UMass must settle into softer style
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 11/22/2000

There has always been a definitive UMass style for playing defense.

``The way we play, we'll bump you if you come into the lane,'' said Monty Mack.

You can also expect to be hand-checked, whacked coming off picks, bodied (and sometimes a little more) in the paint, and generally forced to pay a rugged price for your offense.

In short, it's not a style that meshes with the NCAA's intensified effort this season to penalize the physical part of the college game.

Everyone from Kansas coach Roy Williams to UMass' Bruiser Flint has spoken out against this apparent rampage on the part of NCAA refs, but there is little that these maligned foot soldiers can do to keep the coaches happy.

``I feel for the refs,'' Marquette coach Tom Crean said after his Golden Eagles defeated UMass Tuesday night, 68-64, in what Flint later referred to as a ``foul fest.''

``That's the mandate,'' said Crean. ``The guys have to call it.''

Tuesday's officiating crew included Jim Burr, one of the most seasoned, experienced refs in the college game, in addition to Art McDonald and Jim Jenkins.

The teams combined to commit 55 fouls and shoot 45 free throws. The Minutemen have shot 48 free throws over their first two games.

But excessive whistle blowing is not what lost this game for the 1-1 Minutemen.

It was their inability to rebound, and to shoot free throws - in addition to a horrid first half - that did in UMass.

Marquette made the most of its freebies, shooting 30-39 from the line. UMass, which is shaping up as a queasy free throw crew - shot an embarrassing 15-for-26. The Minutemen have now shot 25-for-48 from the line over two games for a percentage (.510) that barely cracks the 50th percentile.

No wonder they lost to Marquette.

But Flint's lament focuses on his frontcourt, where center Kitwana Rhymer and backup Eric Williams fouled out Tuesday. Beyond this, the two power forwards, Jackie Rogers and Micah Brand, picked up four fouls apiece. Little-used reserve Ronnell Blizzard, pressed into crunch time service as a result, was then called for setting an illegal screen with 18 seconds left, though most onlookers didn't see Blizzard budge. As a result, Marquette guard Brian Barone went to the line for two free throws and a 66-61 lead that would prove to be enough.

Rhymer has played 23 scant minutes over the first two games thanks to foul trouble.

``If they call it this way, then there's going to be a lot of fouling,'' said Flint. ``What do you say? We're in trouble with this, because we play physical basketball. The two exhibition teams we played shot over 60 free throws against us. They're telling these guys to call all of this stuff, and as long as that happens, we're going to have to learn to live with it. At least we have some depth up front. I can see teams without that depth who are really going to have a hard time.''

Mack, a physical defender out on the perimeter, is equally aghast.

``They won't even let you touch your guy now,'' said the senior guard. ``We really have to learn how to adjust to this.''


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