Redmen Host ‘New Look’ PC Tonight
Gavitt is Mullaney’s Replacement, Heads Fine Crop of Players
From The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, 12/2/1969
UMass opens its ’69-70 basketball season tonight with an eight o’clock encounter at the Cage with Providence College. PC, rich in hoop tradition, brings with it, along with a fine young croup of players, a new look.
Mullaney coached PC for 14 years and compiled an overall record of 271 victories and only 99 defeats. He directed his hoopmen into three NCAA and six NIT post-season tournaments and, in ’61 and ’63, the Friars copped NIT titles. He leaves a talent-laden squad in the capable hands of Gavitt.
Gavitt, who was PC assistant and frosh basketball mentor three years ago before taking the head coaching job at Dartmouth for two seasons, heads a Friar unit that could really bloom into an Eastern power.
It is a team reminiscent of past PC winners, a lot of shooting and running and a sturdy defense. It is also a young unit with three seniors on the entire team, only one of whom will start.
Providence will show off its two high-scoring junior guards, Jim Larranaga, 6’4 and Vic Collucci, 6’2.
Larranaga was the team’s top scorer last winter with a 19.5 average. His scoring and find playmaking led to his selection to the NCAA District I All-Star Team. An accurate shooter, the Redmen will have to be wary of his long jumpers from 20 feet and beyond.
Another guy who throws up bombs from long distances is Collucci who, as a sophomore last year, tallied 36 points against national champion UCLA. He was second leading scorer on the Friar squad with a 15.4 average and canned 19 points in PC’s 75-62 loss to UMass.
Seeing a lot of action as a reserve guard will be sophomore Don Lewis, 5’11. He was the second leading scorer on last year’s frosh with a 17.5 average. (At the time, freshmen were ineligible to play on the varsity team, and had their own team.) The fourth guard will probably be 6’1 senior Walt Violand.
At center for Providence will likely be burly Ray Johnson, a 6’7-230 pound junior who was a starter all last year when a rebounded at a 10.4 clip. A bespectacled giant and hard worker, Johnson got his glasses smashed against the Redmen last season but stayed in the game and rambled on without them.
Taking over one forward post will be the Friar captain Craig Callen, a 6’5 senior. A workhorse at his position, he can also move to center as a back-up for Johnson.
The other forward spot should be the personable property of 6’3 soph star Gary Wilkens. As a frosh Wilkens scored 571 points in 18 games for an impressive 31.7 average per game. His scoring mark is the second best in Providence freshman history; four times he scored over 40 points in frosh contests.
Providing adequate depth at forward are senior Dennis Walsh, 6’5, and soph Mike Hagen, 6’4.
Sixty-eight/sixty-nine was a rebuilding year for Providence. Gone were the days of Jim Walker, John Egan and Len Wilkens and the Friars were coming off an infrequent losing season. However, PC made considerable strides last winter as it compiled a 14-10 record even though its schedule included several teams of championship caliber – UCLA, St. John’s, Duquesne, Villanova and Dayton. Thus PC enters tonight’s fray with the same thoughts that the Redmen will be entertaining: a winning campaign and a post-season tourney berth.
Redmen Roast Friars, 90-85
Soph Ace Erving Sets New Rebound Record
By Peter Pascarelli, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, 12/3/1969
The University of Massachusetts basketball team mixed the old time flavor of Ray Ellerbrook’s shooting and steady performances of fellow seniors Dennis Chapman and Dick Samuelson, with the new time spice of a record breaking Julius Erving and a ballhawking John Bettancourt, threw in a little good luck, and mixed it up in the form of a scintillating 90-85 comeback win over talented Providence College.
The attendance was announced at 4200. If there were 4200 in the Cage, then there were 4200 at the World Series. 600 were turned away, they were sitting everywhere, and if the Cage takes any more people than this, there will be no Cage left. That would be a crime.
Back to what was a great, great ballgame. Providence led virtually all the way, but had three men foul out in the second half, and that could have proved the difference. The hot-shooting Friars led by as much as eight points late into the second half, but could not hold off the scrambling Redmen, fired by a riotous home crowd.
Erving, in his first varsity game, broke the school rebound record as he hauled down 28 caroms, breaking the previous mark set by Connie McDonough in 1955. Erving also scored 24 points in the second half, to break a single half scoring mark.
But it was the veterans Ellerbrook, Chapman and Samuelson who kept the Redmen in the game in a poorly played first half. Both teams threw away chances to break open the contest as the lead changed hands several times in the first half.
Providence unspellables, Vin Collucci and Jim Larranaga, pulled Providence into a five point lead late in the half, on some long range bombing and quick drives. Ellerbrook, after a torrid first ten minutes, cooled off during this time, and the Friars held their best margin of the half, 35-29 with nearly six minutes remaining.
However, Chapman and Samuelson rallied the Redmen, and, helped by a Bettancourt hoop off one of his many steals, the Redmen climbed back into a 38-38 tie with a little over one minute left in the half. Larranaga, however, hit another of his hoops, and added with another score by Friar sophomore product, Gary Wilkins, gave Providence a 42-40 lead at halftime.
Ellerbrook hit a layup near the end, but the buzzer, made inaudible by the “4200” people, had sounded.
Erving, who suffered through an ice cold first half, began to connect in the second half, but poor Redman foul shooting, something which plagued UMass throughout the first half, and the shooting of Collucci and Wilkins, who alternated getting red hot, spurred the surging Friars to bigger leads in the second half.
UMass came within a point on several occasions in the first ten minutes, but bad floor play and Providence’s shooters kept the Friars on top.
Then Providence began to lose people. Larranaga first, then big Ray Johnson, and finally reserve Craig Callan, all fouled out by 6:33 and the momentum, all Providence’s previously, switched sides.
Ellerbrook canned one of his long-range jumpers, Erving hit a turnaround, Ellerbook a layup following a Bettancourt steal off of the UMass zone press, and Erving canned a followup of his own miss, to give UMass the lead, at 75-74 with 3:35 left in the contest. It was the first time the Redmen had the lead since 11:29 of the first half.
Wilkins brought Providence right back however with a quick hoop. Then an Ellerbrook bomb, a spinning jumper by Erving an a tip in by the super soph, gave UMass a five point lead, 81-76, with only 1:44 left.
Big foul shots by Ellerbrook, and the remarkably cool floor general, sophomore Bettancourt, iced the win in the dying seconds for UMass, loudly counted off by that screaming “4200”.
Erving led all scorers with 27 points, while Ellerbrook was right behind with 25. The dependable Chapman had 13 while Bettancourt chipped in with 10 and added seven assists, and numerous steals. (Steals were not an official statistic in college basketball until the 1985-86 season.)1) Samuelson put in an excellent stint at center, as he was forced into action due to a foul-plagued Ken Mathias.
Collucci led the Friars with 22 points on 11 field goals, while Larranaga had 17. Sophomore Gary Lewis, a nifty jump shooter had 16, while the smooth Wilkins had 14 markers.
It could have been one of the great Cage games. They say this is the “New Era” of UMass basketball. After this one, no one can argue.
REDMAN RANTINGS – Providence shot 50% from the floor, UMass only 43%, as the difference was at the free throw line, where UMass had 24 conversions to the Friars’ 15. UMass Jack Leaman was to make the great understatement pleased… “We didn’t play well in the first half, but I told the kids at the half that if they played ball we should win it. They had stayed in the despite playing poorly” … “Chapman and Ellerbrook kept us in it in the first half and that’s what seniors are supposed to do” … “Erving and Bettancourt turned the game around,” Leaman went on, “and also Samuelson was excellent in relief, something I have come to expect from him” … Leaman called Providence “an excellent ball club”, but said of his charges, “We showed we were a good team by taking advantage of the breaks” … He added about the crowd, “It was just great. I hope they keep it up every game, and prove to everyone that we need a new facility here.” (It would be another 23 years until the Cage’s successor, the Mullins Center, would open.)