UMass wants due for No. 1 ranking
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/26/1995
PITTSBURGH – The game itself wasn't much to talk about. So, after the University of Massachusetts routed Duquesne, 103-53, Tuesday, the local media asked Minutemen players and coach John Calipari a question they have heard repeatedly the last three weeks.
What's it like to be No. 1?
The UMass media expected routine responses – the ones they've heard the past three weeks. Yet while the Minutemen once again stated that No. 1 matters more in March than January, they added that they do not feel they're getting the respect a top-ranked team deserves.
“You don't really hear much around the country,” said forward Dana Dingle. “They just did an article in Sports Illustrated about UMass vs. UConn. But when we play close games, it's 'UMass holds on by 1.'
“What do we have to do to get any respect? We don't have many stories written about us. We don't get the respect we think we deserve for being the No. 1 team. But when somebody else is No. 1, oh, they go crazy. If North Carolina is No. 1, or Arkansas . . .
“But they think we're just No. 1 for a matter of time. People think, 'They're going to lose sooner or later.' So we just try to gain our respect and go out every day and prove to everybody we deserve to be No. 1.”
Calipari was not as pointed. In fact, the seventh-year coach said he often feels that the less media attention, the better.
“It's like a poison,” he said. “As long as you don't swallow it and buy into it, you won't die. As long as you don't start believing how great people say you are . . . ”
Yet Calipari also feels his team has not received the type of attention given to other No. 1s.
“I haven't seen us on the cover of Sports Illustrated, nor will I ever,” said Calipari. “There are no specials on ESPN or CNN or USA Today cover stories. Other than a couple of newspapers that have been staffing us full- time that have never staffed us before, and those are local media UMass has not received much attention.
“But our kids are fine. I'm getting bugged a little bit, but they're not getting barraged with stuff, and that's fine. That's the way we want it. We're just worrying about getting better.”
Calipari took exception to the notion that if No. 2 Connecticut defeats Kansas (the only team to defeat UMass this season) Saturday, the Huskies will assume the No. 1 spot, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's UMass-West Virginia game.
“You all know about comparative scoring,” he said. “You shouldn't judge anyone on comparative scoring, because if you do that, then we beat Pittsburgh 87-58 and Pittsburgh was up by 25 on them.
“But you know what? I really and truly do not care. What I'm saying, and I think my team feels it, is, 'Wait a minute. We've been No. 1 now for three weeks. What's happening here?' But that's OK.”
UMass plays best when it feels disrespected (ask Arkansas). Calipari will likely use the lack of national respect as a motivating tool.
Now not only is UMass No. 1, it holds the nation's longest on-campus winning streak – 39 straight, including 25 at Mullins Center. UConn is No. 2 in that category as well, with a 25-game on-campus streak.
Stating that a team should take every advantage of being No. 1, Calipari took the Minutemen to Childeren's Hospital of Pittsburgh yesterday. In groups of four, the Minutemen visited youngsters on two floors.
“It was fun for the players because they felt like little kids again,” said guard Carmelo Travieso, who visited 10 youngsters.
Point guard Derek Kellogg, who sat out the Duquesne game, participated in the latter stages of yesterday's shootaround and is expected to play against West Virginia . . . UMass currently ranks No. 3 in the Ratings Percentage Index used as supplemental data by the NCAA men's basketball committee. Pitt is No. 1, while Indiana is No. 2.
They're both playing a game of one-upmanship
National college basketball
By Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe Staff, 1/26/1995
Massachusetts and Connecticut compete in separate leagues – the Atlantic 10 and Big East, respectively – but it seems they are competing against each other as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. UConn is closing in on the top-ranked Minutemen, further fueling the campaign for the teams to meet on a regular basis in the future.
There already has been speculation that should the Huskies beat Kansas (the only team to beat UMass this season) in Kansas City Saturday, they will leapfrog past the Minutemen.
UMass quickly responded to the perceived threat from the Huskies – who gained more respect with a solid 11-point win over Syracuse Monday – by blowing out Duquesne by 50 points Tuesday.
This might not seem to be a big deal since the NCAA tournament makes the issue of who's No. 1 in the polls moot. But what could be at stake is a No. 1 seed in the East Regional and a trip to Albany, N.Y., for first- and second-round games.
The other issue, of course, is why the two teams won't meet. UMass coach John Calipari has said “anytime, anywhere.”
Now UConn coach Jim Calhoun is saying a renewal of the rivalry is a definite maybe.
“The more everyone debates, the bigger the show will become,” said Calhoun. “Maybe we're building toward that. I think this is good for both of us. It is a long way from being closed. This puts a little gasoline on the fire. Eventually, maybe that could become a special series.”
Calhoun has been impressed by UMass, but he also feels his team is special. And should they defeat No. 7 Kansas, Calhoun thinks the Huskies deserve serious No. 1 consideration since they're the only unbeaten team in Division 1. “This team is special because it shows a lot of different looks,” said Calhoun. “A lot of players are capable of stepping in and taking control.”
#1 Massachusetts 97, West Virginia 94, OT
From The Associated Press, 1/27/1995
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia had an 18-point lead over the #1 team in the country with 4:48 left in regulation. When they realized what they were on the verge of accomplishing, the Mountaineers seemed to lose their poise.
Back came Massachusetts, which used a 24-6 run to tie the game and went on to beat West Virginia 97-94 in overtime Friday night.
“They define character,” Massachusetts coach John Calipari said of his team's overtime victories against West Virginia and St. Bonaventure on Jan. 10.
“Other than me screaming my guts out, I never saw a player point their finger at each other,” Calipari said. “They never blamed each other and they were all playing pretty poorly.”
Mike Williams hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in overtime that broke a tie and helped Massachusetts extend its winning streak to 14 games.
West Virginia (8-8, 3-5 Atlantic-10) led 80-62 with 4:48 remaining in regulation before Massachusetts (15-1, 7-0) went on its big run to tie the game 86-86.
“If you go back to where we had the big lead, maybe more conservative coaches would have nursed the clock,” said West Virginia coach Gale Catlett. “I don't do that. I'm not going to start doing that. We're here to win. We're here to score points.”
Massachusetts' last two points of regulation came when Williams missed a free throw and Minutemen's Dana Dingle and West Virginia's Damian Owens, each trying to control the rebound, batted the ball in. UMass then stole the ball and had a chance to win, but an off-balance 20-footer was no good.
After Williams hit his 3-pointer toward the end of overtime, West Virginia had a chance to tie as it set up an inbounds play under its own basket with under two seconds left.
Cyrus Jones, who missed key free throws in regulation and overtime, got the ball in the open and attempted a 3-point shot from about 24 feet away, but it hit the back of the rim and bounced away as the buzzer sounded.
“It's bad that someone had to lose a game like this,” said Williams, who finished with 16 points. “I give West Virginia a lot of credit. They played a great game. I feel bad for them.”
West Virginia was led by Zain Shaw's 23 points, while Seldon Jefferson had 22 and Jones had 21.
West Virginia led most of the game, taking advantage of turnovers and cold shooting by UMass.
But when the Mountaineers, who lost 95-65 at Massachusetts on Jan. 3, seemed to realize they were close to knocking off the No. 1 team, they were the ones who started making mistakes.
“They hit some big shots,” Jefferson said. “We let some opportunities slide by that we should have capitalized on and didn't. We came in and fought hard, and we had them. We should have won the game.”
Jones hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining in overtime to put West Virginia up 93-92. He went to the foul line with 1:30 remaining but made only one shot to put West Virginia up 94-92.
Dingle scored an easy underneath basket with 40 seconds remaining to tie the game 94-94.
West Virginia had 25 steals and held UMass to 44.1 percent shooting in the first half, but also turned the ball over 16 times after intermission.
Massachusetts started hitting its shots in the second half and finished the game hitting 51.4 percent from the field.
UMass improved to 4-16 in Morgantown, with all the victories coming under Calipari. Friday's win also marked the second consecutive season the Minutemen have swept the series, which will end next season when West Virginia moves to the Big East.
Massachusetts plays at home Monday against St. Bonaventure, a team that also took the Minutemen to overtime before losing 81-76.
By Marty Dobrow, Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff, 1/28/1995
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the top-ranked University of Massachusetts Minutemen, ``Refuse to Lose” is not just a motto: It's a way of life.
Last night the Minutemen put together a comeback of near-miraculous proportions and defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers in overtime, 97-94. Mike Williams came up with another piece of late magic, hitting a three-pointer with 16.5 seconds left in OT to clinch what might well be the most remarkable win in team history.
UMass fought back from a deficit of 18 points in the final five minutes, tying the game on tip-in by Dana Dingle with nine seconds left.
In OT, UMass fell behind, 94-92 when Cyrus Jones hit one of two free throws with 1:30 left. Dana Dingle tied the game, though, off a great feed by Lou Roe with 1:17 left.
Roe then rejected a leaning effort from Zain Shaw, setting up Williams' game-winner.
``Incredible,” said John Calipari, his hair uncharacteristically mussed after the game. ``In the history of college basketball I don't think anybody has hit as many clutch shots as Mike Williams.”
``It's too bad somebody had to lose this game,” Williams said. ``But this is the greatest comeback I think we've ever had.“
The game seemed irretrievably lost when UMass fell behind 80-62 with under 4:48 left. The Minutemen had served up a huge number of turnovers and had not hit a single shot from three-point range. They seemed unable to match the emotional intensity that the Mountaineers brought to the game.
In the team's huddle, though, Calipari told the team to try to just have some fun. And with a flurry of defensive fire, UMass mounted an improbable return to the living, culminated first by Dingle's tip-in, and then by Williams' three-pointer.
``I told the guys to go out and have some fun,” Calipari said. ``Let's try to win the game. The pressure is on them so let's go for it.“
It was to say the least a devastating loss for West Virginia.
``I am very disappointed because our kids played their hearts out,” said West Virginia coach Gale Catlett. ``They WVU) deserve to win. There's no question about that.“
Still, he had to give UMass its due.
``I think that's why Massachusetts is No. 1,” Catlett said. ``They've found a way to win in a very tough arena against a very cranked up team that played very well.“
In the end though, there was no stopping UMass' big-shot big shot.
``When the game is on the line, you want to go to Mike Williams,” Calipari said. ``He's the man and he's always there for us.“
Williams' Houdini act saves UMass
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield-Union News, 1/28/1995
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It was a game that's been matched by few others in University of Massachusetts basketball history. But the ending was most familiar.
Trailing by 18 with 4:48 left in regulation, UMass roared back to capture an incredible 97-94 overtime victory over West Virginia last night, tying the school's single-season record for consecutive victories at 14 and possibly saving its No. 1 ranking for a fourth straight week.
Mike Williams hit a 3-point shot from behind the key with 16.5 seconds left in overtime, breaking a 94-94 tie and causing UMass coach John Calipari to declare that his senior guard is carving a place as the best clutch shooter in college basketball history - bar none.
“No player in history has made more game-winning shots than Mike,” Calipari said. “He's done it what, eight or 10 times? And he hadn't been playing well tonight, but he has such courage.”
“I've got the talent, but I don't know what it is,” Williams said of his uncanny ability to hit game-winning shots. “I credit my teammates because they keep getting me the ball.”
The Mountaineers missed two shots in the final seconds, including Cyrus Jones' desperate 3-point try at the buzzer as 13,862 fans at West Virginia Coliseum - the Mountaineers' largest home crowd in 12 years - watched in disbelief.
Lou Roe led No. 1-ranked UMass (15-1, 7-0 A-10) with 25 points. Donta Bright had 17 with eight rebounds in one of his best performances since the league season started.
Williams finished with 16, including five in overtime. The scoring of Marcus Camby (14) and Dana Dingle (14) also helped offset West Virginia's trio of Zain Shaw (23 points), Seldon Jefferson (22) and Jones (21).
UMass was getting blown out 80-62 before a frantic 24-6 run in the final 4:48 of regulation forced overtime. In the final minute, the Minutemen trailed 84-82 when Bright missed a jumper and Jones scored on a fast break at the other end that made it 86-82 with 14.1 seconds left - making it look like West Virginia (8-8, 3-5) would survive.
Jones was fouled on the play, missed the free throw and then made a huge mistake. He fouled Williams on a 3-point shot with 9.1 seconds left.
Williams hit the first two, missed the third but Dingle's tip-in forced overtime with an 86-86 tie.
Jones hit a 3-pointer with 1:41 left in overtime, giving West Virginia a 93-92 lead after UMass had led three times in the extra session. Prior to that, the Minutemen got a huge offensive rebound from little-used forward Rigo Nunez, who Calipari first called upon in overtime - perhaps the most daring, surprising move of an astonishing game.
“I felt we needed someone to go in and tip balls, and Rigo's play changed the tempo,” Calipari said. Nunez hurt his back on the play, but he was jumping as high as all his teammates when the game ended. ”
The UMass winning streak is now 14, tying the school single-season record set in 1992. UMass can set the mark Monday at home against St. Bonaventure.
The all-time overall UMass streak is 16, set over three seasons in the 1930s.
The nation's No. 1 ranking may or may not have been saved. The new Associated Press poll will be released Monday. No. 2 Connecticut feels it should pass UMass if the unbeaten Huskies achieve the difficult task of winning at Kansas, which beat UMass.
“I've never been more proud of a team than ours,” West Virginia coach Gale Catlett said of the Mountaineers, who lost 95-65 to UMass Jan. 3 and had an Atlantic 10 record 20 shots blocked in Springfield. “A couple of things happened in the final seconds that we would like to replay. But there were some things I could have changed, too. If you want to blame someone, blame the coach.”
Calipari had hoped to rest point guard Derek Kellogg last night. The senior co-captain who sat out Tuesday's game against Duquesne with a groin pull was summoned after less than six minutes, though, with West Virginia leading 16-6.
“There were times I wondered,” Kellogg admitted when asked if he really thought UMass could win. “But we felt we could pull it off.”
A sign of the Mountaineers' confidence last night was shown when reserve guard Jarrod West - a 5-foot-11, 165-pound freshman - drove through traffic for a layup with less than 20 seconds in the first half. West Virginia scored the last six points to lead 45-37 at the break, right after it looked like UMass was stabilizing itself.
UMass shot 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half. But the statistic that jumped out was 15 turnovers by Minutemen in the first 20 minutes.
In addition to his game-winning heroics, Williams also tied the school's all-time record for career steals last night. He now has 142, equalling Donald Russell's 10-year-old mark.
West Virginia led 60-53 when a 20-9 surge gave the Mountaineers what appeared to be an insurmountable lead. But UMass scored 12 straight points, a streak that ended when Roe's layup made it 80-74 with 2:50 left in regulation.
Williams believes and delivers
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield-Union News, 1/29/1995
AMHERST - There is no player in college basketball quite like Mike Williams. And his coach now says there may be no one in basketball history quite like him, either.
It's not that the 6-foot-2 senior guard from Hartford, Conn., is the nation's best college basketball player, or even its best shooter. But with the game on the line and the ball in his hands, Williams has built a portfolio that University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari says must be defined with history in mind.
“I don't know if there will ever be a guy in college basketball who will hit more game-winning shots than Mike,” Calipari said after Williams' 3-point basket with 16.5 seconds left in overtime gave UMass a 97-94 victory over West Virginia Friday.
The victory and No. 2 Connecticut's loss to Kansas yesterday strengthens UMass' grip on the nation's No. 1 ranking, which will be announced tomorrow. Speculation about UConn becoming No. 1 even while UMass kept winning became moot with the Huskies' loss.
Friday was a good night to talk about history, because UMass' comeback from an 18-point deficit in the final 4:48 of regulation was one of the great rallies of all time.
“Me and Marcus (Camby) were on the bench, and we were both playing badly,” said Williams, admitting that for a fleeting moment or two the thought of losing crept into his mind. “We said we couldn't believe this. We thought practice would be hell.”
Williams is frequently seen coming into practice with the Walkmans on, softly singing the phrase “You gotta believe” to no one in particular. It's not a song so much as a mantra, and when the game is on the line, he believes - even when others may not.
“When he shot it, I said 'This kid's crazy,' ” Calipari said Friday while insisting that no college player has ever delivered so repeatedly in game-winning situations as Williams.
The list keeps getting longer. As a sophomore, he beat Rutgers and George Washington with 3-pointers as time ran out. His in-your-face basket before a hostile GW audience helped establish a reputation that has never stopped growing and shows up most demonstratively on the road.
He loves to send opposing fans home unhappy, as he did Friday. This was a great college basketball game,“ he said after 13,862 fans were on his team's case all night. “The crowd was great.
“But I'll trade all these buzzer games for a national championship,” he said. “That's the one I'll look back on.”
Last season, Williams beat Temple twice with last-second shots. He beat Oklahoma. He sent the North Carolina game into overtime. This year, his late 3-point touch at St. Bonaventure forced overtime, and UMass won.
He also had two steals Friday, tying Donald Russell's school career record with 142.
And he had help Friday. Lou Roe scored 25 and and blocked Zain Shaw's shot late in overtime when the game was tied at 94. Donta Bright scored 17 with eight rebounds. Dana Dingle and Camby combined for 13 rebounds and 28 points on 13-for-18 shooting.
And Rigo Nunez, who played one minute of regulation, played two in overtime, threw his body at a loose ball and changed the momentum to UMass' favor.
But it still came down to Williams, who Calipari says is very sensitive. In one sense, that's odd because sensitive athletes sometimes ponder failure and don't always deliver in the clutch.
But Williams does, and this season more than ever, he's been uniformly gracious about it. “They were making all kinds of shots,” he said of West Virginia. “They made everything.”
They didn't make the last one, though. “What we just did was unbelievable,” an elated Roe said. “I don't believe it.”
But Williams always believes. That's what makes him a little different than anyone else playing college basketball today, and maybe a little different than anyone else who has ever played it.
UMass makes escape
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/28/1995
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When the comeback began, the sellout crowd of 13,862 was unfazed. After all, what are the chances of a team losing an 18-point lead with 4:48 remaining? But as the minutes evaporated, so did West Virginia's advantage. Top-ranked Massachusetts tied the game and forced overtime.
Still, the locals remained hopeful. Then with 16.5 seconds remaining in OT, point guard Mike Williams hit a 3-pointer to put the Minutemen ahead by 3. Eyes widened. Mouths gaped. And when the final buzzer sounded, the West Virginia Coliseum was a sea of silver dollars and black holes.
UMass staged one of the biggest comebacks in school history, defeating the Mountaineers, 97-94, before a partisan crowd so stunned and so angry it hurled ice, beer, water, cups and Frisbees onto the court in disgust.
The Minutemen improved to 15-1 overall, 7-0 in Atlantic 10 play, and extended the nation's second-longest winning streak to 14 games (tying the school season record). West Virginia, which lost to UMass, 95-65, Jan. 3, fell to 8-8 overall, 3-5 in the A-10.
Throughout the game, the Minutemen had trouble coming up with points, rebounds and defensive stops. Afterward, they had trouble finding words to describe the comeback.
Except Williams, who further solidified his reputation as one of the best clutch shooters in college basketball.
“First of all, I want to give my team all the credit,” said Williams, who struggled prior to his heroics, connecting on 6 of 13 shots from the field on his way to 16 points, alongside six turnovers and four fouls. “We looked each other in the eyes when we were down 18 points with about four minutes left, and we said, 'This game is not over yet.' I looked in everyone's eyes, and I saw that determination, and I knew we were going to come back.”
West Virginia led, 45-37 at halftime and 80-62 with 4:48 remaining. Then UMass outscored the Mountaineers, 20-4, and trailed, 84-82, with 1:26 remaining.
UMass had a chance to tie with 17 seconds left, but Donta Bright missed on a baseline jumper. After a brief scramble, West Virginia gained possession, raced downcourt and took an 86-82 advantage when Cyrus Jones hit a layup.
Williams was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with 9.1 seconds left. He hit his first two free throws and missed the third, but forward Dana Dingle tipped in the miss with nine seconds left, creating the 86-86 regulation tie.
“I still can't believe it; I knew we would make a run, but oh, I didn't know it would be this big,” said UMass forward Lou Roe (game-high 25 points).
Roe helped by coming up with a rejection of forward Zain Shaw with 50 seconds left in overtime and the score 94-94.
UMass gained possession after Roe's block, setting up Williams' winner.
“Coach John Calipari wanted us to get two possessions for one for West Virginia,” said Williams. “He wanted to take a quick shot, but I told him it wasn't enough time for a two-for-one situation. So let's run the clock down and get a good shot.
“We called our play 'Winner,' where we go to Lou down low, but they double-teamed Lou in the post. Edgar Padilla got the ball and passed it back out to me. The shot clock was running down, so I had to create the shot.”
Just as he did last season against North Carolina, Temple (twice) and Oklahoma, Williams stepped up to the 3-point arc and, with his shoulders square, swished the ball through the rim.
West Virginia guard Seldon Jefferson (22 points) missed with 1.1 seconds left, but the Mountaineers retained possession. Then Jones missed as the buzzer sounded.
“There is no player in college basketball history that has hit more big shots than Mike Williams,” said Calipari. “It used to be Barry Goheen formerly of Vanderbilt. He hit about three or four game-winners.
“Mike has hit about eight or 10. It's incredible. He's going to go down in the history of college basketball as the player to hit the most game-winning shots and had the most courage even when he didn't play well.”
Williams also had two steals to tie the UMass career record (142). The biggest theft came when he stole the game from an upstart team, and the crowd left bewildered.
“I am very disappointed because our kids played their hearts out,” said West Virginia coach Gale Catlet. “I think that's why Massachusetts is No. 1. They found a way to win in a tough area against a cranked-up team that played very well.”
In The Clutch, Williams, No. 1 UMass Step On It
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/29/1995
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the past two seasons, Mike Williams has shown improvement in distributing the basketball. The University of Massachusetts senior guard collected 89 assists last season (up from 48 his sophomore year), displaying a knack of seeing the floor well in transition.
Yet Williams has had his best moments when he gets stingy with the ball. When that happens, the game usually is on the line. The seconds are counting down and a basket is needed. At times like this, most players treat the ball as if it is a ticking bomb. But Williams plays as if there are two solid yellow lines on the court. He does not pass.
It should be common knowledge for UMass opponents: Williams goes for the winners. Bucking the trend is another story. During his career, the senior from Hartford has delivered six times – including Friday night, when he hit a 3-point basket with 16.5 seconds left in overtime as No. 1 UMass rallied from an 18-point deficit with 4:48 left in regulation to stun West Virginia, 97-94.
“You guys know the story with Mike,” said teammate Lou Roe. “I'm sure this is not the last winning bucket for him. There is nothing I can say about him.”
Williams' feats capped one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball history and showed why the Minutemen have not joined rash of Top 5 teams that have lost in recent weeks.
UMass, in the Top 5 all season, should hold on to its No. 1 ranking for the fourth consecutive week, particularly with No. 2 Connecticut's loss to Kansas yesterday.
“These guys never cease to amaze me,” said coach John Calipari, whose team is 14-5 in games decided by 5 points or less since the 1992-93 season – including 3-0 this year. UMass is 6-0 in overtime since the 1991-92 season.
“When we were down by 18, I said, 'Hey guys, why don't we try to win this and have fun,' ” said Calipari. “I said, 'Let's just try to do some crazy stuff to try to win this.' ”
The craziness began when UMass tossed its playbook and adopted the Mountaineers' reckless-abandon approach; the Minutemen staged a quick 24-6 rally off six West Virginia turnovers to tie the game at 86-86 at the end of regulation.
Williams' trey was one of several big plays. With 9.1 seconds left in regulation and UMass down, 86-82, Williams was fouled going for a 3-pointer; he hit his first two free throws but missed the third, yet teammate Dana Dingle tipped in the miss to tie the game.
“That was the biggest play of the game,” said Roe, who blocked guard Cyrus Jones with 45.9 seconds left in overtime and the score tied at 94-94. UMass gained control and set up Williams' trey.
“We never thought it was out of reach. We've got a guy like Mike Williams who is Mr. Clutch,” said UMass center Marcus Camby. “When we were in the huddle with 4:48 left, the coaches said, 'Forget the X's and O's. Just go out there and play with a lot of pride and heart.' ”
Williams said Friday's feat may have been his most satisfying, particularly since he struggled prior to the winning shot (six turnovers, four fouls).
“For us to be down 18,” he said, “for me and Marcus to be playing bad, for the other players to bring us back and for Marcus and I to come back and give us a lift, that showed a lot of character for our team.
For more than 39 minutes, UMass again appeared ripe for an upset. The Minutemen botched plays, took bad shots and turned the ball over 25 times.
With 19.9 seconds left in overtime and the score tied, 94-94, the ball went to Williams. Right then you had to figure West Virginia had squandered its upset bid. Williams wouldn't allow another ill-advised pass or broken play.
“West Virginia guard Seldon Jefferson was on me, but I don't think he thought I was going to shoot it from way back there,” said Williams, who was about three feet beyond the arc. “The shot clock was going down, and I just took the shot he gave me.”
Williams' teammates on the bench raised their arms to signal the trifecta before the shot fell through. They had seen this all before.
“Against St. Bonaventure, in the closing seconds we were up and they were playing a zone on us, leaving Mike open,” said center Jeff Meyer. “I said to myself, 'Of all the things a team could do, why would they leave Mike open? Why not run a box and one at him?'
“But honestly, even if they had, it still wouldn't have stopped him.”
College basketball extra: UMass’ historic rally at WVU still warms Calipari 20 years later
By John Grupp, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 2, 2015
Long before John Calipari returned Kentucky to power, he left an indelible mark on Morgantown, W.Va.
Last Tuesday marked the 20-year anniversary of what remains one of the greatest comebacks — or collapses, depending on your perspective — in the history of NCAA basketball.
And the Moon native remembers it clearly.
“My high school coach, Bill Sacco, was sitting on the bench,” Calipari said Friday. “We’re down 18 points with four minutes or so left, and I look at him and said, ‘Don’t ever plan on sitting on our bench again.’ He smiled.”
No one could have imagined what happened next.
West Virginia led visiting UMass, 80-62, with 4:48 to play and were well on their way to upsetting Calipari’s top-ranked Minutemen and future All-American Marcus Camby on Jan. 27, 1995.
But UMass fought back to force overtime, eventually winning 97-94 in an outcome that prompted disgusted fans among the 13,862 at sold-out WVU Coliseum — the Mountaineers’ largest home crowd in 12 years — to throw “ice, beer, water, cups and Frisbees” onto the court, according to a Boston Globe report.
“I remember … their students came out of the stands and circled the court getting ready to storm it,” Calipari said. “We missed a shot in regulation to win the game, and you could just hear the crowd all sigh, and then they all walked back into the seats.”
Even the TV announcers had written off the Minutemen. Later, when Calipari, then a seventh-year coach at UMass, and his staff listened to the replay they heard Digger Phelps saying, “The No. 1 team in the country is going down. Stick a fork in ’em.”
UMass, led by senior guard Mike Williams, went on a 20-4 run over a 3:22 span to cut the deficit to 84-82. Later, Williams was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with 9.1 seconds left. He made his first two free throws and missed the third, but forward Dana Dingle tipped in the miss, tying the game at 86-86 and forcing overtime.
Williams’ 3-pointer with 16.5 seconds to play in OT proved to be the winner.
“It was probably the best comeback of my career and the most memorable game as well,” said UMass forward Lou Roe, who scored a game-high 25 points and now works on Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg’s staff.
To this day, the 18-point comeback matches the largest in NCAA history with less than five minutes to play.
“It didn’t seem like it was real when it first happened,” said David Liguori, a reserve guard for WVU and now a Canonsburg-based financial advisor. “I don’t think I ever heard the Coliseum that quiet. It was probably the toughest loss I’ve ever been involved with, and I’ve got a couple teammates who would say the same thing.”
The near-miss came 24 days after UMass blew out WVU, 95-65, with an Atlantic 10 record 20 blocked shots — the Mountaineers were in their final season in the A-10.
Afterward, WVU coach Gale Catlett focused on his team’s effort in the rematch rather than the historic collapse.
“I’ve never been more proud of a team than ours,” Catlett said after the game. “If you want to blame someone, blame the coach.”
UMass would finish the season 29-5 after losing to Oklahoma State in the Elite Eight. West Virginia ended up 13-13, one of only five non-winning seasons in 24 years under Catlett.
So, as Calipari’s undefeated Kentucky Wildcats continue their pursuit of perfection, he probably will never coach in another game like that Friday night comeback two decades ago in Morgantown.
“It was unbelievable,” said former WVU guard Cyrus Jones, who scored 21 points and now is the coach at Dunbar High in Baltimore. “They were the No. 1 team in the nation. We had an opportunity to make history. We made it, but on the wrong side.”
Bright 8-16 1-2 17, Roe 9-17 7-9 25, Camby 6-9 2-6 14, Dingle 7-9 0-0 14, Williams 6-13 2-3 16, Padilla 3-5 0-0 7, Kellogg 0-1 0-0 0, Travieso 1-6 0-2 2, Norville 0-1 2-2 2, Nunez 0-0 0-0 0
Totals 40-77 14-24 97
WEST VIRGINIA (8-8)
Shaw 9-19 5-5 23, Owens 6-7 0-2 12, Solheim 1-4 6-6 8, Jones 8-15 1-3 21, Jefferson 9-19 2-2 22, Agnew 0-2 0-0 0, West 2-3 0-0 5, Wilson 1-1 1-2 3, Lamb 0-0 0-0 0
Totals 36-70 15-20 94
Halftime–West Virginia 45, Massachusetts 37
End of Regulation–Massachusetts 86, West Virginia 86
3-poing goals–Massachusetts 3-13 (Williams 2-5, Padilla 1-3, Bright 0-1, Travieso 0-4), West Virginia 7-19 (Jones 4-9, Jefferson 2-6, West 1-1, Shaw 0-3)
Fouled out–Camby, Solheim
Rebounds–Massachusetts 43 (Bright, Camby 8), West Virginia 39 (Shaw 10)
Assists–Massachusetts 15 (Williams 4), West Virginia 12 (Jones 4)
Total fouls–Massachusetts 21, West Virginia 22