From the UMass Basketball 1992-93 Media Guide, published by UMass Athletics
The favored, 22nd-ranked Minutemen trailed 61-58 with 5:19 to play, yet fought back with 15 unanswered points to seal their 11th-straight win and an A-10 Championship game at the Cage.
This wasn't the strongest performance of the season by the Minutemen as they committed a season-high 23 turnovers and shot 44.8 percent from the field. But, the UMass defense allowed the Rams to shoot only 34.8 percent from the field.
UMass veers into the final
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/10/1992
PHILADELPHIA – John Calipari had the look of a loser. He practically apologized for the way his team played in last night's Atlantic 10 semifinal, saying that Massachusetts and its opponent, Rhode Island, “set back the game of basketball 10 years.” He talked about how he yelled at his players, his coaches and his managers.
He hardly sounded like a coach whose team is 40 minutes away from its
first conference title ever and first NCAA tournament bid since 1962.
(The Globe is half-right on the “first conference title ever.” UMass won many Yankee Conference titles, but had yet to win one in the Atlantic 10.)
Truth is, the top-seeded Minutemen (27-4) did play poorly last night, jumping out to double-digit leads in both halves, then having to fight for dear life. But in the last five minutes, they pulled things together, scored 15 consecutive points and escaped with a 78-67 win over fourth-seeded URI.
The win puts UMass in the Atlantic 10 final for the second time (in 1990, it lost to Temple, 53-51). UMass will meet third-seeded West Virginia, a 44-41 winner over Temple in the other semifinal, at Curry Hicks Cage Thursday at 9 p.m. Tickets go on sale today at 8:30 a.m. at the UMass ticket office, where students reportedly started lining up last night.
URI dropped to 20-9, but will undoubtedly make postseason play, perhaps the NCAA tourney.
Calipari was still showing frustration in the postgame press conference, after yelling at his team “more than I have all season.”
“I didn't start coaching until the last six minutes of the game,” he said. “I was a little upset with the kids because I didn't think the effort was there. It was shocking to see my kids give up layups because they didn't know who they were guarding.”
Calipari was referring to a 12-minute stretch of the second half, when URI caught UMass napping and whipped no-look passes inside for uncontested buckets. That helped URI bounce back from a 37-27 deficit with 18:41 left to take a 50-46 advantage with 11:13 to go.
The Rams, who trailed by as many as 12 points, went through a mild slump after taking the 4-point lead, and with five minutes left, the game was tied. URI took a 61-58 lead when Jason Alexander stripped the ball from UMass forward Jim McCoy and drove in for a layup.
“That's when I started coaching,” said Calipari. “That's when I backed off and then the kids started playing.”
The result was a two-handed slam by Will Herndon and a 3-point play by Harper Williams that gave UMass a 63-61 lead with 4:02 left. After a miss, Herndon scored to make it 65-61, and after a turnover, Williams made it 67-61.
“We kind of jumped on Harper Williams' coattails and got the ball to him,” said Calipari, “and he put us in the championship game.”
Williams, the conference player of the year, scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 7 boards, but more importantly held URI's Jeff Kent to 15 points – 20 fewer than he scored against UMass last week.
“I think this time I was just more conscious of him being on the floor,” said Williams.
The Rams continued to turn the ball over and UMass continued to make them pay. With 1:16 left, Anton Brown made 1 of 2 free throws to make the score 71-61, and on the next possession, McCoy hit two free throws to give UMass a 73-61 lead.
“They executed well and got the ball into the hands of the people we didn't want it in,” said URI coach Al Skinner. “I think we got impatient after we took the lead and began to shoot too quickly.”
Andre Samuel led URI with 18 points.
Calipari already is concerned with motivating his team for West Virginia (20-10).
“My team plays well enough to win, and that's scary,” he said. “We play a West Virginia team that is deep and talented. It's scary going into this one.”
|Largest lead||4 (52-48)|
|Points off turnovers||14|
|Second chance points||15|
|Points in the paint||36|
|Largest lead||14 (77-63)|
|Points off turnovers||17|
|Second chance points||20|
|Points in the paint||28|
|Score by Periods||1st||2nd||OT1||OT2||OT3||Final|
|Officials||Jim Burr, Gerry Donaghy, Art McDonald|