ollowing a disappointing effort against St. Boanventure, the UMass Minutemen rebounded with a 30-point victory over Fordham. Although eager to play again, the Minutemen are in the midst of an eight-day layoff prior to an away game against coach Bruiser Flint's alma mater St. Joseph's. In his weekly column, coach Flint talked about the remaining 15 regular season games of the 1999-2000 season.
It is rare in the middle of a college basketball season that a team would have to wait eight days between games. But because of a quirk in scheduling, that is how long it will be since we snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating Fordham and our next game on the road against St. Joseph's.
Our last two games were drastically different, not just because we lost to St. Bonaventure and defeated Fordham. Our attitude changed. Our focus improved. Our desire to put the past behind us and move forward became more apparent. Maybe the Bona game was a true wakeup call for us. We were a decidedly different team against the Rams, which gives me hope that we are on our way. We'll see. I do know this: No one on the coaching staff or on the team is going to give up.
There are 15 games left and I'd like to ride the train, not a roller coaster. Roller coasters make me queasy.
What we learned against St. Bonaventure is that when we play in a scramble mode we have a chance to win every game. However, we can't continue to shoot 30 percent and win games. I can accept shooting 40 percent if our defensive game is working to precision, but not many teams win when they can't score.
Much has been made about our frequent team meetings, but I believe in communication and if meeting as a group helps us improve as a team, I am all for it. After the Bona game, we were watching the tape together and I asked the players what they thought about before games. I was interested in hearing what goes through their heads as they prepare to play. It was an honest and interesting discussion.
It was interesting the hear the comments of our players following our team meeting and the Fordham game. Shannon Crooks felt as though the team needed to play with a sense of urgency. He said, "there's no way we going to lose this (Fordham) game." That was refreshing to hear. Chris Kirkland felt the meeting gave the team a chance to get things "off our chest." Chris responded by scoring 20 points for the third time this season and the sixth time in his career.
Ultimately, kids fear different things, especially when they don't live up to expectations. What I tried to impress on the team is to enjoy the moment, enjoy the experience, and enjoy your teammates. Mostly, I told them not to get down on themselves.
During our "off-week," we have concentrated on tuning up our pressure game and working on the little things that will continue to help us get better. We have been working on our "heads," talking about being disciplined and playing within ourselves. We will scrimmage as well.
If you are a competitor, the games are what you live for. As a coach, I live for the games. I was no different as a player. You have to enjoy the game. That's what it is all about -- game time.
Our next game against St. Joseph's in Philly won't be easy. Everyone gets pumped up when I come back home. Thus far, our seasons have been similar. St. Joe has had tough losses, and so have we. The makeup of our teams is similar. The Hawks will have had a tough schedule prior to our game with road games at New Mexico, Fordham, Temple and St. Bonaventure. St. Joe defeated New Mexico and Fordham, lost to Temple and will face a very good Bona team.
Prior to our game, St. Joe will be either 7-5 or 6-6 and have been up and down so far. A three-game winning streak prior to Temple has been spearheaded by sophomore guard Marvin O'Conner a Philly player. Marvin leads the Hawks in scoring (14.8 ppg) and is followed by his backcourt mate Tim Brown (11.8 ppg). Another guard N'aim Crenshaw, also from Philly, is third (10.9 ppg). With that potent three-guard attack, we know where the game may be won and lost.
The Hawks have a pretty big frontcourt with 6-foot-8 Robert Haskins, 6-foot-9 forward Frank Wilkins and 6-foot-9 Damian Reid. I expect a very difficult game.
Following St. Joe's, we return to the Mullins Center for games against a vastly improved Dayton team -- which recently defeated Xavier -- and against Rhode Island. We close out January with road games at Duquesne and Virginia Tech.
We believe we have a great home court advantage and are looking forward to being back at the Mullins Center on Jan. 20 and 22. We plan on playing championship-style basketball before the home crowd.