's comfort zone.
It may not be what the fans want, but it appears to have given Ketner some measure of peace.
``Our other guys are now able to play off the double teams that people have put on Lari,'' said Flint. ``But he's helping us to execute better. He blocks a couple of shots, and, all of a sudden, we're running the other way. He's much more comfortable, now.''