UMass leery of Panthers
Even if Camby returns, Minutemen will need an all-out effort to top Pitt
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/23/1996
PITTSBURGH – Another game, another upset-minded team.
The No. 1-ranked University of Massachusetts Minutemen will face another challenge from a team eager to knock it from college basketball's apex tonight when they take on Pittsburgh.
UMass is 4-0 against Big East foes since 1991, and it defeated Pitt, 85-57, last season in Amherst. But the Minutemen (16-0) aren't taking this one lightly, particularly after nail-biting wins over Rhode Island and Duquesne.
“I really haven't seen Pittsburgh play too much,” said senior forward Dana Dingle, “but from what I have seen they're a pretty good team that can beat anybody. They beat Georgetown earlier this season.”
One thing UMass wasn't counting on is center Marcus Camby returning to the lineup. Coach John Calipari gave no definitive word, but indications are that Camby, though he will be in uniform, will play little if at all and almost certainly won't start.
“We're going to have to come out and play a good game, with everybody giving 100 percent,” said sophomore center Inus Norville, whose playing time and output have increased considerably with Camby out since Jan. 14, the day he collapsed before the St. Bonaventure game.
“Teams pretty much try to make it harder for us with Camby out,” said Norville. “But I just try to go out and play good defense. My teammates are giving me the ball where I can score. It shows they have a lot of confidence in me, and that makes my job a lot easier. I think both Tyrone Weeks and I have played well in Camby's absence.”
The Minutemen have not lost a game in the month of January since 1994, when they lost at Cincinnati, 76-74, on the 27th. They have 18 consecutive wins since then.
A few weeks ago, the Panthers (8-5) appeared to be one of the surprising teams in the Northeast when they routed Georgetown and beat West Virginia in overtime, giving them a five-game winning streak.
The Panthers are led by guards Jerry McCullough and Andre Aldridge. The former had a tough shooting night against Miami (4 of 15 from the floor) but the latter hit four 3-point baskets during a 20-5 run that trimmed a 48-30 deficit to 53-50.
“They have really good guards,” said UMass junior point guard Edgar Padilla. “They're very quick and they shoot a lot of threes.”
The interior is where Pitt seems to be lacking. Among the pivot players is 7-foot freshman Mark Blount, who verbally committed to UMass before controversy surrounding his switching to various high schools prompted him and the Minutemen to part ways. He played 9 minutes against Miami and got just one rebound.
Though the scores have been close in Camby's absence, the Minutemen say the events of last week were not a distraction.
“I always remained focused, and I believe things will take care of themselves,” said Dingle. “I tried not to let it be a distraction, as long as I knew Marcus was in good hands.”
UMass hurdles Pitt, barely avoids a fall
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 1/24/1996
PITTSBURGH – Lately, University of Massachusetts games have resembled “Nightmare on Elm Street” flicks: a few scary moments but an all-too-familiar ending. Last night the University of Pittsburgh joined a growing list of teams eager to upset the No. 1 Minutemen. The Panthers' efforts produced an edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Pitt led throughout the first half, twice by as many as 12 points, until the Minutemen closed strongly before intermission and outplayed Pitt over the first 13 minutes of the second half. Pitt rallied to force overtime, but that's when UMass ended any hopes of an upset with a 10-2 run en route to a 79-71 victory.
With center Marcus Camby in uniform but confined to the bench, the Minutemen escaped hot and sticky Fitzgerald Field House as the only unbeaten team in major college basketball at 17-0.
Junior guard Carmelo Travieso had a game-high 27 points, including back-to-back 3-point baskets to put the Minutemen up, 76-68, with 1:14 left in overtime. Senior forward Donta Bright added 26 points for the Minutemen, who held Pitt to 34 percent shooting in the second half and forced 17 turnovers.
UMass, which has won its last nine overtime contests, once again showed it can win without its big fella. But coach John Calipari played down the crunchtime success.
“Thing is, we may lose our next nine overtime games and they'll say, 'The guy can't coach,' ” said Calipari, whose team has had its share of close calls.
“You try to get them to forget about losing and think about winning,” said Calipari. “We try to put the heat on the opposition, put the weight on their shoulders that they are trying to beat a highly ranked team. They have an opportunity, but they had better finish, because we're not stopping.”
UMass led, 62-53, with 6:30 remaining in regulation, but Pitt, sparked by a raucous sellout crowd (6,798), rallied to 66-64 with 1:46 left on a bank shot by Chad Vargas (17 points). With 1:29 left, Bright turned the ball over on a bad pass to forward Dana Dingle, who then fouled Andre Aldridge at the other end. Aldridge sank two with 1:14 left to tie the game at 66-66.
Both teams botched efforts to win in regulation. Dingle missed inside and Travieso misfired on a 3-point attempt, but UMass outfought Pitt for the loose ball and called time out with 40 seconds left. With 13 seconds to go, Tyrone Weeks missed inside and Pitt rebounded.
But the Panthers executed poorly, apparently forgetting how much time was left. With the crowd screaming, “Shoot it!” Aldridge misfired on an off-balance running hook shot at the buzzer.
“You have two choices: Call the timeout or push it up the floor,” said Pitt coach Ralph Willard. “We were good in transition, and we wanted to go to the basket. Maybe guard Jerry McCullough held it a bit too long.”
UMass applied the knockout blow early in the extra session. Bright scored UMass' first 4 points on free throws – extending his school record to 35 straight – for a 70-68 lead.
After a Pitt turnover, Travieso drained back-to-back treys to put UMass up, 76-68.
“Travieso has a great stroke on his shot,” said Willard. “You give him even half a second and he will knock it down.”
Pitt closed the gap on a 3-pointer by McCullough, but Edgar Padilla added three insurance free throws.
“They were not intimidated by us at all,” said Calipari. “It was nice that at the end of the game we found a way to win. That is how we play.”
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 79, Pittsburgh 71 (OT)
Jan. 25 at the Fitzgerald Field House
After falling behind by as many as 12 points in the first half, Travieso (27 points) and Bright (26 points) led the UMass charge back to a 66-60 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
With the game tied at 66 and 10 seconds remaining, the Panthers had a chance to prove Dick Vitale right, who predicted the home team would knock off the top-ranked Minutemen. Andre Alridge hit the backboard and the front rim, but his eight foot runner as time expired would not fall, sending the game into overtime.
From there, Travieso hit the last two of his seven treys to seal the game for UMass. Marcus Camby was on the bench and in uniform, but did not see any action.
Massachusetts (79) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Dingle 42 3-8 2-3 4-9 0 4 8 Bright 41 9-16 8-8 1-3 2 2 26 Norville 16 0-1 1-2 1-1 0 5 1 E Padilla 42 3-7 6-10 0-4 10 3 13 Travieso 44 9-17 2-4 0-4 1 1 27 Clarke 4 0-1 0-1 0-1 0 0 0 Weeks 29 2-6 0-0 3-7 0 4 4 Nunez 7 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 _______________________________________________ Totals 225 26-56 19-28 9-29 14 19 79 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.464, Ft-.679. 3-Point Goals: 8-20, .400 (Bright 0-1, E Padilla 1-4, Travieso 7-14, Clarke 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 4 (Travieso 2, Bright, Weeks). Turnovers: 13 (Bright 5, Dingle 4, E Padilla 3, Weeks). Steals: 5 (E Padilla 4, Weeks). Pittsburgh (71) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Varga 41 8-16 0-0 1-6 1 4 17 Thomas 29 4-11 0-0 3-5 0 4 8 Blount 16 0-1 2-2 1-2 0 3 2 Mccullough 43 6-13 7-8 5-11 4 4 20 Alridge 35 2-8 2-2 1-1 4 3 8 Willard 14 1-3 0-0 0-0 2 1 2 Jordan 26 4-9 4-6 4-11 1 4 12 Gill 12 1-1 0-0 0-1 0 2 2 Maile 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Howard 7 0-1 0-0 1-1 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ Totals 225 26-64 15-18 16-38 12 25 71 _______________________________________________ Percentages: Fg-.406, Ft-.833. 3-Point Goals: 4-20, .200 (Varga 1-3, Thomas 0-6, Mccullough 1-4, Alridge 2-6, Willard 0-1). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 5 (Blount 2, Varga, Thomas, Gill). Turnovers: 17 (Alridge 2, Blount 2, Howard 2, Jordan 2, Mccullough 2, Varga 2, Willard 2, Thomas). Steals: 6 (Blount 2, Mccullough 2, Jordan, Thomas). _______________________________________ Massachusetts 30 36 13 - 79 Pittsburgh 35 31 5 - 71 _______________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 6,798. Officials: Tim Higgins, Joey Slyvester, Gene Monje.