Familiar foes will meet again
By Joe Burris and Michael Vega, Boston Globe Staff, 3/18/1994
Tomorrow's NCAA Midwest Regional second-round game in Wichita, Kan., will mark the third meeting between Massachusetts and Maryland in four years.
“The thing is, we run a lot of man-to-man offenses and a lot of zone offenses, and it's hard to prepare for us one day if you've never seen us before,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “Maryland has played us in the past, and they know how we play. That worries me a bit. Plus, they've gotten better. Joe Smith is a legitimate top 10 player right now. He does so many things, and their other players have gotten better.”
The Maryland matchup marks a reunion between cousins Donta Bright of UMass and Keith Booth of Maryland, both of whom played on the Baltimore Dunbar High School team that went 29-0 and finished No. 1 in the USA Today national poll.
UMass looking to sweep its way into the Sweet 16
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/19/1994
WICHITA, Kan. – Maryland and Massachusetts met in the National Invitation Tournament four seasons ago. They squared off in the Abdow's Classic final this season. They are quite familiar with each other, and that could spell trouble for both.
Something has to give when the teams meet in today's NCAA Midwest Regional second round. In the past three years, only three teams – Rhode Island, George Washington and West Virginia – have avenged earlier losses against the Minutemen. All three did so on their home floor.
The game, set to tip off at 4:40 p.m., matches two young teams that play with desire and intensity, featuring celebrated freshmen and a host of clutch shooters.
“It's interesting to be playing UMass again,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, the former Boston College head man. “When we played them in December in Springfield, we really didn't consider the fact you might get another opportunity to play after losing that game. I remember the feeling after that game, how down we were for not playing better, just before playing the first conference game of the year.
“We're a different team now, and obviously, UMass is, too. UMass is a very good basketball team. Obviously, they play physically, which is a sign of a good team. They have a lot of ways to come at you.
“They're not afraid to substitute and use pressure defense. We have to stay out of foul trouble, which we didn't do the first time, and be more active on the boards.”
UMass (28-6) is 18-0 when it outrebounds an opponent. In their 78-60 first-round victory over Southwest Texas State Thursday, the Minutemen outrebounded the Bobcats, 43-32, despite facing a taller, quicker front line.
“We're a better team now,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “I think what it is is two teams coming at each other on a neutral site with neutral officials, and it's going to be an interesting game. It should be one of the best games of the tournament.”
Calipari said his biggest complaint about his team's play against Maryland was that UMass didn't come out as the aggressor. “Against Maryland, you're going to have two teams fighting like heck to try to set that tone,” he said. “Who's going to be the aggressor? To me, it's going to be a physical game.”
Maryland (17-11) fields perhaps the nation's best frosh, 6-foot-9-inch Joe Smith, who had 29 points and 15 rebounds in a 74-66 win over Saint Louis in the first round. UMass counters with freshman Marcus Camby, a 7-footer who, though not as skilled offensively, is an exceptional defender and shot blocker (103 rejections this season).
Camby didn't have a good game against Southwest Texas, in part because of an upset stomach. Many figure his play against Smith is key, though UMass might use Lou Roe or several backups to neutralize the Maryland frosh.
“Smith is one of the great players in this country, and you have to be really focused,” said Roe. “He's going to try to fight for position down low. I think Marcus will do a great job on him because now Marcus knows he really doesn't have to fight a lot of guys down low. He's 7 feet and Smith is 6-feet-9. All he has to do is contest Smith's shot.”
Camby, Smith are tops in their class
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/19/1994
WICHITA, Kan. – Mr. Shakespeare said, “The play's the thing,” and indeed it is, but if the Bard of Avon were around today, he'd be aware that sports fans do love their little individual subplots.
Yes, it's Your State U vs. Maryland's State U this afternoon for the right to move into next weekend's NCAA Sweet 16, but contained within the whole is a juicy confrontation of premier big-man talent. They could easily subtitle it “The NBA All-Stars of 1998.”
Representing the Terrapins of Maryland is (just plain) Joe Smith. Representing the Minutemen of Massachusetts is Marcus Camby. Throw in Rasheed Wallace of North Carolina and you're talking about the best three freshman big men in the country.
Joe Smith has the superior numbers. The pride and joy of coach Gary Williams is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds a game. The 6-foot-9-inch Norfolk, Va., product came out of the box with 26 points and 9 rebounds in the first game of the season against hated Georgetown and has continued to build on that performance.
He hit Saint Louis with 29 points and 15 rebounds in Thursday's NCAA Midwest Regional first-round victory over the Billikens. “Joe Smith hurt us bad,” declared Saint Louis forward Donnie Dodds. “He played out of his mind. That's the best I've seen him all year, and I've seen him a lot on TV.”
“We did not do a very good job on him,” said Saint Louis coach Charlie Spoonhour. “But he's a pretty good player. I was talking to a pro scout last night, and he said he believes Smith is one of the two or three best players in the country. If there's a better one than him, I don't want to see him.”
Marcus Camby plays under entirely different circumstances. Whereas Joe Smith entered Maryland with his own coach expecting him to play 30 minutes a game, the 7-foot Camby is an adjunct to a powerful UMass frontcourt. His job is to play defense, rebound and basically change games. He does not start. He averages 21 minutes a game. He has yet to play 30.
But don't think he doesn't deserve to . . .
“If Marcus were on another team and he had to score,” contends John Calipari, “he could score 20 a game. I couldn't believe people would even consider another player as the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year. I said, 'What are you, nuts?' He plays 20 minutes a game, and in those minutes, he scores 10 points a game, rebounds and blocks more shots than anyone in college basketball. And he's unselfish. Even though he isn't starting, he doesn't say anything.”
Joe Smith's game reflects his name. He is an old-fashioned, no-frills inside player. He catches the ball, he turns, he shoots. He rebounds without snatching the ball. He disdains excessive movement. He doesn't trash-talk. He just plays – intelligently and aggressively.
“I hear he's the first one on the practice floor and in the weight room,” says Calipari. “He never has to be coaxed to do anything. The question you ask a kid with talent like his is, 'How good do you want to be?' It's obvious with Joe Smith that he wants to be the best.”
Camby is more raw; no one doubts that. Calipari's prize needs to get stronger and he needs to develop confidence on offense. “Marcus has a tremendous up side,” contends Calipari. “He can be as good as he wants to be. In the last three weeks, he has really developed a good work habit. He's in the weight room with Lou Roe now, and last year he was lifting 52 pounds.”
Both young talents are regarded as recruiting coups for their respective schools. Gary Williams first saw Smith when he went to Norfolk to scout a teammate named Ed Geth (currently redshirting at North Carolina). “I saw a skinny 6-7 kid who was very quick up and down the floor. He looked like he really wanted to play, and the older I get, the more important that becomes to me.”
Funny he should say that. Calipari was thinking the same thing when he first saw Camby. “I love guys who want to play,” he says. “I'm always on the lookout for gym rats.”
Smith's high school coach, Jack Baker, is a close friend of Williams' assistant, Art Perry. Maryland was there first, and Smith never forgot that. In time, other big schools picked up on him, although neither North Carolina nor Duke exhibited interest, which amuses Williams.
“Some people say he wasn't heavily recruited,” Williams smiles. “He was recruited by five ACC schools. But if none of them are named Duke or Carolina, then they say he wasn't heavily recruited.”
Camby was the discovery of UMass assistant Bill Bayno, who came back to Calipari and said he saw a 7-footer on a playground who could play. “I couldn't understand how I never heard of a 7-footer from Hartford if he was any good,” says Calipari.
It turns out Camby had transferred out of the city to a school he didn't like and wound up missing a year and a half of play. He did have a great senior year at Hartford Public, but by that time, UMass was ahead of the recruiting pack, which by now included everybody who was anybody in the East, starting with the University of Connecticut.
Smith vs. Camby will not be a one-on-one deal, of course. Camby has helpmates like the rugged Roe, plus forwards Donta Bright and Dana Dingle. But in the course of the game, there are sure to be some electric big-man moments. Whether matched up or not, Smith and Camby will be executing their specialties, ranging from Smith's soft turnaround jumper to Camby's disheartening shot blocks and gorgeous alley-oop dunks.
The No. 1 issue today remains Massachusetts vs. Maryland. But if you're also wondering where the future Dream Team frontcourt players are, this is a place to start looking.
Dance ends for UMass
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/20/1994
WICHITA, Kan. – All season long it worked. The coach would shout the instructions from the bench – Rebound! Attack the defense! Cut off the pass! – and they'd do it. They'd chide each other for mistakes, then play better. They'd huddle up and call for more passion, then make the opposition crumble like stale bread under their intensity.
But yesterday, the game plan that led the University of Massachusetts to 28 wins and the second seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional did minimal damage against Maryland. The Terrapins followed the UMass book page for page, then added a chapter of their own – an amazing 70 percent shooting from the floor in the second half.
When the final buzzer sounded, a UMass team that vowed to go farther in the tourney than it did last season had suffered a 95-87 defeat, making a second-round exit for the second consecutive season.
Tenth-seeded Maryland, which lost to UMass by 14 points in the Abdow's Classic earlier this season, rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to lead by as many as 14 points, then held on to stun the eighth-ranked and second-seeded Minutemen.
Freshman Joe Smith scored 22 points and Duane Simpkins added 20 as Maryland got scoring from just six players, all of whom hit double figures. They combined to shoot 60 percent from the floor, and were more accurate from the 3-point line (80 percent) than the free throw line (68 percent). At times, Maryland players would find their feet planted just in front of the line, then step behind it to drain a trifecta.
It was the most points UMass has allowed this season, offsetting impressive numbers of its own (50 percent shooting, 11 turnovers, a 35-30 rebounding edge). It marked the first time this season UMass has lost a game when it outrebounded an opponent.
“We've never had a team shoot 60 percent against us, or 70 percent in a half,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “I can't tell you the last time that happened. I think Maryland came out of the gates well. They wanted the game worse than we did.”
Maryland improved to 18-11 overall and will meet Michigan in the Sweet 16 at Dallas Friday. UMass, the highest-seeded team to lose in the tourney thus far, ended its campaign at 28-7 despite a career-high 32 points and 10 rebounds from freshman center Marcus Camby.
UMass got off to a sluggish start but forced the Terrapins into poor shots and turnovers over the last 10 minutes of the first half. The Minutemen erased a 28-24 lead with a 13-2 run to go up, 37-30, and led, 43-38, at halftime.
UMass got it up to 54-44 with 16:57 remaining, then watched the Terrapins heat up. Maryland had three 3-point baskets and one 3-point play in a 15-3 run that gave it a 59-57 lead with 13:27 left.
UMass retook the lead at 65-64 on a layup by Donta Bright (12 points) with 10:57 left, but Maryland staged an 18-3 run (adding three more 3-point baskets and another 3-point play) to go up, 82-68, with 7:05 left.
“We knew our shots were falling,” said Smith. “During the warmup, we kept standing around the rim for rebounds and instead the shots kept going in.”
“We got hot, no doubt about the fact that we shot well,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams. “But we also executed to get the shots, and we played good defense.”
Maryland then executed the kind of press UMass used to frustrate the Terps in the first half, and the Minutemen struggled beneath the pressure. Calipari screamed for his team to step up the intensity, but the pressing and trapping that had stymied Temple and the board work that had shut down North Carolina were ineffective against Maryland.
Moreover, UMass often seemed lacking in aggressiveness; at times the guards walked the ball up the floor as Calipari beckoned them to run. Late in the game, when they needed to rally, the Minutemen were often second to the ball on rebounds despite having better position.
“We didn't have the fire today,” said UMass forward Lou Roe. “We came out and just played basketball. Maryland is just like our team. Their starting five did a good job and everyone else just got fired up.”
ACC becoming their nemesis
NCAA Tournament Notebook
By Joe Burris, Michael Vega and Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe Staff, 3/20/1994
Following Maryland's upset of the University of Massachusetts yesterday, Terrapin fans, cheerleaders and band members trekked through the corridors of Kansas Coliseum chanting, “ACC! ACC! ACC!” For the Minutemen, the chant has become all too painful.
Although it finished the regular season 3-0 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams (including a 14-point win over Maryland in Springfield), UMass lost an NCAA second-round game to an ACC team for the second consecutive year. The Minutemen fell to Virginia in the East Regional at Syracuse last year.
“I'm disappointed; this is the most disappointing loss as any I've had here,” said UMass coach John Calipari, now 1-2 in second-round games. “The thing I told the players is that when you reach this level, you're going to be judged by what you do in the NCAA tournament.
“We had a great season. We beat North Carolina, Temple twice, and we won our conference tournament again. But we're going to be judged by this game.”
CAMBY HELD HIS OWN
Maryland's effort overshadowed the output of UMass freshman Marcus Camby. At Friday's press conference, UMass players were asked if Camby would need help guarding Maryland frosh Joe Smith. But Camby held his own with a career- high 32 points and 10 rebounds. On one play, he pinned the ball to Smith's hands on a block, forcing a jump ball. The possession arrow gave the ball to UMass. “Camby was unbelievable,” Calipari said. “He had never played 30 minutes in a game for us. He really reached down today. It's obvious he's one of the best freshmen in the country.” . . . Before the season, Maryland forward Exree Hipp said he felt the Terrapins could advance to the Sweet 16; the comment surprised many in the Washington area. Coach Gary Williams said early on he was glad just to advance to the final of the Abdow's Hall of Fame Classic, which was hosted by UMass in December. But no one is doubting Maryland now. “We came into the tournament not knowing what to expect,” said forward Keith Booth. “Today we showed we wanted to win the most. We played the entire 40 minutes. We felt we owed it to UMass.” . . . Next up for Maryland is Michigan, and Wolverines forward Juwan Howard said he needed to do some homework on Smith, but added, “It's not about a one-on-one battle. I'm concerned about Maryland, not just Joe Smith.”
Calipari wouldn't rest on his laurels
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/20/1994
WICHITA, Kan. – A year ago, disaster loomed, and John Calipari knew it.
One year removed from a magical season in which they won 30 games and advanced to the Sweet 16, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen were sleepwalking their way through the 1993 NCAA tournament. They squeaked by Penn in the first game, taking advantage of their great physical advantage inside, but they mailed in a miserable effort against Virginia in the second game, going home as 15-point losers.
There were lessons to be learned, and Calipari took himself to school.
Calipari knew something was amiss, even before the tournament started. He just wasn't sure what it was. Hey, he isn't even 35 yet: He doesn't know everything.
Now he knows a little more.
“As a coach,” he said, “you learn each year.”
The first thing he learned was how to handle that little hiatus between the end of the Atlantic 10 tournament and the beginning of the NCAAs. “I gave them three full days off last year,” he explained, “and I never got them back.”
UMass defeated Temple for its second consecutive A-10 title on a Thursday night. Calipari gave his players off through Sunday, the day of tournament selection. It turned out to be too much. The players returned to practice with no fire, no zip, no nuthin'.
“One day,” he said.
But it's not that simple. The '92-93 UMass team, despite missing key players such as Jim McCoy, Will Herndon and Anton Brown from the 30-win team of a year before, seemed to think it was capable of turning it on whenever the mood struck. In short, the UMass team forgot to keep dancin' with the one that brung 'em. The '93 squad wasn't as faithful as its immediate predecessor about scrapping faithfully on the boards, beating foes to loose balls and just plain getting dirty.
Calipari indicated his displeasure with the collective attitude by angrily yanking team leader Harper Williams from the game with Virginia after the former A-10 Player of the Year didn't go hard enough for a loose ball to suit the mentor's pleasure. Coach Cal took some heat for that, but he didn't back down. Still hasn't. He needed to get a message across to the ones who'd be coming back, and, anyway, Harper Williams surely should have known better.
That play, that game, was the fulfillment of a Calipari fear that dated from the preseason. Despite possessing the talent and coaching to win 24 games and defend its A-10 title, UMass lacked that certain je ne sais quoi for the entire season. There was a cloud hovering over the team.
By the end of the season, coaches and players alike knew the loss to Virginia was both inevitable and cleansing. It was now time for that season to be buried and thoughts about the next one to begin.
“The team was tired, physically and mentally,” admitted Lou Roe. “We were not really focused when we got to the tournament. Some players really wanted the season to get over with.”
They weren't alone. “When the season was over, I was exhausted,” Calipari said. “I had to run right into a vacation.”
Not this year. Yesterday's loss to Maryland here in Wichita wasn't viewed as any hidden blessing. UMass had enough mental and physical energy left in its tank to win the NCAA, NIT and NAIA tournaments on the same night.
“I feel like it's midseason,” said Calipari, before yesterday's loss.
Calipari offered a further reason why '93 was such a bummer, in contrast to '94.
“We were moving into our new building,” he pointed out, “and things were delayed. We couldn't get easy access to our weights. I had to struggle to get guys into the weight room. We just weren't strong down the stretch.”
The Minutemen were stronger than ever, so there are no excuses for their second-round elimination. Calipari said this is his deepest and most talented team. His sole reservation was experience, or lack of same. Four of his first eight players – Marcus Camby, Donta Bright, Jeff Meyer and Edgar Padilla – are in their first year of college basketball and thus participated in their first NCAA game against Southwest Texas State Thursday afternoon. Calipari had expected everyone to be more relaxed against Maryland.
“We could go out against Maryland and Joe Smith could hit us with 48, and we'd go home, and those things happen,” the coach had theorized.
Smith hit for 22. Those things happen.
UMass learns lesson
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/21/1994
WICHITA, Kan. – There were few questions concerning how or why they lost. The University of Massachusetts fell to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional Saturday because the Terrapins shot 70 percent from the floor in the second half, 80 percent from 3-point range in the game and played with more aggressiveness and intensity.
Question was, how could such a thing have happened in the second round?
This was a Minutemen team that vowed to go farther than last year's second-round exit, a team that knew from experience it either played with passion or lost, a team that entered the tournament playing some of its best basketball, that had clawed and scraped its way to victories over North Carolina, Temple and Oklahoma en route to a 28-win season, a No. 8 national ranking and No. 2 seed in the tourney.
When Maryland left the door of opportunity open late in the game, UMass didn't take advantage. Couldn't. The fire that burned the opposition 28 times this season wasn't there. That was as surprising as Maryland's amazing shooting.
“I think these are all learning experiences for us,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “Last year, Purdue lost in the first round to Rhode Island, and they used that loss to come back this year and try to win the whole thing.
“One of the things I talked to our team about is that we have everybody back next year. We're going to play a national schedule next year. We'll play anybody that wants to play. But we just have to learn.
“I learned a little bit about last year, and I learned a little bit about this team. I've got to do a better job myself. I told the guys we all have to look in the mirror. I could have done a better job Saturday. And I'm going to watch the tape and see what I could have done differently.”
Prior to Saturday's game, Calipari said that last season he gave his players three days off after they won the Atlantic 10 tournament and “never got them back” for the NCAA Tournament. This year, they practiced and lifted weights during the days after winning the Atlantic 10. Players talked about being more focused than last season.
Yet none of that paid off against Maryland, which lost to the Minutemen, 94-80, in December. Trailing, 54-44, with 16:57 left, Maryland got a 15-3 run started when Mario Lucas hit a 3-point basket with 16:30 left. The run put Maryland up, 59-57, with 13:27 left, but the Terrapins weren't finished there.
Center Joe Smith hit a 3-point basket from the corner with 9:30 left to give the Terrapins a 71-65 lead. Lucas scored on a 3-point play to make it 82-68 with 7:05 left.
The 3-pointers by Lucas and Smith were only the second of the season by both.
“When the basis of your program is defense and they kill you that way, it takes your heart away, and that's what happened,” said Calipari.
UMass cut the lead to 6 a few times late but did not make plays down the stretch to get closer.
“They made tough shots, they made second shots, they made scrappy rebounds, they made drives to the basket,” said Calipari. “They wanted the game worse than us, and it was evident.
“This is a disappointing finish. We had a great year, though. I'm hurting now, and I hope our team's hurting. If not, we're not the competitors I think we are.”