UMass hangs its hat on history
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 12/8/1998

They were three games that became an integral part of the lore and magic that defined University of Massachusetts men's basketball.

Over three consecutive years, against three different teams, the Minutemen did the unthinkable, knocking off the No. 1 team in the land.

Wednesday night when the No. 1 ranked Connecticut Huskies enter the Mullins Center, the current UMass squad, which is struggling, will try to recapture some of that magic.

Following is a look at those three conquests.

UMass 91, No. 1 North Carolina 86, Preseason NIT semifinals, Nov. 24, 1993 - The image will forever burn in the memories of UMass fans. As his teammates embraced each other in celebration, Minuteman forward Lou Roe stood on the scorers' table and bellowed with delight.

In overtime, under the lights of the world's greatest sports stage of Madison Square Garden, UMass announced it was a national power by shocking the defending national champions.

"You gotta understand," UMass coach John Calipari said, "this is the No. 1 team in America and here we are, little ol' UMass, playing in that game. They (UMass players) had the jitters. I was a little nervous myself, to be honest with you."

Roe wasn't nervous. He scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

The Tar Heels raced out to an 11-0 lead, but the night ultimately belonged to the Minutemen. After the game, UMass fans who had made the pre-Thanksgiving trip to the Big Apple rushed the floor in celebration.

UMass 104, No. 1 Arkansas 80, Tip-Off Classic, Nov. 25, 1994 - When Arkansas point guard Corey Beck led his defending national champion Razorbacks onto the Springfield Civic Center floor, he defiantly pointed his index finger skyward to display his team's rank.

Earlier in the week, Arkansas preseason All-American forward Corliss Williamson had bragged that the Razorbacks' second team could beat No. 3 UMass.

But just over two hours later, Beck walked dejectedly off the floor, while UMass' Marcus Camby pointed his finger skyward, and Williamson left embarrassed. The night again belonged to Lou Roe, who roasted Williamson with 34 points and 13 rebounds.

Three days later, UMass gained its first-ever No. 1 ranking.

UMass 92, No. 1 Kentucky 82, Great Eight, Nov. 28, 1995 - The world didn't know it yet, but this game was a battle between the nation's two best college basketball teams that year and a coming-out for the country's best player.

Just days earlier the Minutemen had lost to the Converse All-Stars, making Kentucky a very daunting prospect.

"I was worried about this team playing UMass basketball,"' said coach John Calipari, "playing with passion, playing with emotion, diving on the floor, making extra passes, refusing to lose."'

But the Minutemen lived up to Calipari's soon-to-be trademark motto, led by a dazzling performance from Camby, who had 32 points, nine rebounds and five blocks

"We were intimidated by Marcus Camby,'' said UMass alum and Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. "A great player played a great game."

That game set in motion a season that UMass spent mostly at No. 1 before losing to Kentucky in the Final Four.

* * *

The Tar Heels were thought to be one of the best college teams ever, the Razorbacks invincible, and the Wildcats a team of destiny. UMass?

Nobody gave the Minutemen a chance.

Tomorrow's odds are even longer. The Minutemen check in at 1-3 without a national ranking, while the Huskies are the toast of the nation.


Nobody is giving the Minutemen a chance.

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