UMass takes on BC in Commonwealth Classic
By Justin C. Smith, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, December 8, 1995
Besides a UMass-UConn matchup, this is the next best thing — UMass vs. Boston College, a game that will undoubtedly be for state bragging rights.
The Minutemen and the Eagles will face off tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the FleetCenter in Boston. In 27 previous meetings between the two clubs, BC holds a 15-12 advantage. In its last meeting during the 1990-91 season, UMass edged the Eagles, 83-81.
A lot has changed since the last meeting. For one. the Minutemen are now a national power, and secondly. Boston College was in the midst of its third straight losing season.
Entering this season, the Eagles weren't supposed to be that good. With seven sophomores and freshmen (no seniors) on the squad, BC is young.
But the Eagles have surprised everyone by jumping out of the gate with a 4-1 record, along the way upsetting a tough Louisville squad 81-67. They also beat lowly Buffalo and Holy Cross, along with Big East foe Pittsburgh by two points Wednesday night. BC's only loss came at the hands of Connecticut, 65-62.
“We're going to Boston to play a good BC team,” Massachusetts coach John Calipari said. “They have great talent. This is a big game for them, we're coming in there knowing that. We have a lot of work to do. It's going to be a war.”
Danya Abrams is the man for BC. The 6-foot-7-inch, 265 pound junior has been averaging 20.2 points per game along with 7.2 boards, and is coming off back-to -back games with a double-double. Against Louisville, he scorched the Cardinals with 30 points and five rebounds.
Sophomore guard Antonio Granger is also a threat to score, averaging 11 points. He scored a game-high 15 points and also grabbed seven boards against UConn.
Freshman guard Scoonie Penn from Salem, Mass., who spurned UMass to attend The Heights, has started every game and is averaging 11 points per game.
Duane Woodward (8.8 ppg) and Keenan Jourdon (7.6 ppg. 7.4 rpg) round out the probable starting five for the Eagles.
Mickey Curley, Billy's younger brother, will likely be the first off the bench, and is averaging 8.8 points and 4.8 boards.
Calipari and the Minutemen are refusing to treat this game any differently.
“This is just the next game (on the schedule),” Calipari said.
“It’s just another big, important game,” said Hartford native Camby. “I'd rather play UConn.”
Camby has the task of shutting down Abrams, an All-Big East Conference selection a year ago. With the same type of frame as Florida's Hill, Camby should be prepared for the banger.
UMass co-captains Donta Bright and Dana Dingle should match up well with BC's frontcourt. The two have been outstanding, but have been overshadowed by Camby. In Wednesday's game against Wake Forest, Bright scored a game-high 22 points, while Dingle was all over the place, battling for rebounds and diving for loose balls.
In the game against the Demon Deacons, bench scoring presented a problem again for the Minutemen, as there was no bench support for the second time this season.
UMass guards Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso continued to see heavy minutes in the Wake game and will likely see the same amount of time tomorrow. But it remains to be seen if the two will be able to make it through an entire season averaging 40 minutes a game.
After the Minutemen tangle with the Eagles, they head back home to the Mullins Center for a matchup with North Carolina-Wilmington at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Then it's a marquee match up at the Meadowlands between Georgia Tech and freshman sensation Stephon Marbury.
When the University of Massachusetts and Boston College get together at the Fleet Center tomorrow for a rare meeting in basketball, the game also will represent a culture clash
By Michael Holley, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/8/1995
They were in Colorado Springs together for a week. They ate together. They played basketball together. They went to the same night spots.
They never talked about It.
Honest, says Danya Abrams, Boston College's best player. He and Marcus Camby, the University of Massachusetts' best player, had fun together at last summer's Olympic Festival. But they never mentioned BC vs. UMass.
“It never came up,” Abrams said.
Strange? Not really. Foreshadowing is a better word. Seems like everyone is talking about what tomorrow's BC-UMass game represents. That is, everyone except the players. Many of them believe tomorrow's sold-out game at the FleetCenter is actually about basketball.
The two teams will play the first men's college game at the new arena, but basketball is just one scene in an epic work-in-progress. In any other state, you could say that only 100 miles of turnpike and back roads separate the state university and the big-city private school. This is Massachusetts; miles are tripled once you are west of Worcester.
“When I was in school, there was a definite feeling that those in the east didn't have a true affection for those in the west,” said Al Skinner, a 1974 UMass graduate and current University of Rhode Island coach. “We couldn't get a lot of exposure in the Boston papers and we felt like we deserved it. We were the state university, but it was like we were a stepchild.”
There was some truth to the snubbed feeling. But like any story, myth outgains reality when there is not complete clarity.
So it didn't help when Beacon Hill suddenly stopped funding for Yahoo, a UMass humor magazine in the 1960s. “They said it was too controversial,” UMass alum Ed Rubin said, “but it was the '60s.”
It didn't help that Jack Leaman sent a few of his teams to the NIT in the 1970s but didn't get consistent media attention from the east. In the '80s, a young basketball player from Dorchester named Carmelo Travieso grew up a University of Illinois fan. He attended BC games and didn't think about UMass because “you really didn't hear much about schools out west.” That fact didn't help things, either.
This morning things have changed drastically since the '60s and '70s. And, this morning things haven't changed at all since the '60s and '70s.
UMass is ranked third in the country; BC is unranked. “It's amazing,” said Tim O'Shea, a former BC player who now assists Skinner at Rhode Island. “When I was in school '84 graduate, we didn't think about a rivalry with UMass. They were on a level with New Hampshire and Vermont. UMass is almost doing BC a favor by playing now.”
The Minutemen are good. But there still is a large group that believes the 574,283 residents of Boston have an arrogance toward the 35,228 residents of Amherst. And that the students of high-priced BC ($19,390 off-campus) are spoiled rich kids, thumbing their noses at the students of affordable ($5,570) UMass.
“Is that what some people say?” said BC coach Jim O'Brien. “Rich kids? My daughter goes to school here; I know that's not the case.”
But perception carries weight and maintains itself, despite the era.
There will be those at the FleetCenter who have never forgotten the unwanted feeling. Others will be there, simply excited about the second BC- UMass game since 1979. Some, with mixed loyalties, will want both teams to win. Politicians will be there. Scalpers will be there, trying to quadruple the price of $50 and $35 tickets. Lots of stuff happening.
“Another game? I wish it was,” BC freshman Scoonie Penn said.
He is one of the few players who acknowledged that BC-UMass is different. It is different because basketball won't be the only game being settled between these two.
You would think that there is a long BC-UMass history with all the East vs. West talk. The schools may have begun their series in 1905 (a thrilling 20-15 UMass win), but they have played only 27 times. BC leads the series, 15-12.
Many people were beginning to believe this game would never happen. The '80s zipped by and the schools didn't meet once in the decade. Two years ago, O'Brien and UMass coach John Calipari were quite clear in their comments. They didn't want to play each other. They had their own schedules, own conferences, own styles.
That began to change when Boston Garden was in its final days, meaning the FleetCenter would soon come to life. Athletic directors Chet Gladchuk (BC) and Bob Marcum talked at last year's National Football Foundation dinner in New York. Soon they had a deal.
“I can't think of any hassles we had at all,” Marcum said.
“It was a natural rivalry,” Gladchuk added.
When the two men did disagree, they had a simple solution. They flipped a coin. “That's not to say we're worth a 25-cent piece,” Marcum said.
Hardly. The ticket prices for this game are more than double the top seats at Conte Forum and UMass' Mullins Center. Court rivalries are nice, but the more fans support BC-UMass clashes, the more money there will be for both schools to make. Still, this is one of the few times money plays a minor role.
“My understanding is that it's sold out, tickets are hard to come by, most of the fans are going to be diehards and those involved will have no love lost for each other,” said Joe Marzetti, a '67 BC graduate. “Anything that helps college basketball is OK with me.”
Not just college basketball, but New England college basketball. Thoughts of UMass have peppered the BC campus since Tuesday afternoon. Never mind that the Eagles had a game with Pitt the next night. Fans in Amherst were temporarily distracted by a Camby-Tim Duncan/UMass-Wake Forest game Wednesday. But BC has been mentioned in Amherst. And you can be sure the talk isn't all about BC's 4-1 record.
“Quite honestly, people are more excited about a game with UConn,” UMass sports information director Bill Strickland said. But Strickland mentioned that westerners weren't thrilled when Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy referred to Amherst as “Hooterville” in a column. There it was in print. Again. East vs. West.
“I expect the rivalry to be friendly because UMass probably expects to win easily,” said Bob McGinn, also a '67 BC graduate. “But I think there is something to be said about the lack of attention UMass received over the years. People sometimes overcompensate for things when they are overlooked.”
This time the overcompensating could start in the stands and go straight to the court. And both teams have convinced themselves they have a reason to do it.
“We're the underdogs,” Abrams said. “I don't think people believe in us.”
Take Abrams' name away from that quote and it is UMass' theme from the '70s. Even though Travieso left Boston for Amherst, he could have reason to feel he is still an underdog. Both UMass and BC recruited him. But the Eagles wanted him to go to prep school before he went to the Heights. “Obviously, I didn't want to do that,” he said. He didn't.
Both schools also recruited Penn. The guard said a situation never developed where it was BC or UMass, but he did say, “BC is where I wanted to be. That's what it came down to.”
What this all means is that the game should be spirited. That is not as basic as it sounds in New England, since we have spent the last two months watching the Patriots and Bruins give anti-spirit clinics.
In offices and homes throughout the state, people are talking about The Game.
George (Trigger) Burke is in a Quincy office this morning, making plans to take a limousine to the game. That limo will be colored maroon and gray as a tribute to UMass. Burke played for the Minutemen in 1955 and has his number, 32, retired along with Julius Erving's 32.
Down the hall from Burke is BC graduate Jeff LaPoint, who happens to be a UMass supporter. This contradiction is the norm with these men. Burke recently donated $100,000 to UMass, but he went to BC for law school.
“I believe in Calipari and I believe in O'Brien,” Burke said. “I'm just delighted that this game is being played.”
Joan Partyka will make the trip from Springfield. She always follows the Minutemen. She followed them to Albany, N.Y., and East Rutherford, N.J., last year for the NCAA tournament. She'll follow them now. BC fan McGinn will attend with children Kerry, Bryan and Shawn. Skinner and O'Shea will watch on television.
There are testimonials like these throughout the state and region. Gladchuk and Marcum said they have no agreement to make this rivalry annual, but they plan to discuss it.
Doing so will excite a region and ease some of the focus of East vs. West.
This is the big one - in Amherst
By Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/8/1995
Dan Shaughnessy is a sports columnist for the Globe and attended Holy Cross. He grew up in a very small town in central Massachusetts.
There's a scene in the early part of “Casablanca” in which Peter Lorre says to Humphrey Bogart, “You detest me, don't you, Rick?”
Bogart replies, “If I gave you any thought, I probably would.”
The exchange pretty much encapsulates the relationship between the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (a k a UMass-Hooterville) and Boston College.
Most UMass folks have utter contempt for everything that is Boston College, and that is why supporters of the UMass basketball program can't wait to stomp on the once-mighty BC Eagles tomorrow at the New Garden.
The UMass folks think of this as a game for the ages, and the beginning of a great regional rivalry.
And the BC people? They simply never think about UMass. For most of this century, BC's rival was Holy Cross. Now that the Cross has dropped big-time sports, BC plays its football Holy War against Notre Dame and finds all its other football and basketball rivals in the Big East.
BC alums don't think about UMass in terms of local bragging rights. Folks in Hooterville go crazy when they hear this, and now their school is about to be taken over by Boston College alum Billy (“How much are we paying the basketball coach?”) Bulger.
John Feudo, a Boston College alum who serves as associate vice chancellor at UMass and part of the Minuteman radio broadcast team, says, “I think UMass views this game as our opportunity to gain respect within the community as an institution. For Boston College, they're playing the No. 3 team in the country, but I don't think BC thinks of us as a rival.”
The teams from the opposite ends of the Mass Turnpike will meet tomorrow for only the second time since 1979, and the Minutemen are expected to rout the upstart Eagles.
This puts the Minutemen in the proverbial no-win situation. UMass hardly needs a victory over Boston College to establish itself as the primo college basketball program in the region. In the last four years, UMass has a record that ranks it among the top five schools in the country. So beating Boston College proves nothing.
If UMass crushes BC, the Eagle alums will hitch up their green trousers and smugly say, “Our admission standards are much tougher than theirs.”
Meanwhile, one can only imagine the collective psychological damage that would be suffered by UMass fans if BC were to win.
Matched up against BC, UMass is the beautiful younger sister who is crowned Miss America but still hungers for approval from parents who've always favored their first-born girl.
Basketball fans who follow our state school are a fragile lot. Victories over North Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky haven't lifted the inferiority complex and paranoia that afflict many Minutemen loyalists.
If you know any of these folks, you know what I'm talking about. No matter how highly touted their team, no matter what kind of coverage UMass gets, it's never enough. The folks in Hooterville just don't think they get enough respect.
Nobody in Boston pays any attention to the western part of the state . . . The Boston media is out to get UMass . . . There's a Boston College conspiracy.
Here on Morrissey Boulevard, we're usually a target of the conspiracy buffs. UMass supporters are still smarting from last autumn's Globe series (written by Dan Golden, not yours truly) that reported low grade point averages on the squad and raised questions about the direction of the program. The series fanned the flames of paranoia.
A man who works in my office, a UMass alum, says, “The reason the UMass grads have an inferiority complex is because they all wish they went somewhere else.”
Ouch. Could it be that institutional and educational elitism contribute to the UMass paranoia?
Michael Morris, president of the UMass-Amherst alumni association, says, “I think there's a feeling that the Globe, with the exception of the sports department, is too quick to print the negatives, too slow to print the positives, and is somewhat insensitive to the spirit and philosophy of public education.”
Feudo adds, “UMass people feel that because there are so many private institutions in this state, and because we're 100 miles from the media center, we don't get the kind of respect we deserve.”
The height of silliness came when infinitely fair Globe UMass beat writer Joe Burris was banned from reporting at coach John Calipari's home the night the Minutemen gathered to celebrate their latest NCAA tournament invitation. It was embarrassingly chippy.
Chill, you UMass fans. Lighten up. Stand tall. Laugh at BC. Tell 'em, “See you in March.” Apologize for nothing. You have a great team, a team we can all enjoy.
And know that we love UMass here at the Globe. We think Marcus Camby is just about the best player in the country. Coach Cal is a hoop genius, a snappy dresser, and looks great next to the Nynex logo on his TV show.
We hope UMass makes it to the Final Four. This year. Every year. Really.
On court, BC has something to prove
National college basketball notebook
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/8/1995
With apologies to the spin doctors at Boston College, the Eagles' victory over Pitt doesn't compare to what a win over the University of Massachusetts tomorrow would mean. Unlike college football, in which conference play is very important because of bowl tie-ins, conference play in college basketball means little in terms of NCAA tournament bids.
Let's get real here. Are the Eagles a contender for the Big East championship? Not really. So victories over highly regarded opponents, regardless of affiliation, are important.
Enter UMass. Tomorrow's game means far more to BC than it does to UMass, considering where the UMass program was before John Calipari arrived to perform his urban renewal act. Now it is BC that is trying to regain respectability.
The Eagles have already done a good job this season. Beating Louisville and barely losing to the University of Connecticut will get the Eagles quality points in March. Beating Pitt – unless the Panthers turn into a Big East monster – will not get them much of anything. Tournament teams are supposed to beat bad teams at home.
Now UMass is a different matter. If the Eagles can beat UMass – and we think that is possible – they will have established themselves as legitimate Top 25 team.
Which is why the buildup for UMass is legitimate. Big game in-state between two teams that don't regularly meet. Played in the biggest media market in New England.
“But,” says BC coach Jim O'Brien, “the hype is too big. It is still just a game. People are making it out to be the biggest event of the season.”
The only thing bigger in college basketball in New England would be UConn vs. UMass, but since UConn has decided that it is too good to play the Minutemen – or perhaps not good enough – we will have to wait for the NCAA tournament selection committee to put those two teams in the same bracket.
For now, we will have to settle for UMass-BC, and that isn't bad.
WHAT PRICE GLORY?
One last thing about the BC-UMass game. We're not sure whom to blame here; perhaps it is the FleetCenter people. But how can anyone justify charging a top price of $50 for a regular-season college basketball game?
That prices the fans who support the game right out of it. Say you live on the South Shore, have a couple of kids and want to take your family to see UMass-BC.
So you wheel and deal and you come up with four tickets. That's $200. Then you have to deal with parking. What's that, another $15-$20? Then there are concessions. That's what, another $50?
So for the pleasure of seeing a college basketball game, for two hours of entertainment, you are shelling out almost $300. If I'm that much of a hoop fan, I take that money and subscribe to NESN and SportsChannel for four months for about $80. Then I take the rest of the money I would have spent for two hours on one game and use it on Christmas gifts for my wife and kids. And I sit in front of my television set tomorrow afternoon and watch BC and UMass on CBS (no charge).
Gouging is an ugly word, but this is clearly gouging, and it diminishes what should be a special afternoon of college basketball in Boston and New England.
A state supreme court battle
So who's the Commonwealth king of hoops? BC and UMass make their case this afternoon
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/9/1995
The big question about today's Battle of the Bay State is: Will it be a battle?
The hype surrounding the Boston College-Massachusetts game should make for a tension-filled, raucous start – despite the fact that UMass center Marcus Camby said Wednesday night he's not excited about the contest and “I'd rather be playing UConn.” Look for a lot of fireworks early, long-range jumpers and rim-rattling dunks and tomahawk blocks that will send the sellout FleetCenter crowd into a frenzy.
Eventually, the hysteria surrounding only the second basketball meeting since 1979 between these schools at opposite ends of the Commonwealth, and the attendant chest-thumping by loyalists hungering for perceived state supremacy, will give way to the nuts and bolts of the game.
Then the key will be whether BC (4-1) can offset the efforts of the deeper, more experienced Minutemen (4-0), who are playing the kind of basketball worthy of their No. 3 national ranking.
Junior forward Keenan Jourdon, who will start the game guarding Camby, said yesterday BC can pull off the upset if it plays with no fear.
“We're not afraid of anyone,” said the 6-foot-7-inch, 215-pounder. “People are saying we're going to get blown out, and you will if you think that. We're not afraid. We think the team that plays hard and makes the fewest mistakes wins.”
Jourdon (7.6 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) knows he will have his hands full against Camby (23.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks a game). “He's a very talented ballplayer,” Jourdon said. “He's long and agile, and it's very difficult to block his shots. I'm a very physical ballplayer. I'm going to put my body on his and try to wear him down.”
And he's not the only Eagle eager to face the national Player of the Year candidate. “I'm excited about playing against Camby,” said BC guard Scoonie Penn (11 ppg). “When you see him punching everybody else's shot, you kind of wonder, 'What's he going to do to me?' ”
But as Wake Forest discovered Wednesday, UMass is hardly a one-man show.
Double-team the big guy and he can pass to an array of options, the most effective being forward Donta Bright (15.3 ppg), who tallied 22 against the Demon Deacons. Moreover, UMass is outrebounding opponents, 41.5-29.5 a game. Only one opposing player has collected more than seven boards in a game against UMass this season (Wake's Tim Duncan, with 12).
“You know what we're doing? We're just hustling. We're playing with passion and emotion,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “What I try to tell our guys is that we only know how to play one way, and we've been doing it.”
Calipari's teams are surge-oriented. They hit you with bursts of aggression and precision and reckless abandon, and because of their depth, they keep coming until they eventually wear you down.
Teams that have had success against the Minutemen have been able to match their efforts – particularly defensively and on the offensive glass – for two halves. Last weekend against UMass, Maryland staged a similar effort for the first 16 minutes and handed the Minutemen a 16-point deficit. But UMass stepped up the intensity and went on to win.
Teams that can't match UMass' intensity at both ends chalk up a loss. It's that simple.
“Getting off to a good start is very important, because if you don't, a team like UMass will have you down by double figures quickly,” said BC forward Antonio Granger (11 ppg). “We have to play good defense and do the little things like going after loose balls, diving on the floor, rebounding and hitting the open shots.
“I don't know if they press or not, but we're definitely going to have to take care of the ball. We can't have any turnovers because we're going to need as many opportunities to score as we can.”
Jourdon agreed. “The keys for us will probably be our freshman guard play and Duane Woodward, sophomore starting guard,” he said. “They will have to step up and make their outside shots.”
Offensively, the Eagles will rely heavily on Danya Abrams (20.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who needs to stay out of foul trouble. “Abrams is a good low-post player. He uses his body real well,” said Camby.
Make no mistake: UMass is not taking BC lightly. Calipari said on his radio show this week that he expects an emotionally draining affair. “BC is going to be a hard game,” he added. “They're a strong team that plays strong basketball. They've got great talent. They've had great talent. They're big. This is a big game for them, and we know that.”
O'Brien: It's OK to talk about you-know-what
By Michael Vega, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/9/1995
The attention surrounding today's nationally televised (CBS) showdown between Boston College and third-ranked Massachusetts at the FleetCenter has given the Commonwealth Classic the atmosphere of an NCAA tournament game. At least that's the way it appeared yesterday at Conte Forum, where coach Jim O'Brien and his players took center stage for a final round of interviews.
“It's been fun for our kids,” O'Brien said as he sat surrounded by microphones and cameras. “I really don't mind all of this.”
O'Brien acknowledged, though, that some of the attention became annoying last weekend with talk about today's game when BC still had an important Big East home date against Pittsburgh Wednesday and UMass had to host No. 10 Wake Forest the same night.
The Eagles had no sooner scored a 55-53 triumph over the Panthers than O'Brien was besieged in the postgame press conference with questions about UMass.
“It's hard for people in Massachusetts to understand this, but the Pitt victory, in my mind, was more important than the UMass game, because you have to win games in the league,” O'Brien insisted after BC's first Big East triumph. “Getting our kids to understand that has not been easy, because everyplace we go, we're asked about it. We're on 'Sports Final' last Sunday night with captain Danya Abrams and I'm asked a question by host Scott Wahle about UMass and I say, 'Scott, I think we really need to talk about Pitt; I only want to talk about Pitt.' And he says, 'OK, Jim, fine. Danya, what about Marcus Camby?' These are young kids. It's going to be a very difficult game and there's no skirting that issue. They're very talented, and obviously, they're one of the better teams in America, and for the most part, people are not giving us much of a chance to win this game.”
Now that it's time to play the Minutemen, O'Brien no longer has to worry about trying to shield his team from hype about UMass.
“It's almost like the jury in the O.J. situation,” O'Brien said. “I mean, how are you going to keep all the information away from them? These kids read the papers, they listen to people who are talking, because every place you go, somebody wants to talk about UMass. We're not putting any special emphasis on it, but it's just one game.
“We have a lot to gain for one reason and one reason only, and that's because they're ranked third,” O'Brien added. “This is a great opportunity for us, and our players know it. But is this game going to make or break our program? Absolutely not.”
Said Abrams, “We know it's going to be a tough game, that it's going be a war, but we have to look at it as just another game. I know I'm not going to do anything different or let it change my life. We're just going to try and play hard like we have for all our games.”
THE FLIP SIDE
Although the FleetCenter was designated as a neutral site, UMass officials were so concerned about BC having any home-court edge that even the smallest details – including what brand of basketball will be used – were determined by a coin flip. BC won four of six decisions. As a result, BC will wear its home white jerseys, sit on the Celtics' side of the bench, have its choice of locker rooms (not including the Bruins or Celtics dressing room) and have its official scorer keep the official book. “It's funny, but it seemed that we even had to talk about what kind of ball we were going to use,” said O'Brien, whose team uses Rawlings as its official brand. “Apparently, John Calipari has a lucrative ball deal with Spalding, so we're going to use theirs. You know, if we showed up and no one brought a ball to the game, I'd still play even if they had to pull a ball out of the trunk of someone's car.” . . . Calipari can now afford to wear designer suits at games, but O'Brien doesn't intend to make a courtside fashion statement. “I'm still wearing my Communion blue blazer that I've always worn for 20 years,” he quipped.
The UMass last-minute men
Near-miss for BC in state civil war
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/10/1995
Two minutes left. Boston College freshman guard Scoonie Penn had just tossed in a one-handed baseline shot to tie Massachusetts at 57-57. All the pregame hoopla, the first-half feats, the deafening crowd noise, the nervous anxiety on both sides, the surges, the deficits, the rallies, the screaming at refs, the beckoning of players had come down to this – it was anybody's game.
But not for long. Third-ranked UMass, which had trailed by 13 points in the first half, got a 3-point basket by Edgar Padilla with 1:22 remaining and a low-post rejection by center Marcus Camby on BC center Danya Abrams with 59.6 seconds left, and the “Refuse to Lose” Minutemen were off and running to a 65-57 triumph in yesterday's Commonwealth Classic at the FleetCenter before 18,974 who braved the elements.
The plays by Padilla and Camby, plus five UMass free throws over the last 44 seconds, dashed BC's hopes of staging the biggest college basketball upset of the season.
Forward Donta Bright had a game-high 24 points and Camby added 19 for UMass (5-0), which got off to a sluggish, tentative start but finished the first half strongly to cut a 31-18 deficit to 33-28 at the break. Then the Minutemen outscored BC, 9-2, over the first 3:36 of the second half to take a 39-35 lead. But the Eagles (4-2) kept the game close.
“We were sluggish at the start; I think it had something to do with playing early games,” said Camby. “We had a sluggish start against Maryland last week and were down at the half. We knew that sooner or later we were going to make our run. We just had to get things started defensively.”
Abrams had 23 points and Penn added 14 points and a team-high 10 boards for BC, which shot 54 percent in the first half and frustrated the Minuteman backcourt with its quickness. The second-half surge by UMass put the Eagles behind, 51-45, with 6:59 left before Abrams scored 6 points in a 12-6 run to tie it at 57-57, setting up the Minutemen's late heroics.
While many were surprised that the unranked Eagles were able to keep it close against the No. 3 team in the country, head coach Jim O'Brien saw that as no consolation.
“We're disappointed,” said the coach, whose team had previously held its own when outranked, upsetting No. 18 Louisville and losing by 1 to No. 9 Connecticut. “You should see the faces on our kids in the locker room. We're extremely disappointed we didn't win this game, because we had a chance to.
“What happens at the end of games, especially in the conference we're playing in and when you play a team of this caliber, is somebody's got to make plays at the end of games.”
UMass had several such somebodies. Just prior to Penn's tying shot, forward Dana Dingle, whom the Eagles had elected to leave unguarded at times, hit an open jumper to put UMass up, 57-55. Then, after Penn tied it, Padilla, who had struggled from the floor and looked exhausted, hit a left-side 3-point basket to give UMass a 60-57 lead.
“He's fearless; he makes the shot when he has to,” said UMass coach John Calipari.
In the first half, Calipari's starting guards, Padilla and Carmelo Travieso, were a combined 0 of 6 from the floor. Padilla finished with 8 points, 5 assists, 5 steals. Travieso had 2 points and 4 assists.
“People say, 'Oh, your guards are so bad,' ” said Calipari. “And in the second half they win it for us.”
Not to be outdone was Camby, who saw most of his early attempts hit the front rim as he finished the first half with 8 points on 3-of-8 shooting from the floor, 2 rebounds and no blocks. He padded all of those figures in the second half, but no play of his was bigger than the rejection of Abrams after Padilla's trey. The ball went out of bounds off a BC player, and at the other end Padilla was fouled, sank two free throws and put UMass up, 62-57, with 43.9 seconds left.
“I was watching Abrams the whole game and I noticed that he was upfaking,” said Camby. “I had three fouls and I knew he was going to try to upfake to get to the line.” So Camby timed his move the swatted the attempt.
“I thought I had him on my back,” said Abrams. “He came out of nowhere and he blocked it.”
Camby added another free throw and Dingle added two with 1.4 seconds left for the final score.
“It was an NCAA tournament-type atmosphere out there,” said Bright. “This game should prepare both teams for the NCAA tournament if we get there.”
Considering that UMass is ranked No. 3, has beaten the No. 1 team in the nation and is picked to win the Atlantic 10 title, Bright was asked what he meant by “if.”
He smiled and said, “Hey, anything can happen.”
BC came within 8 points of proving that yesterday.
“When we tied it, I just kept saying, 'We can win it.' We all did,” said Penn.
“Unfortunately, we didn't win, but we had all the confidence in the world.”
It's spirited on court, in seats
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/10/1995
So it turns out that the New Garden isn't a quiet place after all. It's the Celtics and Bruins who have lulled the building into a state of silence.
The ninth of December was covered with snow and so was the Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston, but that didn't stop those who'd bought tickets from filling the new building with noise as third-ranked Massachusetts beat Boston College, 65-57, yesterday.
A raucous group of 18,974 fans rocked the new gym for two hours, and when it was over, nobody was complaining about ticket-gouging (seats were $35 and $50) or those exorbitant Turnpike tolls on the way back to Amherst/ Hooterville. This was a day when Big Time College Basketball returned to Boston and, hopefully, a regional rivalry was born.
It's rare that an event carrying so much hype lives up to its billing, but the long-awaited clash of Minutemen and Eagles turned out to be even better than we'd hoped. The sellout crowd and national television audience were treated to 40 minutes of nonstop emotion and action, and the outcome wasn't decided until Marcus Camby's rejection of Danya Abrams' baseline bunny with 59.6 seconds left on the clock.
BC coach Jim O'Brien said, “This may have been the single best atmosphere for a game that I've been involved in. It was second to none and certainly good for basketball in the city.”
UMass coach John Calipari added, “I think for the people in this area it was great. I was screaming, sweating . . . I had to change my shirt. That's college athletics the way it's supposed to be. I think it was great for college basketball and great for New England basketball.”
It was a city celebration of something that's been missing around here for a long time. In the 1940s and '50s, Holy Cross could fill the old Garden for dates against national powers, but ever since Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn graduated, the Hub has been a college basketball graveyard. We are a pro town.
Enter UMass and BC. In the bad old days, when neither team was any good, they played one another regularly. A UMass-BC game got no more attention than your average Boston University-Fairfield clash.
But then Boston College went into the Big East and, a few years later, UMass got Calipari and went into the Big Time. And they eyed one another suspiciously from opposite ends of the state.
Last spring, after years of tense negotiations (picture Jimmy Carter and Ted Sarandis at Camp David with respective athletic directors Chet Gladchuk and Bob Marcum), a game was scheduled. It would be the first “Commonwealth Classic,” and it would be played in the New Garden in December 1995.
There was no shortage of pettiness as game day neared. Coin flips were required to determine which team would wear home white, which team would sit on the home bench and which team would use the Celtics' locker room. BC won those three flips, and also won a flip regarding the official scorer, but UMass won coin flips for preferential practice times and selection of the game ball. Yes, the game ball. Coach Cal has a deal with Spalding and wanted his ball used.
The record will show that Boston College took it to the Minutemen in the first half. BC led by as many as 13, and it was pretty clear that Eagle freshman guard Scoonie Penn (of Salem High School) would be a starter if he played for Calipari.
But UMass scored the final 8 points of the first half and the first 9 of the second half, and generally, when you have a run of 17-0, you are the better team. BC hung in till the end, but UMass has the better team.
Afterward, Gov. Weld said, “I told Coach Cal after that this should be like the Beanpot. There's nothing like the Beanpot in Boston. Today I was rooting for both sides, but I was pretty sure BC was going to beat the spread UMass was favored by 13. I picked UMass by 3.”
It's not every day you hear the governor talking about point spreads, but that's the kind of nuttiness this game generated.
So will they play again?
“I hope so,” said Calipari. “We would love to play this game.”
“There's a lot that needs to be evaluated,” said the BC coach. “Let's let the smoke clear from this. This game is going to be played again if our administration wants to play it. I don't have any say.”
Asked to elaborate on his reluctance, O'Brien said, “It's very delicate. I have to be careful.”
Clearly, BC has some issues of concern (recruitment competition would be one). There's not much trust or mutual respect between these programs, and the Eagles seem to be the ones balking at the talk of an annual meeting.
“If they don't want to play us here, we have other teams who do,” said Calipari. “I'm not throwing anything at them, but there are national teams that want to play us here.
“If we're going to play BC, it's got to be right for them,” added Calipari. “I don't hold that against O'Brien. But a lot of people helped put this game together, and I think the fans who came out today would say it was money well spent.”
They did and it was. And BC should play UMass here again next year and every year.
In the end, he has right stuff
By Frank Dell'Apa, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/10/1995
The game started for the University of Massachusetts with Marcus Camby diving for a loose ball in the first minute. And the Minutemen's 65-57 win over Boston College yesterday effectively was concluded when Camby blocked Danya Abrams' shot in the final minute.
In between, UMass alternately accelerated and coasted through two hours of what coach John Calipari tried to convert into a glorified practice session at the FleetCenter.
This is a showcase season for UMass, thanks mainly to Camby, so half of the Minutemen's games will be televised. This results in the games becoming less an aerobic exercise than a stop-and-start spectacle with little continuity. Lost amid the TV timeouts is the flowing, up-and-down action of the game. Little wonder that, as forward Donta Bright has said, the Minutemen's practice sessions resemble football games.
Calipari has tailored the UMass workouts to the pace of the TV game. No surprise, then, that the Minutemen seemed a step ahead of BC down the stretch of both halves, though Calipari essentially used only six players.
``We have 17 games on television,” Calipari said. ``That means that every other game is on television, and every five minutes there is a timeout and a 2-minute break. So we practice in segments - five minutes, then we take a break.”
Such anaerobic activity suits this team. At the moment, Calipari seems to have only five players capable of performing consistently for nearly 40 minutes.
Even so, near the end of yesterday's game, Camby had slowed and Edgar Padilla seemed barely able to move.
``Of the top 30 teams, probably 20 are playing only six or seven guys,” Calipari said. ``We're not the only ones doing it.”
Without Camby, though, UMass would struggle to achieve such success. Bright rightly credited Camby for opening up space so that he could score 24 points. Padilla used Camby on the low post to line up the 3-pointer that broke a 57-57 tie. And Camby took over down the stretch with blocks of Duane Woodward and Abrams, plus a rebound of an Antonio Granger miss.
Even with the breaks, Calipari still attempts to find some rest periods for Camby. There was a quick breather at the conclusion of a 17-0 UMass run, but after two BC scores Camby returned. Later, when Camby neglected to box out Keenan Jourdon, he took another blow. Afterward, Camby was rejuvenated. He launched a 3-point attempt with the shot clock nearly expired, then made the blocks and a foul shot in the final minutes. By then, Camby was deeply involved in the game.
But this was a gradual process. At the start, he was out near midcourt attempting to recover loose balls, and shooting perimeter jumpers. Predictably, BC capitalized and took a 13-point lead in the first half.
``We were never worried,” Camby said. ``The guys were out there laughing and smiling because deep down we knew we were going to pull it out.“
This is likely Camby's final season in college, and he is in a celebratory mood. A year from now, he probably will be in a professional atmosphere with its accompanying demands.
For now, he can play the collegiate game.
``You can get lost in the hype and try to do things you shouldn't do,” Camby said. ``In my freshman year, I used to jump and try to block everything. Now, if they upfake me I know not to go for it.“
But Camby and his teammates do get caught up in the hype. Calipari has been wise enough to channel it toward motivational purposes. Last season, the Minutemen developed a combination of a siege mentality and inferiority complex because of publicity surrounding questions about the school's academic standards.
They felt there was something to prove in this game.
``Basically, that's what this was all about,” Camby said. ``People in Boston perceived UMass as being bad guys. That was hard for us. We never thought Boston would do that to us. The program took some real knocks.“
Camby finishes with blockbuster
Solid effort by Abrams comes up a touch short
By Michael Vega, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/10/1995
It was the matchup everyone paid to see and everyone got what they wanted. Yesterday's Commonwealth Classic between Boston College and the No. 3 University of Massachusetts reached a fever pitch in the final minute and the sellout crowd of 18,974 collectively rose from its high-priced seats to raise the roof of the FleetCenter.
Trailing, 60-57, with the clock ticking toward the last minute, BC looked to its go-to guy, 6-foot-7-inch junior power forward Danya Abrams, to come up with another one of his patented foul-inducing baskets. UMass hung its hopes on the shot-blocking ability of its best player, 6-11 junior center Marcus Camby.
After all the hype that preceded this long-awaited event, here they were: Camby and Abrams, down low in the blocks, engaged in a mano-a-mano duel. It was a clash between the Commonwealth's two biggest college titans, with Abrams surrending almost 4 inches to Camby, and Camby giving up about 40 pounds to the Eagles' widebody.
The meeting proved to be the defining moment of UMass' 65-57 victory. Abrams called for and got the ball in the low post, backed Camby toward the basket, upfaked twice, then went up for a shot that Camby swatted with extreme prejudice.
“I was watching him the whole game and I saw him upfaking a lot,” said Camby, who wound up with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocked shots. “So when he got the ball down there, I knew he would upfake, trying to get me to foul him and get him to the line.”
Said Abrams, who had a team-high 23 points and 8 rebounds: “I wan't looking to get the foul; I was looking to get the basket. I tried to back him up and go to one of the moves in my repertoire, but, to his credit, he had the ability to block it. Give him all the credit, he made a great play and a great block.”
UMass coach John Calipari, who was effusive in his praise of the 4-2 Eagles, singled out that moment as the game's decisive play.
“They got the ball to Danya Abrams one foot from the basket,” Calipari said. “Then the 7-footer, who's going be a great pro, blocked it.”
Then Calipari turned to Camby, who was seated next to him for the postgame press conference, and reminded his center, “Marcus, you're a big- play guy for us,” before reciting a series of big plays Camby has made this season in impressive triumphs over top-ranked Kentucky, No. 19 Maryland, No. 10 Wake Forest, and, yesterday, BC.
“That's his role for us,” Calipari said. “Making big plays.”
Abrams filled the same role for the Eagles, tying the game, 55-55, with an off-balance, one-handed lane runner that induced Edgar Padilla to commit his fourth personal with 3:11 to go.
“I've said this a number of times before about how much I really like my team,” lauded BC coach Jim O'Brien. “Playing in the conference that we play in and playing a team of this caliber, somebody's got to make plays at the end of the game. When you get inside a minute and a half, it just boils down to who's going to win that minute and a half and who's going to make your team win.
“Danya was carrying us on his back for a good portion of the game, but to the their credit, when you come down on offense needing to get something done, Camby individually erases a lot of their mistakes.”
Not too mention a lot of the opposition's shots.
Afterward, the two titans exchanged simple pleasantries.
“Good game,” Camby said.
“Good block,” Abrams replied.
Matches made via TV hookup
By Jack Craig, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/10/1995
Some of those Bostonians with cold hearts toward college basketball must have melted a little yesterday.
They were lucky if, kept indoors by the snow, they turned to TV to watch Boston College-UMass from the FleetCenter. One of the most anticipated college games ever around here amazingly lived up to the hype, even if NBA fans who tuned in did not fully appreciate the art form.
CBS cameras, especially on replays, made everything crystal clear, as did Sean McDonough, outlining the local stakes. And sunny Bill Raftery blended in easily with analysis.
The game must have quickly grabbed even the nonchalant viewer because BC, a double-digit underdog, took the lead at the start and did not relinquish it until the second half. Then, when the Eagles were supposed to surrender, they did the opposite and were tied with less than two minutes to play.
McDonough expressed the hope late in the telecast that the game will become an annual event. Rematches may contain as much emotion as yesterday's but not get such wide TV exposure. The novelty is what stirred the interest of CBS.
Yesterday's game, in fact, was a made-for-TV event. It was Len DeLuca, CBS basketball programmer, who brought the colleges and the FleetCenter together. As a BC alumnus, DeLuca realized the game's significance but also knew its appeal was strictly regional. The Cincinnati-Arkansas game televised by the network at the same time was seen in 81 percent of the country. The FleetCenter game was an East Coast special.
Last Wednesday's Wake Forest-UMass also was a creation of television, in that instance ESPN, which persuaded the colleges to schedule it. The cable channel knew the battle between Marcus Camby and Tim Duncan had national appeal.
Penn nearly writes new chapter of glory
By Michael Vega, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/10/1995
The last time Scoonie Penn played basketball on the parquet, he led Salem High to a victory over Milton in the semifinals of last season's state high school boys' tournament at Boston Garden. But that game, just like the venerable building where it was staged, was ancient history yesterday to Penn, Boston College's fabulously gifted 5-foot-10-inch freshman guard, who played without peer in the Eagles' 65-57 loss to Massachusetts.
“I didn't even think about the last time I played here; I haven't thought about the last time I played here in a long time, not at all,” said Penn, who contributed 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting (including 2 of 2 from 3-point range) and a team-leading 10 rebounds.
“Who had 10 rebounds?” Penn said, an incredulous look etched on his face. “Me? I don't know how I did it. I guess it was just all those weakside rebounds. All the big men tip it around, and when they tip it around I just try to come in and clean up.”
Had Penn, who was recruited by UMass, decided to play for coach John Calipari instead of BC's Jim O'Brien, then it would've been the Minutemen cleaning up yesterday. “Yeah, it was a consideration,” said Penn. “But, like I said at the time, BC was the place where I wanted to be.”
O'Brien couldn't have been more grateful yesterday, especially after Penn helped stake the Eagles to a 33-28 halftime lead by scoring 10 points on 4- for-5 shooting (including a pair of 3-pointers).
“Scoonie played very well,” O'Brien said. “Every game, he's getting better and better. He made some good shots and we're starting to do a little bit more with just letting him go. And as he starts to get a little more experience, we're probably going to do that a little bit more. But how can you ask a young kid to just carry your team on his own?”
That's precisely what Penn was forced to do in the second half, however, when sophomore guard Duane Woodward picked up his fourth foul and departed with 17:59 remaining, leaving the Eagles with two freshmen – Penn and Andy Bedard – to run the backcourt.
“I can't tell you enough how much l like my team right now,” O'Brien said. “When Woodward goes out, it hurts a bit because we're playing with two freshman guards. I think we got through a stretch where it got a little bit scattery, and it's just composure and it's just an understanding of what has to get done to win games. That's why I say I'm very happy with our kids. I mean, we're going at the end of the game with two freshman guards and Antonio Granger, who was a sophomore who didn't play at all last year, and we're hanging.”
With one more nonconference game (against Maryland-Baltimore County) left in this grueling stretch – in which BC defeated No. 18 Louisville Nov. 30, went down to the wire in a 63-62 loss at No. 9 Connecticut last Sunday and threw a huge scare into the third-ranked Minutemen yesterday – the future looks pretty promising for the Eagles. And that's not even including the imminent addition of 6-10 Greek pivotman Costas Maglos, who is set to make his debut Dec. 23 against Hartford.
“I think we've showed a lot of heart,” Penn said. “We've played some top teams, we're always the underdog and we're supposed to get blown out, but we play hard every time. We've got to keep doing that and just move ahead.”
And forget the immediate past.
UMass-BC notebook By Joe Burris and Michael Vega, The Boston Globe Staff, 12/10/1995
The University of Massachusetts has received a verbal commitment from Ajmal Basit, a 6-foot-9-inch power forward from St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City, N.J., a source close to the school said yesterday.
Basit was listed in Blue Ribbon magazine as one of the top 175 players in the nation. He recently made the all-tournament team at the Larry Lehman Memorial Tournament – a New Jersey event that draws the top East Coast talent.
Basit would be UMass' first recruit from the perennial high school power, which has graduated such players as Sacramento Kings guard Bobby Hurley and former Kentucky player Roderick Rhodes. Also on Basit's list are Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Providence.
The addition of Basit would give UMass one of the country's best recruiting classes. The Minutemen already have signed three players considered among the best 100 in the country: Mike Babul of North Attleborough, Monty Mack of South Boston and Winston Smith of Elizabeth, N.J.
BULGER PLAYS POLITICS
New UMass president William M. Bulger attended the first half of the game, sitting in the UMass box with the school's former interim president, Sherry Penney. Outgoing BC president Rev. J. Donald Monan, who was watching the game from the BC box next door, gave Bulger, a BC alum, the business, waving pompons at him. Ever the diplomat, Bulger visited the BC box with about two minutes left in the half. After chatting with Monan, he spoke with the next BC president, Rev. William P. Leahy, who comes on board in July. Bulger then left for Faneuil Hall, where he had a prior commitment . . . UMass coach John Calipari has a clause in his contract allowing him to receive the gate receipts from the away game of his choice, but yesterday's game wasn't it. Athletic director Bob Marcum said Calipari chose the Minutemen's Great Eight game at Auburn Hills, Mich., against Kentucky . . . Basketball yesterday, could football be next? Marcum said the school has finalized its report on upgrading its football program from Division 1-AA to Division 1-A. Chancellor David Scott and the school's athletic council are set to review it and Marcum said a decision could be reached as early as next month . . . Calipari was hit with a technical foul, his second of the year, in the first half for disputing a noncall by referee Tim Higgins . . . UMass' 5-0 start matches the best during Calipari's eight-year tenure at Amherst. The last UMass team to win its first six games was Jack Leaman's 1977-78 squad . . . Marcus Camby finished with three blocks to set the UMass career record for rejections at 225.
BALL IN BC'S COURT
Will there be a Commonwealth Classic II next year? Marcum indicated he was amenable to the idea, as long as BC athletic director Chet Gladchuk is. “We'd like to play them again, but it's up to BC,” said Marcum. “We've told the FleetCenter people that we would like to come here annually to play a nationally-ranked opponent.” Said Gladchuk, “We're not sure yet, but we're going to discuss it. What we wanted to see this year was how it all played out and we've been very pleased with the reception this game has had.” . . . There were no split allegiances in BC's Athletic Administration, which includes several UMass alums, including Gladchuk (a 1974 UMass grad student), associate AD Tom Peters (UMass '71), and ticket manager Jim O'Neill (UMass '84). “I know who signs my paycheck,” said Peters . . . Contrary to popular belief, BC coach Jim O'Brien did not give Calipari the Vulcan death grip when the two exchanged postgame handshakes. “I just said 'Good game,' and he said, 'Good luck,' and that was about it,” O'Brien said.
Minutemen defeat BC in Commonwealth Classic
UMass outlasts Eagles with strong second half
By Candice Flemming, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, December 11, 1995
Less than a minute to go. Boston College’s Danya Abrams gets the ball with his team down three and the game on the line. He posts up, pump fakes twice, and goes up for the shot in the paint.
There was a 6-foot-11-inch Minuteman waiting in the paint for him - Marcus Camby. Camby stayed poised, didn't fall for either of Abrams' pump fakes, and swatted away Abrams’ shot, along with BC's hopes, helping to give Massachusetts a 65-57 win in the Commonwealth Classic before 18,974 at the FIeetCenter Saturday.
“I just backed him in and gave him an up-fake, but to his credit, he had great timing on the second jump,” said Abrams, who scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “I thought I had him on my back. I went up with my left hand and he just came out of nowhere and blocked it.”
“I was watching him through the whole game and I saw that he was pump faking a lot,” Camby said. “I had three fouls and I knew he was going to try to up-fake, to get the foul and get to the line, but I just waited until he released it and I just went after it.”
After a James “Scoonie” Penn jumper tied it up at 57 with 1:56 to go, UMass guard Edgar Padilla drilled a trey from NBA-range to give the Minutemen their three-point lead, and to set the stage for the Abrams-Camby matchup - a matchup everyone in the building knew would occur.
“We got to go to him. he's our best player,” said Boston College coach Jim O'Brien. “He delivered all night long. I thought he had a terrific game. I think you got to give Camby some credit for making a good block.”
Massachusetts coach John Calipari said, “They got the ball to Danya Abrams one foot from the basket, then the 7-footer, who's going to be a great pro, blocked it.”
The Eagles owned the first half of play, jumping to an early nine point lead. An 11-2 run. helped by five points, including an NBA range trey from Penn, and a three pointer by Antonio Granger with 4:35 left in the half, gave BC a lead of 13.
“BC came out with great intensity,” said UMass forward Donta Bright, who had a game-high 24 points.
But the Minutemen matched that intensity for the rest of the half going on a 8-0 run to bring them within five at the intermission.
“It seems like we play best when we're down. We were down at Maryland [this year]. Last year, we were down 18 at West Virginia with like two minutes to go (was actually 4:48 to go) and we won in overtime,” Bright said. “I don't know what it is about this team but we have a bunch of great guys who have a lot of courage. We don't quit.”
UMass continued its run into the second half, and tied it up on a Padilla trey, from well beyond the arc, 1:07 in. Two free throws by Bright gave the Minutemen their first lead of the game, and from then on, BC would never lead again.
During the stretch where the Minutemen erased a 13-point lead, and then took their first lead, the Eagles were held si.iircless for 7:02 minutes, until an Abrams layup with 16:50 left broke the ice.
After a Camby jumper with 6:59 left put the Minutemen up by six, 51-45. BC staged a comeback. A combined 10 points from Abrams and Keenan Jourdon, sandwiched in between four points from Bright, allowed the Eagles to tie it up at 55 with 3:11 to go.
But from there, the Minutemen received clutch performances mainly from Dana Dingle, Padilla and of course, Camby. Dingle, who was his usual aggressive self grabbing a game-high 11 boards, was left open and responded by sinking the jump shot to give UMass a two-point lead.
After Penn temporarily tied it up with a basket in the paint, Padilla hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game — his second three-pointer from NBA range with 1:23 left which set up the Camby-Abrams duel.
“Danya was carrying us on his back for a good portion of the game,” O'Brien said, “but to their credit, when they needed to step up, Padilla makes a big three, Dingle makes an open jump shot. Those shots are real big.”
From then on all the Minutemen had to do was hit their free throws, which is what they did. Padilla sank two with 43.9 left, Camby hit one of two with 26.8 left and Dingle nailed two with one second left on the clock.
“BC played a great basketball game.” Calipari said. “It wasn't like they played that poorly down the stretch, we just started playing a little bit better down the stretch.”
Camby finished with 19 points, including one basket in the second half when he pump-faked a shot on the baseline, drove into the paint, and then double-pumped a shot off the glass. The junior also finished with seven boards, all defensive, four assists and three blocks. With his first block on the day, Camby broke Harper Williams' career blocks record of 222, and now stands at 225 for his career.
Dingle, along with his 11 boards, scored 10 points to record the double-double. Padilla played nearly the entire 40 minutes and was very steady, looking more and more confident out on the floor as the season goes on. He finished with eight points, five assists and five steals with just two turnovers. The Minutemen got just two points from their bench, a Tyrone Weeks basket in the paint with 15:16 left in the game.
Penn, who was recruited by UMass but opted to go to BC, played an outstanding game. The 5-foot-10-inch guard from Salem, Mass. scored 14 points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds. He even blocked a Dingle shot early on in the game.
“Scoonie played very well,” O'Brien said. “Every game he's getting better and better. He made some good shots. He's been playing very well all season.”
The Minutemen, now 5-0, host North Carolina-Wilmington tomorrow at 9:30 p.m. at the William D. Mullins Center. BC falls to 4-2.
Game creates great college hoop atmosphere
By Justin C. Smith, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, December 11, 1995
BOSTON – This is what starts a rivalry.
You can call it what you like: East vs. West, upper class vs. middle class, maroon and white vs. maroon and gold, which ever, these schools don't like each other and wanted nothing more than to beat the other.
It was billed the Commonwealth Classic, which pitted the unranked Boston College Eagles against the No. 3 Massachusetts Minutemen. Records and rankings would mean very little in regard to this matchup. Because if one team didn't play with all of its intensity and heart, there was no way they could come out a winner.
The Eagles played with unbridled enthusiasm, but unfortunately for BC, that is the philosophy John Calipari's troops live by, and UMass escaped with a 65-57 win.
What made this game even more electrifying was the support given to them on a day that would make the faint-hearted stay home and watch it on television.
The 18,974 fans who crowded the FleetCenter Saturday created an atmosphere that might remind one of Duke-North Carolina or Kentucky-Louisville games that bring intrastate rivals and all their fans together.
“It was a very tough game The crowd was into it, both schools,” Donta Bright said. “It was a NCAA tourney type atmosphere. It'll get both teams ready for NCAA tourney, if we get there. It was a great experience playing in front of thousands of people. Everybody in the state of Massachusetts was watching the game closely. Two great teams went to war.”
The war was all over the court. Aside from the national anthem, the school bands attempted to drown each other out, perhaps because they couldn't hear over the crowd noise.
After a layup by Bright cut the BC lead to three at 17-14, the Minutemen fans, who had traveled two hours in horrible weather conditions backed their defense with deafening noise. The Eagle backers did their part by getting to their feet and screaming for another basket.
All the fans in the stadium, regardless of which side they were rooting for, were standing and yelling at that juncture of the game, with 30 minutes still remaining.
It was those fans which brought so much life to the game itself. The underdog Eagles, who were red hot in the first 16 minutes, brought the BC crowd to its feet with every made basket.
With James “Scoonie” Penn nailing two three-pointers, the second of which drew a foul on Carmelo Travieso and a technical foul on Calipari, to the turnaround jumper by Keenan Jourdan with 3:52 left in the first half, the Eagles reached their biggest lead at 33-20.
The BC fans were in a feeding frenzy.
“This may have been the single best atmosphere for a game that I've been involved in,” said BC coach Jim O'Brien. “That atmosphere was second-to-none, it was terrific. I think this certainly was good for the basketball in this city. We’re happy to be contributing to that.”
Down 13, the Minutemen went on a 17-1 run that bridged the first and second halves and gave UMass their first lead. The rabid wave of maroon and white behind the UMass basket was in delirium during the entire stretch as Uncle Mo (momentum) switched sides of the family.
“This was a great college basketball game,” Calipari said. “That is a great atmosphere out there. You had to leave saying that was great, whoever won, that was great. No one gave up, no one quit. They didn't wait for us to get fans going, if you noticed the fans got the teams going, that's college athletics. That's how it's supposed to be.”
Though the Minutemen never trailed after they look the lead, the game was tied with less than two minutes remaining. Then with time running down on the shot clock, Edgar Padilla drained a trey from NBA range which caused a BC timeout and the UMass fans blowing the roof off the three-month old building as the Minutemen pulled away from there.
The games within the game kept all interested, and could very well have made the passive observer's pulse race and crave for more. In an area where local winter college sports is thought of as the Beanpot, these teams might just start another tradition.
“We would love to play this game again, not just for us, this is great for college basketball,” Calipari said. “It's great for New England college basketball and it should be played. This is special because what it stands for, it's about New England basketball.”
MASSACHUSETTS (65) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Dingle 38 4-11 2-2 8-11 2 2 10 Bright 34 9-12 6-7 1-4 1 2 24 Camby 36 7-19 5-8 0-7 4 3 19 Travieso 38 1-8 0-0 1-3 4 2 2 E Padilla 40 2-7 2-2 0-3 5 4 8 Weeks 8 1-2 0-0 1-2 0 4 2 G Padilla 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Cottrell 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Nunez 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Norville 3 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 24-60 15-19 11-30 16 17 65 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.400, FT-.789. 3-Point Goals: 2-14, .143 (Camby 0-1, Travieso 0-7, E Padilla 2-6). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 3 (Camby 3). Turnovers: 7 (E Padilla 2, Bright, Camby, Dingle, Norville, Travieso). Steals: 5 (E Padilla 5). BOSTON COLLEGE (57) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Jourdon 29 3-5 0-0 2-4 0 5 6 Granger 33 4-8 0-1 0-2 0 0 10 Abrams 36 7-15 9-10 0-8 1 4 23 Woodward 24 1-5 1-4 0-1 2 5 4 Penn 38 6-10 0-1 2-10 1 0 14 Curley 15 0-0 0-0 1-2 0 4 0 Bedard 17 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 1 0 Christianson 7 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 1 0 Fox 1 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 21-45 10-16 5-29 5 21 57 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.467, FT-.625. 3-Point Goals: 5-14, .357 (Granger 2-5, Abrams 0-1, Woodward 1-4, Penn 2-2, Bedard 0-1, Fox 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 3 (Abrams, Penn, Woodward). Turnovers: 17 (Abrams 5, Jourdon 4, Woodward 3, Bedard 2, Curley 2, Penn). Steals: 2 (Bedard 2). __________________________________ Massachusetts 28 37 - 65 Boston College 33 24 - 57 __________________________________ Technical fouls: Massachusetts 1 (Bench). A: 18,974. Officials: John Cahill, Tim Higgins, David Day.