UMass' road still bumpy
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/20/1996
PITTSBURGH – Normally, the University of Massachusetts' annual trip to Pittsburgh is a pleasant homecoming for coach John Calipari, who grew up in suburban Moon, Pa.
This year the mood will likely be different. As the No. 1-ranked Minutemen (15-0, 4-0) prepare for today's 2 p.m. game against Atlantic 10 foe Duquesne (5-8, 0-4) as part of a five-day, two-game visit to the area, Calipari has off-court concerns.
His grandmother, who lives in the area, is ailing. Then there's star center Marcus Camby, who did not travel with the team after being released from the hospital Thursday while doctors continued trying to determine what caused his 10-minute collapse and blackout before last Sunday's game against St. Bonaventure at Olean, N.Y. While no reason has been pinpointed, Camby has been medically cleared to rejoin the Minutemen at any time. Yesterday Camby worked out on his own in Amherst, doing some light shooting and riding a stationary bicycle while wearing an ambulatory electro-encephalographic monitor to record his brain waves. It was Camby's first activity since his collapse.
“My family's traveling with me because my grandmother is very ill; I want to make sure my family spends time with her now,” said Calipari. “We're going to be doing a lot of family things. But we're going in to play two basketball games and we're going in to do the best job we can in both of them. It would be hard to win without Marcus, but we will see.”
The Minutemen used to play Duquesne and West Virginia (70 miles from Pittsburgh) on this trip. But WVU is now a member of the Big East, and UMass opted to pick up Big East foe Pitt rather than continue the series with the Mountaineers. There is a possibility Camby will return for Tuesday's game at Pitt.
While the Minutemen, off to their best start ever, are a formidable team without Camby, they can create an array of problems with him. “We can always throw the ball to the post and make something happen with him,” said Calipari. “If you double him, he passes; if you don't, he scores.”
Camby's absence has meant several Minutemen have had to step up their game, particularly senior forward Donta Bright, who tallied a career-high 32 points in Wednesday night's 77-71 win over Rhode Island.
“With Donta, the thing is trying to get him to understand to move without the ball and score,” said Calipari. “Instead of taking 19 shots when Marcus comes back, he will take 14-15. But you can still get 20-25 points. Just make shots and move without the ball.”
Duquesne has had trouble stopping anybody with the ball. The Dukes have the worst defense in the A-10 (78.3 points per game), are second worst in field goal defense (45 percent) and have yielded the most rebounds in the league (42 per game).
The Dukes are coming off a 73-69 loss to La Salle Monday, their fifth consecutive defeat. UMass has won eight straight over Duquesne, including three last year and three during the 1993-94 season. The team leaders are Tom Pipkins (19.2 ppg) and Kevin Price (14.8 points, 7 rebounds per game).
Pittsburgh, whose wins this season include a rout of Georgetown, should be a tougher opponent, and Calipari envisions a rugged trip.
“It will be hard for us to win these games; we know that,” he said. “But we feel let's just do our thing and play the best we can play, and if those teams are better, we take a couple of L's. If we're better, we get a couple of W's. But it's going to be hard. For us to go 2-0 out of there will be a major, major accomplishment.”
UMass has to fight to put down Dukes
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/21/1996
PITTSBURGH – A pattern has developed. Each of the three games that the University of Massachusetts has played without star center Marcus Camby have had some element of high drama. The polls still proclaim UMass as the No. 1 team in the nation and opposing coaches and players continue to speak of the squad's prowess without its marquee player. But teams also keep attacking the Minuteman interior, knowing now's the best time to do so.
Yesterday, lowly Duquesne joined the growing list of teams that had a legitimate shot at staging the year's biggest upset in college basketball, but failed. The Dukes battled the Minutemen evenly through the first half and trailed by just 2 at halftime. They fell behind by as many as 19 in the second half, but staged a furious rally to cut the lead to 4. But UMass hung on with key free throws down the stretch to escape with a 93-89 Atlantic 10 win.
“It just seems as if from here on in the games are going to be wars and battles; I guess you can add another one to the list,” said UMass coach John Calipari, whose team again played without the services of Camby, who collapsed last Sunday prior to a game at St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies played the Minutemen tough that day, and Wednesday Rhode Island stayed with the Minutemen until finally succumbing.
Camby's teammates have done much to step up in his absence. Shooting guard Carmelo Travieso (Thayer Academy), a consummate role player, led the Minutemen yesterday with a career-high 33 points, including 25 of the Minutemen's first 30 second-half points, as UMass (16-0, 5-0) shot 68 percent from the floor in the second half.
“It was one of those zones you get into,” said Travieso, who shattered his previous career high of 17 points, set earlier this year against Georgia Tech. He had seven 3-point baskets, all in the second half. “I was just running our plays; I just happened to get open a lot and they fed me the ball.”
Duquesne, which had narrow losses to Georgetown and Virginia Tech, fell to 5-9, 0-5. It has lost nine straight to UMass.
Leading 35-33 at halftime, the Minutemen went ahead, 65-46, with 11:54 left on a layup by Travieso and didn't appear in need of Camby. Then the Dukes rallied, in part by going right at the UMass interior.
Duquesne coach Scott Edgar said earlier in the week that without Camby, UMass is vulnerable inside. He was correct, as the Dukes finished with 36 points in the paint.
The Dukes spent the last 11:54 working for 2 shots: either a driving layup or foul, or a 3-point basket. The Dukes got both as they pushed the ball up the floor and pressed the Minutemen in the backcourt. With 6:55 left, Duquesne forward Matt Curley (of Duxbury) sank a free throw to cut the lead to 75-66. “It's easier to score on them without Camby,” said Curley. “When he's not there, you can see the hoop better.”
Guard Tom Pipkins hit back-to-back 3-point baskets to pull the Dukes to 84-78 with 3:19 left. With 1:40 left, Roberson scored on a nifty crossover dribble and layup to pull the Dukes to 86-82.
The Dukes trailed, 90-86, with 1:08 left after a bucket by Price but could come no closer, missing 3 of 4 free throws. UMass sank 3 of 8 freebies for insurance.
“UMass hit the free throws they needed to and got stops,” said Edgar. “As their saying goes, they just refused to lose.”
The win was UMass' 18th straight in the month of January, dating to 1994. The Minutemen also tied a school record with their 16th straight win overall. Moreover, forward Donta Bright sank two free throws with 13:49 left in the first half to set the school record for consecutive free throws (25). He later hit two more to bring the mark to 27.
Camby says he's OK
UMass star unsure when he'll be back
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/21/1996
PITTSBURGH – Marcus Camby admitted he was nervous. He was worried. The University of Massachusetts star center admitted he thought about other basketball stars who collapsed while a nation watched in horror. The late Hank Gathers. The late Reggie Lewis.
But doctors later told Camby that his collapse prior to the UMass-St. Bonaventure game last Sunday at Olean, N.Y., was not cardiac related, and the worrying ceased. Now he's ready to take the court again.
“They said everything is fine. My heart is fine. My brain is fine. I'm ready to play,” said Camby, who yesterday spoke publicly for the first time since being released from the UMass Medical Center in Worcester on Thursday, following five days of extensive testing (some of which also was done at Olean General Hospital) that failed to show why he collapsed.
“I was a little nervous considering the stuff that happened to Hank Gathers, Reggie Lewis, this and that,” said Camby. “But once doctors told me there was nothing wrong with my heart I knew I would be fine.”
He declined to say whether he would return to action Tuesday night, when the No. 1 Minutemen play at Pitt, but a source said last night that Camby is expected to dress for the game and that a decision probably will be made around game time.
“Marcus feels good and he's ready to play,” said coach John Calipari. “We'll see if he's ready to play on Tuesday. It's up to him.”
Camby joined the team yesterday, while the Minutemen battled scrappy Duquesne, which fell behind by 19 in the second half but got as close as 4 before suffering a 93-89 defeat. Camby did not attend the game, opting to go straight to his hotel room. UMass officials said Camby had wanted to speak to the press prior to yesterday but was still sluggish and nauseous because of the testing.
“This is the first time I've been through this. I've been through a lot between the different hospitals, doctors and all these telephone calls,” said Camby. “It's been a bad week for me but a great one for the team. You can't lose track of that. They played without me for two games. They've won impressively and they've got it going.”
Camby said it is too early to say when he'll return to the court. “I don't want to come back and mess up the team chemistry,” he said. “They're playing so well right now. Doctors said to take my time and don't rush things, and that's what I've been doing. I went through a lot of tests and everything came back positive so I just want to take my time coming back.”
Camby said the ambulatory electro-encephalogram he had been wearing for 48 hours, which measures brain waves, indicated no problems, and was removed yesterday. He said he shot a few baskets Friday and felt as if he had been away from the game a long while.
“I met with doctors yesterday morning; everything looks fine. I hope to be back real soon,” Camby said. Asked how apprehensive he will be about returning to action, Camby said, “I won't be,” then laughed.
“The same day I went in I wanted to go out there and play,” he said. “It's something you just have to block out of your mind. They said it was a rare incident. I just have to go out there and play the game and block out what happened last Sunday.
“It was pretty scary, but it was scarier for my family. My mom told me when she saw me on TV she got really upset and felt really bad. But once I got to the hospital and I got my senses back I knew there was nothing wrong with me.”
Camby said he remembers little of last Sunday after boarding the team bus for the game. “After that, I don't know. I don't even remember myself falling,” he said. “I just remember seeing myself on TV a lot.”
Camby said it was frustrating having to go through so many tests that kept coming back negative. “But I knew the doctors meant well and they wanted to test out everything to make sure I was really all right,” he said. “I was getting frustrated getting poked in my arm and all types of places but it was for my own good, so I stuck with it.”
Camby said he hasn't given thought to whether the week's goings-on would affect whether he might leave UMass after this season for the NBA. “I just want to go out there and win a national championship, help my team get better and take it from there at the end of the season,” he said.
Minutemen show inner strength
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/22/1996
PITTSBURGH – Call it bend-but-don't-break week. The No. 1 University of Massachusetts spent last week becoming fully aware of how much it depends upon star center Marcus Camby, but also showed it can win without him.
The Minutemen were severely tested by three Atlantic 10 teams – St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and Duquesne – that tried to take advantage of Camby's absence. They attacked the UMass interior and crashed the boards.
Although the Minutemen often looked tentative against their ambitious adversaries, they did not crack, coming up with nailbiting wins to remain unbeaten (16-0 overall, 5-0 league). “Playing without Marcus changes things,” said point guard Edgar Padilla. “Everybody's got to do a little bit more offensively and defensively because he's not there.”
Yesterday, Camby spoke via telephone on CBS at halftime of the Connecticut- Syracuse game. He reiterated comments he made in an interview Saturday night that he is ready to return, but did not say whether he would play tomorrow night against Pitt. Camby is expected to suit up and decide just before game time whether to play.
Among those who have pitched in considerably during Camby's absence are Tyrone Weeks and Inus Norville. Against Rhode Island, Norville had 8 points and seven rebounds, Weeks had 4 points and four boards. Against St. Bonaventure, Weeks had his first double double of the season with a career-high 15 points and 12 rebounds. Against Duquesne, Norville had 10 points, 4 boards and 2 blocks.
“People want to know why I've stuck with Inus; it's because I want Inus to know I believe in him and I know he can do the job,” said coach John Calipari. “As he gets more comfortable playing, he's going to be good. He's not comfortable right now, and that's my job to make him more comfortable.”
Another player who has been rock-solid all season is senior forward Donta Bright, who has more than fulfilled Calipari's preseason wish of averaging at least 15 points a game (he's at 15.3). Bright can score inside and out and has hit a school-record 27 consecutive free throws.
“I didn't even know I was closing in on the record,” said Bright, who is shooting 84 percent from the line, an improvement from his career mark of 67 percent. “I just work on my free throw shooting before and after practice and the work has paid off.”
Getting the interior reserves more playing time could not have come at a better time. As the Minutemen continue their conference schedule and beyond, they will need opponents to respect their front line with or without Camby.
“There was a four- or five-minute stretch against Duquesne Saturday where we gave up about 76 layups,” said Calipari, often given to hyperbole. “They just kept driving in and scoring. I don't want to take anything away from Duquesne because we were trying, we were playing. But they just played better.”
Still, Calipari was pleased with the Minutemen's early second-half surge that turned a 35-33 halftime lead into a 52-37 bulge with 17:24 remaining. “How we played for 10 minutes in the second half is how we're supposed to play without Marcus Camby,” said Calipari.
Massachusetts (93) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Bright 29 3-9 4-4 0-7 5 5 10 Dingle 34 8-13 8-11 4-8 2 2 24 Norville 27 3-3 4-8 1-4 0 3 10 E Padilla 37 3-7 2-5 0-2 11 4 10 Travieso 38 11-13 4-5 2-4 3 3 33 Clarke 6 0-1 1-4 0-0 0 2 1 Weeks 23 1-8 2-3 3-9 0 2 4 Nunez 6 0-0 1-2 0-2 0 0 1 _______________________________________________ Totals 200 29-54 26-42 10-36 21 21 93 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.537, Ft-.619. 3-Point Goals: 9-12, .750 (E Padilla 2-3, Travieso 7-8, Clarke 0-1). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 6 (Norville 2, Weeks 2, Travieso, Bright). Turnovers: 14 (Dingle 4, Norville 3, Travieso 3, Bright 2, E Padilla 2). Steals: 10 (E Padilla 7, Dingle, Norville, Travieso). Duquesne (89) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Bridges 16 1-5 3-4 2-3 0 5 5 Curley 28 4-7 2-4 1-5 4 5 11 Hood 2 0-1 0-0 1-1 0 0 0 James 36 9-13 7-10 1-3 7 4 25 Pipkins 36 6-14 4-4 0-2 4 2 21 Price 27 4-8 2-2 0-6 2 5 10 Roberson 25 6-8 1-1 1-2 3 2 15 Clarno 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Davis 12 0-0 0-0 0-3 0 4 0 Bosnic 12 1-5 0-0 0-3 0 0 2 Walker 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0 _______________________________________________ Totals 200 31-61 19-25 6-28 20 29 89 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.508, Ft-.760. 3-Point Goals: 8-14, .571 (Curley 1-1, Pipkins 5-9, Roberson 2-4). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 1 (Bosnic). Turnovers: 14 (Curley 4, Pipkins 3, Davis 2, Roberson 2, Bosnic, Clarno, Price). Steals: 9 (Curley 3, James 2, Pipkins 2, Davis, Price). __________________________________ Massachusetts 35 58 - 93 Duquesne 33 56 - 89 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 6,119. Officials: John Moreau, John Corbett, Rusty Herring.