OK, A-10, here come Minutemen
By Michael Holley, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/6/1996
It was nearly midnight. A giant, 6 feet 11 inches, was sitting at the Worcester Centrum, alternating conversation with huge smiles. Sometimes, he said, his teammates and coaches have to convince him to take over the University of Massachusetts' basketball games.
Coaches across America cringed as the giant said this. There is actually a player who, at any time, is only a conversation away from dominance.
This revelation came a half-hour after Marcus Camby had, most everyone would agree, taken over against Memphis in a 64-61 win. According to Thursday night's stat sheet, Camby was a force with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. But as the smiling giant reminds you, “Stat sheets don't tell you anything about a game.”
That being true, the only outsiders who can tell you about Camby's greatness are now in Tennessee. But before leaving the Centrum and his room at the downtown Holiday Inn, the leader of the visitors, Larry Finch, said, “I hope we see them again.”
The giant and his teammates have witnessed these scenes over and over and over this season. Camby dominates. The Minutemen win. And a coach leaves town, convinced that maybe he could have done something another coach couldn't do. Or his team could have done something another team couldn't do.
Not a bad life for UMass, eh? There is no way to soften the stories that were born of their 11-0 record, No. 1 ranking and win over third-ranked Memphis. What the numbers now represent, simply, is this: If you ever wanted to be reincarnated as a Temple Owl, St. Joseph Hawk, St. Bonaventure Bonnie or Virginia Tech Hokie, you would stay away from 1996.
UMass just completed a streak of 11 nonconference wins that included Memphis, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Kentucky, Maryland and Georgia Tech. Imagine what the Minutemen will do in the Atlantic 10 season, which begins today against Dayton.
You thought the 9,493-seat Mullins Center was the Minutemen's house? Nooooooo. It's this conference. It has had six championship games this decade, and UMass has won the last four. So whom do you like in '96? Duquesne? Fordham? Dayton?
Of course, the smiling giant and his friends don't want you to think this way. “Our conference games are always tough,” he said. “They are the toughest games we have.”
Goodness. Seems that the toughest games they have are the ones they play on themselves to stay motivated. They like to believe they are underdogs. Their motto, Refuse To Lose, was taken from a music group (Public Enemy) with the ultimate underdog name. They psyched themselves when they discovered that a Sports Illustrated reporter was at Thursday's game to write an article only if UMass lost.
“No one believed we would be 11-0,” Camby said.
No one believed they would be scrubs, either. But the Minutemen are very good at taking a thread of perceived disrespect and weaving it into whatever they want it to be.
So, really, Finch could have said anything rather than, “It's nothing they did; it's what we didn't do.”
The coach said that after Donta Bright drilled his team with 5 points in 60 seconds. But Finch is a smart man. He knows his team plays in Conference USA, not the A-10. And the members of UMass' conference are going to pay for Finch's words and the words of any other disbelieving somebody.
Just what the A-10 needed (kidding). Just what the Minutemen needed (no kidding). Last year, being ranked first was a challenge enough. “I know I said then that it wasn't a big deal,” coach John Calipari said. “But it was huge.”
The coach said he used to go home and hug his wife and children. He'd repeat the phrase to himself: No. 1 . . . No. 1 . . . Number 1!
It's not like that anymore. The coach says the ranking is something the team has experienced and now he just wants it to compete harder. “In practice,” Bright said, “we try to do things we've never done before.”
Another discouraging nugget of news for the A-10. You don't think Calipari has warned his team about the expanded conference? He's probably told them that teams would love to humble them; show that they are just as talented; knock them out of newsprint and off the highlight shows.
Based on its last game, UMass is ready for this. The Minutemen trailed, 59-58, with 1:15 left and scored 5 of the last 8 points. They got 38 minutes from a weak (flu) Edgar Padilla. They forced Mingo Johnson, the Memphis point guard, into a 5-for-18 shooting night. They baffled Finch because he left Memphis thinking he had a good running team, but the Tigers didn't run consistently against UMass.
Even worse for opponents, UMass doesn't look as if it will self-destruct. Bright described his teammates as a bunch of guys who don't like to party, take care of their bodies and play Sega games.
Dayton-UMass begins at 2 p.m. today in Amherst. Hey, Dayton. Welcome to the A-10.
Camby's 38 save UMass from Dayton
By Allen Lessels, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/7/1996
AMHERST – The Mullins Center?
This keeps up and they're going to have to rename it Cambyland.
Marcus Camby scored a career-high 38 points and added 11 rebounds and 4 blocked shots as the top-ranked University of Massachusetts knocked off Dayton, 78-58, yesterday.
Welcome to the Atlantic 10, Flyers.
And meet Mr. Camby.
Dayton elected to play Camby straight up most of the way. He and the Minutemen, coming off Thursday's wrenching win over No. 3 Memphis, took advantage of it to run their record to 12-0 in winning their A-10 opener. Dayton fell to 8-4.
“It was the first time this year someone has not double-teamed Marcus,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “And he performed. In the second half we told him no fadeaways. Nothing fancy. And he went to the glass and shot foul shots.”
Said Camby, “I was just trying to turn and score.”
But as much as the Minutemen rode their center on offense, it was only when they got away from him for a bit that they broke away from the pesky Flyers for good.
Dayton had answered several UMass runs and was within 51-47 with 10:23 left in the game.
It had been all Camby, all the time to that point. Camby had scored 14 of his team's 18 points in the second half and 31 overall.
The Minutemen then put up an 11-2 Cambyless run. A 3-pointer from Edgar Padilla, an inside move by Tyrone Weeks, a Padilla steal and layup, a Dana Dingle putback and a Donta Bright basket from Camby had the Minutemen up, 64-51.
Camby then scored on a turnaround and Carmelo Travieso hit a 17-footer, and the Flyers were finished, 68-51.
Padilla had 11 points and 8 assists, and Dingle scored 10 points.
“They run the court very well,” Padilla said. “A lot of times we were not able to get back and match up.”
Dayton has outrebounded everyone it has played and did it again yesterday with 42 boards to UMass' 35.
“We're not doing a great job on the offensive glass,” Calipari said. ''It's a bit of a problem. Donta and Marcus are not getting there like they need to.“
Camby made 13 of his 27 shots from the field. His career highs had been 14 field goals made and 20 taken. His career high for points had been 32, which he hit twice, including the season opener against Kentucky.
“I've never been against a guy 6-11 who can take you off the dribble from the 3-point line,” said Dayton senior center Chris Daniels. “I was real impressed with his offensive skills.”
So, too, were the Minutemen.
“When Marcus is scoring like that, you tend to stand around and watch him,” Padilla said.
Calipari implored Padilla to get other people moving midway through the first half. Down 20-19, Camby slammed from the baseline and added a foul shot and UMass moved out to a 35-25 edge at the half.
But Dayton was not done.
Camby made 12 of 17 foul shots, 9 of 10 in the second half.
“I certainly thought the game was called tightly in terms of Camby,” said Dayton coach Oliver Purnell. “He's a great player and if you can't touch him, you can't guard him, because he's so quick.”
Daniels, who had a nice game with 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, also was impressed with Camby's defense.
“He makes the defense special,” Daniels said. “A lot of them take advantage of it. They overplay passes and stuff and know Marcus is standing right there behind them.”
Camby wasn't thrilled with his defense.
Was the 38-pointer his best game at UMass?
“Not really,” Camby said. “I think I could have played better at the defensive end. Daniels scored 20 points on me. He's a terrific player, but I have to keep him from scoring.”
The Minutemen play four of their next five on the road, starting with A-10 contests at St. Joseph's Tuesday and at St. Bonaventure next Sunday.
Everyone, figures Camby, will be as fired up as the Flyers when taking on the Minutemen.
“It's going to be that way the rest of the year,” he said. “That goes with being the big team on everyone's schedule.”
It may be the Minuteman Minuet
College Basketball Notebook
By Michael Vega, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/8/1996
Who'll stop the reign?
Right now, it seems nobody is up to the daunting task.
A look at the way the schedule breaks for the top-ranked University of Massachusetts basketball team reveals the Minutemen very well could sit atop the polls unchallenged for at least the remainder of the month – if not the season.
Scheduling can be a funny business, but that's probably how UMass coach John Calipari planned it. He wanted to schedule a bunch of tough, nonconference marquee games early in the season, establish UMass in the polls, then take the high ground and hold it to give the Minutemen a high seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
So far, so good.
If Calipari wanted to know if this team had any mettle, he certainly found out right away by throwing the Minutemen into a grueling slate of early games. The result: nonconference victories over then top-ranked Kentucky in the Great Eight, Maryland and Florida in the Maryland's Franklin Bank Classic, Wake Forest, and Boston College in the inaugural Commonwealth Classic at the FleetCenter.
By the end of that stretch, the Minutemen were ranked third – with a bullet – in the Associated Press Top 25. UMass climbed even higher while running its winning streak to seven with victories over North Carolina-Wilmington and Georgia Tech.
Top-ranked UMass then went to Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic Dec. 27-30, where it defeated North Carolina State in the first round, survived a scare when Marcus Camby injured his knee in a victory against Southern Cal in the second round, then emerged with the tournament championship by defeating Syracuse in the final.
After posting a gutsy 64-61 victory over No. 3 Memphis at Worcester Thursday night, the Minutemen cruised to a 78-58 romp over Atlantic 10 foe Dayton Saturday.
Now 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in the land, UMass seems poised to rule for quite some time, especially now that it will begin a stretch of soft conference games tomorrow at St. Joseph's.
Next Sunday, UMass travels to St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y., (which is akin to an Iditarod adventure this time of year) before returning home to host Rhode Island Jan. 17. The Minutemen wrap up the month with road games at Duquesne Jan. 20 and Pittsburgh Jan. 23 and back-to-back home games against St. Bonaventure Jan. 27 and Fordham Jan. 30.
Next month, however, UMass will put its ranking and reputation on the line when it plays tough conference games at Temple Feb. 1, at Virginia Tech Feb. 17 and at home Feb. 24 against George Washington, which, incidentally, was the team that knocked UMass from its No. 1 perch a year ago.
While they may have more than half a season to go, the Minutemen look like strong contenders to stay atop the polls – at least for the foreseeable future.
TROUBLE IN MEMPHIS
Don't look now, but the Minutemen may have sent Memphis on an unstoppable tailspin. Two days after bowing to top-ranked UMass, the Tigers (8-2) suffered a disheartening 69-67 loss Saturday at Houston. “I was very disappointed by the game,” Memphis coach Larry Finch said after his team lost to the Cougars (5-6), a future Conference USA opponent. “I lost more than a basketball game. I lost my team.” Finch hinted his team may have been in a funk after its loss to UMass. “Until we get the right mentality back, we've got a problem,” he said. “We didn't play for the first 20 minutes. I told the guys that I was going to tell the truth. Thursday after losing to UMass, I was down. Now I'm not just down, I'm angry.”
Minutemen keep winning, unbeaten streak hits 17
By Candice Flemming and Justin C. Smith, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, January 30, 1996 (first publication after winter break)
The Minutemen entered the break with a perfect 6-0 record and future tough matchups against the likes of No. 21 Georgia Tech, No. 13 Syracuse and No. 3 Memphis. But the Minutemen continued their winning ways, running their unbeaten record to 17-0. Here’s a recap of UMass' games over the break.
Massachusetts 78, Dayton 58
Jan. 6 at the Mullins Center
This game wasn't supposed to be a contest, and in the end it wasn’t, as the Minutemen won by 20 (78-58). However, the Flyers kept themselves within striking distance and were down by just 10 at the half, helped by nine points and seven boards by Ryan Perryman.
The Flyers went on a 15-5 run to start off the second half, pulling them to within one (41-40) with 16:18 to go. But UMass responded with a run of its own outscoring the Flyers 10-1 over the next three minutes for a 10-point lead. Dayton countered with a mini 6-0 run to pull within four with 10:23 left, but that was as close as they would get as UMass pulled away to claim the victory.
Camby scored a career-high 38 points while also grabbing a game-high 11 boards. Padilla finished with 11 points, eight assists and four steals, while Dingle added 10 points.
DAYTON (58) – Ryan Perryman 4-10 6-9 14, Darnell Hahn 2-13 1-2 6, Andy Meyer 1-1 0-0 2, Jeffrey Brookins 2-4 0-0 5, Coby Turner 2-5 0-0 5, Andy Metzler 0-0 0-0 0, Shawn Haughn 3-6 0-0 6, Rodney Horton 0-1 0-0 0, Josh Postorino 0-4 0-0 0, Maurice Beyina 0-0 0-0 0, Chris Daniels 10-12 0-0 20, Marco Pikaar 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24-57 (42.1%) 7-11 (63.6%) 58.
MASSACHUSETTS (78) – Dana Dingle 4-7 1-4 10, Donta Bright 4-11 0-1 8, Ross Burns 0-0 0-0 0, Giddel Padilla 0-0 0-0 0, Edgar Padilla 4-8 2-2 11, Andy Maclay 0-0 0-0 0, Marcus Camby 13-27 12-17 38, Carmelo Travieso 3-7 0-0 7, Tyrone Weeks 2-4 0-1 4, Ted Cottrell 0-0 0-0 0, Rigoberto Nunez 0-0 0-0 0, Inus Norville 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 30-64 (46.9%) 15-25 (60.0%) 78.
HALFTIME: Massachusetts 35, Dayton 25. 3-POINTERS: Massachusetts 3-9 (Dingle 1-1, E. Padilla 1-3, Travieso 1-3, Bright 0-1, Camby 0-1), Dayton 3-11 (Brookins 1-1, Turner 1-3, Hahn 1-4, Haughn 0-1, Postorino 0-2). REBOUNDS: Massachusetts 35 (Camby 11), Dayton 42 (Perryman 9). ASSISTS: Massachusetts 15 (E. Padilla 8), Dayton 13 (Brookins 6). FOULED OUT: Daniels. TOTAL FOULS: Massachusetts 9, Dayton 20. ATTENDANCE: 9,493. RECORDS: Massachusetts 1-0/12-0, Dayton 0-1/8-4.
Dayton 25 33 -- 58 Massachusetts 35 43 -- 78