NY look is missing, but UMass ready for NIT test
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe, 3/25/1991
NEW YORK – Remember the scoreboard that lied in the 1986 World Series? The Shea Stadium screen that flashed “Congratulations Red Sox,” when the Sox led the Mets, one pitch away from the World Series title? You figure that no scoreboard would ever speak too soon again, right?
Not so. With last week's National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal game between Massachusetts and host Siena at Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, the latter led by 3 with just 2.6 seconds to go. UMass called timeout to set up a final play and the scoreboard flashed, “Congratulations, Siena.” Moreover, the public address announcer took the opportunity to tell Siena fans bus information for a trip to the NIT semifinals.
When play resumed, UMass forward Tony Barbee sank a 3-pointer as time expired, sending the game into overtime. Jim McCoy hit the only bucket in the extra frame to give UMass an 82-80 win, sending the Minutemen into their first-ever NIT Final Four. UMass meets Stanford tonight at 7 at Madison Square Garden.
“We should get great fan support; I hear the Siena fans are still coming,” joked UMass coach John Calipari. “I thought that our chances of tying the game were slim and none. We just happened to catch slim.”
“When I saw them flash 'Congratulations Siena' up there, I knew it would be the kiss of death,” said Atlantic-10 commissioner Ron Bertovich, who was pleased to see six of his conference's teams advance to postseason play (Temple, Rutgers, and Penn State in the NCAA; UMass, George Washington and West Virginia in the NIT).
The Minutemen shouldn't expect the warmest of receptions tonight, having beaten two New York favorites – Siena and Fordham to join Stanford, Oklahoma and Colorado in the Final Four.
“I don't think the NIT was excited about the possibility of having us in New York. We're here, and they're glad, but you wonder when they send you to both Fordham and Siena,” said Calipari, who must concern himself with Stanford center Adam Keefe. “Our problem is that we have no center, and he's a pro prospect center.
Stanford ends UMass' NIT spree
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe, 3/26/1991
NEW YORK – This was just the kind of game they wanted in the final minutes – close, tense and downright ugly. The poor foul shooting and turnovers that plagued the University of Massachusetts most of the game didn't matter. With 5:28 left, the Minutemen led by 1 and were prepared for another fantastic finish.
What would it be this time? Another 3-point basket by Tony Barbee to send the game into overtime, as was the case against Siena? Another 3-pointer by Rafer Giles to win it, like the one he hit against Rhode Island? Another baseline bucket by Giles with 7 seconds left, like the one that beat Boston College? Having seen four contests go to overtime and five decided by 3 points or fewer this season, this was familiar territory for UMass.
But Stanford was equally equipped for such an ending. With players who could shoot from the outside, inside and foul line, the Cardinal didn't fold. Despite squandering an 8-point second-half lead, Stanford retook the lead 33 seconds after UMass grabbed it and used clutch free throw shooting to hold on. No fantastic finish for UMass this time. Stanford claimed a 73-71 win over the Minutemen in last night's National Invitation Tournament semifinal.
The Minutemen, whose 20-12 mark was their best since 1976-77 (20-11), won more games in this NIT (three) than in their previous seven appearances combined.
“Last year when we went to the NIT, we were just glad to be there,” said center Harper Williams. “This year we wanted to go to the NCAAs, but they sent us here. We just wanted to show people we belonged, that we were a team to be reckoned with.”
Stanford found out the hard way, blowing a 16-point first-half lead.
“I didn't make many changes,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “I just asked the players, 'What are you going to do on national TV – get beat by 30 or make a game of it?' ”
But after UMass took its 59-58 edge, Stanford guard John Patrick hit a 3- point basket for a 61-59 lead with 4:55 to go. After a miss by UMass forward Jim McCoy, Stanford forward Andrew Vlahov sank two free throws to put the Cardinal up, 63-59.
“Everything we did to try to get to them didn't affect them,” said UMass forward Will Herndon, who said his team played catch-up so much he didn't remember taking the lead. “We wanted to make the game sloppy, helter-skelter.”
It stayed that way over the last four minutes, and with 1:28 left, UMass cut it to 67-66 on a 3-point play by Williams.
But in the final minute, with Stanford up, 69-66, the teams staged a free throw shooting contest. That favored Stanford, since UMass shot miserably from the line all game, including 36 percent in the first half.
Herndon made 1 of 2 to cut the lead to 2 at :18.1. Andy Ammann sank two to put Stanford up, 71-67, at :17.6. McCoy sank two to cut it to 71-69 with :10.1 to go.
Stanford put it away, however, with :5.7 left, as Vlahov, a 63 percent free throw shooter, sank two for a 73-69 edge. A bucket by Williams at the buzzer was too little too late.
“The pressure down the stretch didn't faze me,” said Vlahov, a native of Australia. “Being a senior and playing four years helps. It helped me all season.”
And it helped end the UMass season. But Calipari was pleased with his team's showing in NIT play; in fact, he said he preferred winning three games in this tourney over a first-round loss in the NCAAs.
“Three wins gave our program a 20-win season, and that's big for us,” he said.