UMass Basketball Bounces Back As Redmen Host St. A’s Tonight
By John Sullivan, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, December 1, 1970
A very loyal UMass basketball fan best summed up tonight's home and season-opening tilt against St Anselm's College, slated to begin at 8 p.m. at the Cage, when he commented, “I've been waiting for this game ever since the end of the NIT game against Marquette last year.”
That's a long time - eight months, and now the big opening game is just hours away. A capacity crowd of 4200 is expected to be on hand tonight as the defending New England and Yankee Conference champions, the Redmen, embark on another campaign against a team they defeated last February, 94-63.
Except for one major entity, this will be the same Hawk squad that UMass won its 16th contest against last winter. That major entity is Dave Sturma, a 6’7 star center departed via graduation.
Sturma holds many St. Anselm’s hoop records and was in the top ten of the nation's shooters in field goal percentage. He won a selection to the all-New England College Division (Referred to “College Division” at the time, this would later evolve into the NCAA’s Division II) team last season as he led the Hawks in scoring and rebounding.
Tough shoes to fill, and the call has gone out to Miles Gerrish, a 6'9 sophomore who has neither high school nor college freshman basketball experience. However, he is highly rated, especially by St. A's head coach Al Grenert, who has said, “He's going to surprise a lot of people.”
Gerrish's basketball experience comes solely from playing hoop in C.Y.O. and Y.M.C.A. leagues. In his favor he has determination, a will to learn, good coordination, good size and weight and good instincts for the game.
Outside of the center post, Grenert's 22nd Hawk contingent is in very good shape with five lettermen returning, four of whom started in '69-'70.
The guard positions will be shared by two seniors and one junior. One of the seniors is Tom Gentile, a real hustler at 5’11. He averaged 17.1 points per game last year. The other senior is Ray Moore, who plays more of a reserve role. He is a six-footer and his scoring average a year ago was 7.1. The probable starter alongside Gentile will be Gerry Ryle, the junior, who popped ‘em in at a 9.0 rate last season. At six feet, he will handle the play-making duties of this club.
In the forward slots, one appears taken while the other is up for grabs. Captain John Lukas, a 6'3 senior, has earned a starting assignment, but the other post is being contested for not by lettermen, but by two sophomores in the persons of Jeff Grenert, 6'4, and Steve Pope, 6'3.
That fifth letterman is senior Mike Mulligan, who will be a jack-of -all-trades this year, filling in as a backup center, and a backup forward, where he may also get an occasional starting nod. Mulligan is 6'5 and his point average was 8.7 last year.
Up from the St. A's freshman team to provide needed depth are a couple of sophs, Vincent Colapietro, a 5'10 guard, and Bill Walsh, a 6'2 guard.
Overall the Hawks are looking for improved rebounding and solid reserve play as keys to a successful campaign. Gerrish will be counted upon to develop quickly. St. Anselm's notched a berth in the N.C.A.A. College Division basketball tourney a year ago and would like to do the same this time around. It would like nothing better than to start fitting the pieces together against UMass tonight.
HOOP NOTES - UMass head coach Jack Leaman had a couple of things to say about St. A’s, “They have a veteran ballclub. I think we'll be in for a good ballgame” …In comparing the Hawks to other teams the Redmen must play this season, Leaman was less plauditory of them, cautioning, “If we can't beat a team the caliber of St. Anselm's, it's going to be a long year.”…After that long wait between the end of the Marquette NIT game and tonight's contest, it's hopeful that UMass will get a quick jump on what really doesn't shape up to be a long year.
Hoopsters Open Up With 98-63 Win Over St. A's
By John Sullivan, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, December 2, 1970
Breaking out of a 16-minute cold-shooting spell in the first half, the UMass basketball team built up a big lead early in the second half and coasted to a 98-63 victory over an out-classed but game St. Anselm's quintet before 4200 fans at the Cage home-opener last night.
The Redmen got their season off on a solid footing as Julius Erving's extra-superb play, the shooting and floor play of guards John Betancourt and Mike Pagliara, and a very strong performance by forward Chris Coffin made their record 1-0 in this season-opening contest.
Erving, UMass' super-exciting junior co-captain, tallied 32 points and nabbed 23 rebounds, but his contribution to this win went way beyond that In his familiar fashion of passing off, making fast breaks work, slowing the action down when necessary, and generally keeping the coolest head on the court, he more than led the Redmen to their final winning point spread of 35 points.
Betancourt and Pagliara were also great in this one. The former, filling in the scoring void left by the departure of high-pointman Ray Ellerbrook, tallied 22 big ones, connecting on 10 of 14 shots from the field and two of two from the foul line.
Pagliara, in his first varsity start ever for UMass, played the game like a veteran and came through with 16 points, hitting five of nine from the field and all six of his attempts from the line. Both Betancourt and Pagliara had six assists, best on the club.
Also starting his first tilt was junior Chris Coffin, and he did a fine job all around. He scored but six points, but he grabbed seven rebs and was a very important team player when he was out on the floor.
As far as that first half went, it was an entirely different ballgame as the score was frozen, 27-27, after 16 minutes and 15 seconds of action had elapsed. UMass' shooting was off, and St. Anselm's was staying close by virtue of playing a deliberate style of basketball.
However, the Redmen rattled off six quick points in the next minute and 11 seconds as Betancourt banged a 20-footer, Pagliara dropped in a pair of foul hoops and senior co-captain Ken Mathias slipped in a turn-around baseline jumper, after a beautiful feed from Pagliara. That made the count 33-27.
An Erving goal-tending play on a Hawk shot gave the visitors their 29th point, but another Betancourt 20-footer, an Erving 18-footer and a Mathias tap-in of a Betancourt miss jetted UMass into a ten-point, 39-29, lead.
Tom Gentile of St. A's and Erving traded baskets in the last minute of first-half action, making the count at intermission, 41-31.
The Redmen were roaring on their return to the contest in the second half as they took the ten-point lead and stretched it into leads of 20, 31 and 39.
UMass tallied the first 14 points of the period, making it 55-31, in four minutes, and the junior trio of Pagliara, Coffin and Betancourt accounted for all of them. Pagliara made good on an 18-foot jumper at the outset of the half and added two foul shots for four points.
Coffin flipped in two running layups, one on a ball that he stole and raced three-quarters of the court with. He also sank one from the charity line for a total of five markers. Betancourt hit a couple of long-bombers, in addition to one from the line, also for five points. Over the next three minutes, the Hawks came to life a little bit, scoring nine points, but were still behind the Redmen, 60-40, with 12:48 showing on the clock.
At this point, the UMass offense really started to click as the home team scored 26 points in the next eight minutes of action to only seven for St. Anselm's, thus making the advantage 86-47, with 5:03 left to go in the game.
Erving highlighted this scoring burst with nine points, followed by Betancourt and Pagliara, who had six a piece, Rich Vogeley, who had three, and Tom Austin, who had two.
The tilt was all over except for the shouting. And, boy, was there ever some shouting, as the excited gathering applauded when Redman starters were replaced by Redman reserves and cheered madly when the team crept closer to the 100-point mark in the closing stages of the game, only to miss by two points.
HOOP NOTES— With one minute and one second to go, Erving was taken out of the game, and received a standing ovation of about 40 seconds… Head UMass coach Jack Leaman summed up his feelings after the game in one word, “Great!” UMass shot a fine 52 percent from the floor for the whole game, recording that mark after shooting only 44.7 in the first half… Vogeley was fourth highest scorer for the Redmen, with ten points in only 14 minutes of play… He was just a little off from playing a really great game as he picked up some quick fouls and missed a couple of hoops by only inches….Bill Kesgen, Tom Austin and Bill Greeley played well for UMass in reserve roles. …The Redmen also shot well from the foul line–87 percent… Whichever referee called the traveling violations on Erving must have been watching the guy for the first time… Because of the way Erving can control the movements of his body, it is often easy to mistake one of his steps for three of another basketball player… How about those new uniforms! The reaction to these new spanking-white UMass shirts, shorts and warm-up clothing was very much in the affirmative whomever one talked to… They sure did brighten up the dull yellow-aura of the Cage.
Redman Yearlings Crush St. Anselm's Frosh, 85-69, In Opener
By Steve Ferber, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, December 2, 1970
Led by the shooting Peter Trow, the rebounding of John Olson and the passing of Rick Pitino, the UMass freshman basketball team soundly defeated St. Anselm's frosh, 85-69.
Last night in their season opener the Little Redmen received a warm welcome by a capacity crowd. They responded with some sharp outside shooting, as they ran off streaks of 12 and 15 points. But opening game nervousness was evident, as the Little Redmen committed an abundance of fouls and turned the ball over numerous times on the fast break.
The game started impressively for the frosh as successive backward lay-ups by Skinner and Olson (the latter off of a beautiful Pitino pass) gave the freshmen the lead.
Two baskets later at 17:35 it was 4-4 when the home team started to move. With some slick passing by Pitino the Redmen ran off 12 straight points, and St. Anselm's was in deep trouble. But the Redmen cooled off as the Hawks settled down.
Although the frosh had built their lead to 33-15, fouls started to take their toll, as the 13-point halftime margin of 44-31 was the direct result of the 13 fouls committed by the Little Redmen.
The first half of play saw Skinner pick up three personals, and Craig Boyles, his replacement, pick up four before the half was over. This foul situation, in addition to a sloppy brand of ball, were the key factors in the Hawk comeback, which was to peak in the early moments of that second half.
Just seconds into the final 20 minutes Skinner picked up his fourth and fifth fouls as Dennis McHugh entered the line-up. A rash of Redman fouls followed, and the Hawks were making their move. With a full head of steam the visitors cut the lead to seven, but the 51-44 score was the closest St. Anselm's was to come for the rest of the night.
With Trow and Pitino pumping in the points, and Levine and Olson concentrating on the boards, the Little Redmen scored 15 unanswered points. The 64-44 lead sewed it up for the frosh. Coasting to an 85-69 victory, the freshman bench for the call, as the Little Redmen took their home opener with little trouble.
The 17-point victory was quite satisfying, but said assistant Coach Ray Ellerbrook, “We definitely have played better ball. I think that there was a great deal of nervousness and eagerness on the part of the players in their first collegian game. Once we got warmed up though, we started to come around.”
The early game nervousness was best reflected in the foul line statistics. In the first half the Little Redmen managed only four of nine free throws, whereas the second half saw them making nine of 11.
Although their floor play left something to be desired the Redman board work was extremely impressive. Outrebounding the Hawks 61-40, the freshmen came through brilliantly in a department that will be the key to future success.
Said Ellerbrook, “Trow played an excellent game. He was our highest scorer and he was among the high rebounders in the game. I think the team as a whole played a bit sloppy, but remember this was the first game.”
Trow, UMass' highest scorer, was also the game's leading scorer as he collected 23 points, hitting on ten of 16 field goal attempts and three of four foul shots. Trow also came up with 13 rebounds, second in the game only to Olson's 14. Pitino was second in the way of scoring with 20, but his ten assists were his key contribution of the evening.
As a team the Redmen handily outshot the Hawks, connecting on 36 of 77 field goal attempts to St. Anselm's 23 of 77. From the line the percentages were much closer as UMass hit on 13 of 20, compared with St. Anselm's 23 of 31.
The Little Redmen excelled in the two toughest departments, as their play faltered when it came to fouls and turnovers. But with a rebounding and shooting display like last night's, the freshmen should be in for a fine season.