UMass: Turnovers fluster Minutemen
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 1/15/2001

AMHERST Bruiser Flint was once a point guard himself, so the University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach usually has strong opinions about the players who run his offense.

But when Flint was asked if Saturday's performances by his point guards bothered him, he said he had to look at the final statistics first. What he saw wasn't encouraging.

"I guess I have reason to be frustrated," Flint said after the 66-65 loss at St. Bonaventure. The UMass point guards combined for eight assists and nine turnovers, and shot a combined 1 for 5 from the floor.

UMass will try to get back on track Thursday night against Dayton at the Mullins Center. Then Saturday night, the Minutemen play Duquesne in their first Springfield Civic Center appearance since Jan. 3, 1995.

The Duquesne game will allow UMass a chance to extend its last remaining streak from the John Calipari era. The Minutemen haven't lost to the Dukes since 1991, winning the last 15 meetings.

Those games will also offer a chance for redemption by the point guards. Shannon Crooks, who had committed no turnovers in Tuesday night's 75-64 win at Xavier, had a career-high seven with four assists Saturday.

He scored three points, nearly eight below his average.

Jonathan DePina, Crooks' backup, had four assists and two turnovers, but didn't score.

"I think a lot of our errors were not so much because of their pressure, but because we were a little out of sync," Crooks said. "Xavier put a lot more pressure on us than St. Bonaventure did. We had spots where we played well, but other spots where we made little mistakes."

Those mistakes showed up in two crucial St. Bonaventure runs - a 12-0 surge in the first half, and a 9-0 spurt that gave the Bonnies a 55-53 lead with 5:20 left.

"Our mistakes came from us not taking our time, including myself," Crooks said.

Last year, Crooks had 99 assists and 89 turnovers. This season, he has 40 assists and 44 giveaways.

Strange things happen to UMass at St. Bonaventure, and they're usually bad. In 1996, Marcus Camby collapsed before a game. In 1998, a dispute over whether Bonnies coach Jim Baron had called an illegal timeout went against UMass in a double-overtime loss.

And Saturday, Vidal Massiah's 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left sent the Minutemen (4-10, 2-1 Atlantic 10 Conference) to defeat. It was the 6-foot-6 junior's eighth career 3-pointer, but second of the game.

Flint was also dissatisfied with the officiating. He felt the UMass big men were shoved around in the post, and he thought officials missed a goaltending infraction that would have expanded a 53-52 UMass lead to three.

The coach also thought a call should have been made after a collision between shooting guard Monty Mack and two defenders on the game's final play.

UMass also hurt itself with 17 turnovers. One telling example came in the first half, when Crooks unsuccessfully tried driving to the basket instead of passing on a three-on-one break.

It wasn't just the point guards. St. Bonaventure's 12-2 edge in points off turnovers was a major factor in UMass' first one-point loss of the season, which saw the Minutemen lose second-half leads of 46-38 and 53-46.

"Turnovers killed us," said Mack, who had 20 points and three turnovers. "We have to have better control of the ball."

Mack injured his left knee on the last-second collision, but expects to be ready for Dayton. He also wants another shot at St. Bonaventure, which comes to Amherst March 3.

"They have to come to our house," he said, "and we'll have to be ready for them."

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