Redmen Go For Fifth Straight
Hoopsters Battle UConn In Conference Tussle
By John Sullivan, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, December 15, 1970
What has developed into a solid basketball rivalry will be resumed tonight when the UMass cagers contest the hoopsters of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, Ct. Both squads will enter the fray, slated to start at 8, with winning records as UConn is 2-1 and the Redmen are 4-0.
It used to be the case that UConn was a name synonymous with Yankee Conference basketball championships as the Huskies won the league's hoop crown ten straight years from the 1950-51 season all the way through the 1959-60 campaign.
They didn't stop there, however, winning YanCon titles in 1962-63, 1964-65 and 1966-67, and tying for the top in 1963-64 and 1965-66, both times with the University of Rhode Island.
UConn went into a basketball slump in the two years following its last outright title in 1966-67; UMass and URI shared the crown in 1967-68 and the Redmen won it all in 1968-69. The Huskies needed a man to lead them back and they found one in the person of Dee Rowe, who was head basketball coach at little Worcester Academy from 1955-69, but who took over the UConn head coaching reigns with narry a hitch.
In the year before Rowe, the team from Storrs recorded a 5-19 mark. He revived them to the tune of 14-9 and a tie for the YanCon championship with the Redmen, both teams compiling 8-2 league marks.
And because Rowe has done such a fine job with UConn and Jack Leaman has led UMass to the top of New England basketball, the Husky-Redman match-up has become and will continue to be a great one.
Leaman helped build up the rivalry when, in his first year at the Redman helm, he gave the eventual Conference champions a couple of scares, losing by close scores of 66-59 and 60-59.
Over the following two years, UMass drove the Huskies nuts with four straight victories. The 1967-68 winter was marked by a two-point, 65-63, win over UConn on Bill Tindall's last-second bucket, and a 56-44 victory at Storrs, the first Redman away win at Connecticut in 32 years.
During UConn's 5-19 year, the two victories were easier, but Rowe's Huskies ended the four-game streak with an upsetting 88-71 win a year ago at the Cage. UMass got back at this team later in the year with 71-65, hard-earned victory at Storrs. And the rivalry should continue.
In tonight's big game, the Redmen will likely face a starting Husky five of 5'11 Bob Boyd, 6' Doug Melody. 6'4 Bob Staak, 6’5 Ron Hrubala and 6'6 Phil Hoagland. This starting quintet will depend upon the health status of Robert Taylor, a 6'5 forward who was ill when UConn played Boston University Saturday night.
Normally the Huskies play Taylor and Hrubala at the forwards, Boy and Staak at the guards and Hoagland at center. Against BU. they shifted the tall Staak up front and filled his guard vacancy with Melody, which they can be expected to do tonight should Taylor remain inactive.
Talentwise, these Huskies are really good. Boyd is a pesty guy with a good shot. He is a senior. Boyd was N.E ,'s third best scorer last winter as he wizzed 'em through the nets at a 23.4 points-per-game clip.
When Boyd's shooting is off, the person who picks up the slack is Staak, also a senior. He is probably the best raw shooter on the team and certainly among the best in the Conference. A consistent point getter, he has averaged 17.0 and 16.4 ppg over the past two campaigns.
Hrubala is another Husky senior and the squads best rebounder. He was fourth in N.E. in rebounding last year, and chipped in for UConn with 11.8 points each game.
Taylor, should he play, is the solid-unsung performer. A junior, he rebounds well and scores between eight and 12 points every game. Hoagland. the center, is another senior, which speaks well of the Huskies' experience. He played mostly a backup role a year ago but has always been dependable.
Melody, a junior, played very little as a sophomore, but he is highly regarded at UConn. Possibly the team's best defensive player, he will be a key player for the Huskies.
UMass will probably go with the starting five that has led it to four victories and no losses, that being John Betancourt and Mike Pagliara in the backcourt and Ken Mathias, Chris Coffin and Julius Erving in the forecourt.
There are no more tickets available for this tilt, it is a sellout. However the game will be televised on channel. WNHC-TV.
Hoopsters Earn 74-68 Verdict Over UConn
By John Sullivan, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, December 16, 1970
STORRS, CONN. - In a tense, tight basketball contest, before 4,447 loud fans, UMass defeated the University of Connecticut, 74-68, to remain unbeaten at 5-0 and to take over sole possession of first place in the Yankee Conference, as the Redmen now stand 4-0 in league play.
Two very big players for UMass were its co-captains, junior Julius Erving and senior Ken Mathias. Erving was the dominant figure in the game, grabbing many rebounds and keeping a steady hand on the overall movements of the Redmen. His totals for the night were 27 points and 20 rebounds, making him the games top boardman.
And Mathias had his biggest and best game of the young season. His main contributions to the win came in his rebounding as he latched on to 11 caroms, many of them in tight situations. He also tallied 15 points, most of them on under-the-basket hoops.
Also playing important roles for the winners were the junior guards Mike Pagliara and John Betancourt. They have developed into quite a tandem after playing two pressure games, against Rhode Island and here tonight, in the last three Redman outings. Not to be counted out are Rich Vogeley and Chris Coffin. The latter was his usual aggressive self on defense, but when he got into foul trouble, Vogeley was there to fill his shoes and make some big baskets.
For UMass, it was a wonderful team effort.
For UConn, one name really stood out. Bob Staak. He was the game's high scorer with 32 points and was amazingly hot for the Huskies. Also performing well for UConn was Bob Boyd who scored 23 points.
Staak was shooting great over the first three quarters of the game. It was when he cooled off, although ever so slightly, that the Redmen captured a late four point lead that they were able to ride to victory.
Over the last six and a half minutes of the game, UMass' lead seemed to fluctuate between two and four points. It was a two point 66-64 edge with 1:49 to go. Mathias was at the line for a one-and-one situation and made the first. His second shot was missed, but Erving grabbed the rebound and was quickly tied up for a jump ball.
UMass won the ensuing toss-up and attempted to work the ball around and eat up time. However, Erving put up a hasty 12 footer. It missed, but Mathias went high for a clutch rebound. The Redmen called time with 1:13 showing on the scoreboard clock.
11 seconds back into the action Erving was fouled. He was faced with one of those crucial one-and-one situations. He hit for two and the Redmen were up by five, 69-64. The Huskies played over anxious ball from here on out, allowing the visitors to ice the game from the charity stripe. Five UMass free throws could only be answered by two Boyd baskets, and the contest ended on a 74-68 count.
In the early going Erving, Coffin and Mathias were playing the best for the Redmen, offsetting the offensive power of Staak and Boyd. Neither team could look over its shoulder, it was just plain nip 'n' tuck.
By half time the UMass backcourt had come alive, and Vogeley had hit a key hoop in Coffin's absence. The Redmen held a 35-32 lead at the half.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first, still it was a team effort by UMass that made the difference. Staak just couldn't keep up his outstanding pace, and the Redmen earned a very big victory.
HOOP NOTES-Right here a tip of the hat must go to Jack Leaman, head coach of UMass… He brought a team that starts four juniors into a foreign arena against a team that starts four seniors and one that is known for its terrific play at home, and he came away with a very important win… UConn is now second in the YanCon as its mark is 1-1… Mathias' 15 points were second best for UMass… Staak shot 50%, 14 for 28. Boyd was second high scorer for UConn with 23 points… Leaman will be the featured speaker at today's Varsity M Club luncheon, and this should make it an interesting affair.
Hoop Stars Highlight Local Dinner Affairs
By John Sullivan, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, December 17, 1970
Yesterday was quite a day for luncheons that featured sports figures. At 12:15 p.m. it was the weekly Varsity M Club luncheon at the Newman Center with head basketball coach Jack Leaman and several members of the 5-0 Redman squad. A little later on. it was a 6: 15 dinner-type affair especially prepared for a Bill Russell who couldn't get there until about 7:45.
A good-sized crowd made it to the Varsity M affair to get some inside looks at the undefeated cagers and their coach on the afternoon after their big victory over UConn at Storrs, Ct., a win that gave them undisputed possession of first place in the Yankee Conference.
The two starting Redman guards, John Betancourt and Mike Pagliara, were given seats at the head table and were both called upon to talk about the team. Each of them stated that they thought UMass was still a young club and one that hadn't played up to its capabilities as of yet.
Betancourt made it clear that the Redmen were looking forward to the challenges that are in store for them the rest of the way, and he pointed to the Boston area teams as the squads UMass is anxiously awaiting to go up against. Pagliara put in a plug for the spirit of this present crop of Redman hoopsters, saying, “We all have this one thing in common; we all want to win.”
In citing the wins over URI and UConn, both achieved on away basketball floors before boisterous home fans, Leaman remarked, “They showed that they could play under pressure.” The head coach agreed with his guards when he termed the Redmen as a young team, but he reassured, “Every game we get a little bit better…”
About Tuesday night's win over the Huskies he had this to say, “I think we won it with a five-man effort,” and added on behalf of the Redmen 's winning attitude, “I don't think anybody on the floor had any thought of losing…”
Available for this segment of the Varsity M were basketball films from the second half against Connecticut, played only a matter of hours before, but ready for the enjoyment of all present.
The later eating affair was great because Russell was present, although he couldn't make the dinner on until late, his presense was definitely felt. However, because of a lack of time and space right here, Russell and the presence he extends will be discussed in tomorrow's sports pages.