UMass: UConn outing encouraging
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 11/24/1999

It was a problem without a solution. If the other team is bigger, you can try to outplay them, but you can't outgrow them.

And so the University of Massachusetts suffered a 79-65 men's basketball loss to seventh-ranked Connecticut Monday night in Storrs, Conn.

But they came away feeling that if they could play the Huskies as tough as they did, that must mean the Minutemen (1-1) are still on the right track.

"We won't face that sort of height in our league (the Atlantic 10 Conference)," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "There's Temple, of course, but everybody else is like us."

For size, UMass is relying on 6-foot-10 junior Kitwana Rhymer, who grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds Monday in a rebounding battle with UConn's army that included Jake Voskuhl (6-11), Souleymane Wane (6-11), Ajou Deng (6-10), Edmund Saunders (6-8) and Kevin Freeman (6-7).

Micah Brand, a 6-11 UMass freshman, has shown promise but fouled out of his career debut at Iona. He played two minutes against UConn, and Flint doesn't want to rush him.

Anthony Oates gave useful minutes against Iona, but was beaten defensively on his first trip down the floor against UConn and played only one minute.

That leaves 6-6 Mike Babul, who Flint called the best defender in the nation, and Chris Kirkland. Flint has also been trying 6-8 Ronell Blizzard, who has shown flashes of talent but also fouled out in only 12 minutes Monday, and must reduce his defensive mistakes.

The difference Monday came under the basket, where UConn owned a 48-39 rebounding edge. The Huskies also won some of the little battles, including a tipped offensive rebound that set up Albert Mouring's 3-pointer a shot that quelled a 17-7 UMass surge and gave UConn a 57-51 lead.

"You've got to take everything UConn gives you, because those guys won't give you much," said Flint, who was buoyed by the positives. He seemed unworried that Monty Mack is shooting 32.5 percent (13 for 40) after two games. He also expects Mack to be ready for Monday's home opener against Marshall.

"Monty just came down on someone's foot," Flint said after Mack, who missed the preseason with a stress fracture in his left foot, limped off Monday.

Flint is also not expecting too much too soon from Shannon Crooks, whose first two UMass appearances have produced mixed results. Crooks scored the first five points against UConn, but finished with six points on 2-for-9 shooting with two assists and four turnovers.

UMass also hurt itself at the foul line, where Mack went 8 for 8 while the other Minutemen were a combined 5 for 13. UMass is 33 for 51 this season (64.7 percent), but only 54 percent if Mack (13 for 14) is excluded.


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