As he prepared his team to play Arkansas in the NCAA tournament, University of Massachusetts basketball coach John Calipari got an unexpected boost yesterday from the Razorbacks' No. 1 fan – President Clinton.
Clinton and Calipari exchanged telephone compliments at a St. Patrick's Day breakfast hosted by Calipari's new boss, UMass president William Bulger.
“You must be so proud, not only of your record, but of the way you've done it,” Clinton told Calipari from Washington. “The teamwork this year to me has been astonishing.”
After Calipari thanked Clinton for his support of college basketball, Clinton asked him to ease up when Arkansas and UMass play Thursday. “Only two of our starters have started to shave yet. You've got to take it easy on us,” Clinton joked.
Tickets for taking, especially in Atlanta
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/19/1996
AMHERST – Thorr Bjorn, University of Massachusetts assistant athletic director in charge of game operations and tickets, said yesterday the school had sold 900 of its 1,250 tickets for this weekend's East Regional semifinal and final at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
“Ticket sales are going great,” he said. “The Georgia Dome supposedly has 5,000-6,000 more available. We're really just handling our season ticket-holders and students. The general public can still call down there and get tickets.”
Tickets are $60 (semifinals Thursday and finals Saturday). There has been some talk that tickets aren't going fast. “It's just a huge place,” said Bjorn. “So they still have upper-level seats available.”
Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson joined a growing number of mentors in praise of UMass' starting backcourt. “Their two guards Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso have great hands,” he said. “On the playground, they look like a couple of average basketball players but they are way better than average basketball players. Their anticipation is great.” . . . UMass senior forward Dana Dingle and Arkansas freshman guard Kareem Reid went to the same high school – St. Raymond's in the Bronx . . . Thursday's game marks only the second time the Minutemen will have played in a domed stadium in the '90s, the first time coming in the first round of the 1993 NCAA East Regional at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse . . . Padilla said the team is not concerned about Arkansas' 40-minutes-of-hell style of play. “We have two hours of hell in practice every day,” he said. “Forty minutes of it would be nothing.” . . . Arkansas is the ninth team in NCAA tournament history to reach the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed. No 12th-seeded team has ever won a regional semifinal game . . . In its two tournament games, UMass players have registered 14 blocked shots, while their opponents have had none . . . UMass practiced yesterday at Curry Hicks Cage before leaving for Atlanta. Forward Tyrone Weeks is nursing a sore foot and did not practice.
Weeks worries about next step
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/20/1996
AMHERST – He pivots on his aching foot, turns his wide body toward the basket and scores on a bank shot – and his ego rants and raves from the amen corner of his mind:
You the man, Tyrone Weeks. You the man. Six feet 7 inches and 260 pounds of ferocity. See how they fear you? The opposition? Your University of Massachusetts teammates? That is what's best; just keep masking the extent of the pain from your coaches. You wouldn't want them calling you a baby, would you?
For 33 games, Weeks has listened to such voices, playing through the agony of a nagging foot injury he said “feels like someone stabbing me with a knife.” You could never tell he's in such pain from his on-court output: The junior from Philadelphia, who underwent surgery on the foot before this season, is one of the most productive sixth men in college basketball.
But Weeks can tell, and now the voice of reason is getting louder in his head: Three days before tomorrow's NCAA East Regional semifinal against Arkansas, he is contemplating calling it quits after this season.
“A lot of thoughts are going through my mind right now about where my career is going from here,” said Weeks. “What I'm going to try to do is help my team win the national championship as much as I can. So in case I can't play again, at least I can say we won the national championship.
“With the pain that I'm having, I don't want to play ball again after this season. I never really experienced this kind of pain before. Every day it gets worse and worse. It feels like I'm 50 years old, and I'm only 21. I think, 'Ten years from now, wow, will I be able to walk?'
“But I'm not set about it yet. I think maybe if I get a lot of rest after the season, it won't hurt anymore and I will be able to perform like I used to. Then I say, 'What if it still hurts?'”
Coach John Calipari said the issue of Weeks walking away from the game hasn't been discussed. “We haven't talked to that level yet, but I know it's been hard for him to practice because he's been in severe pain,” Calipari said. “When the season ends, a lot of us will have to talk about a lot of things.”
The injury is one of many setbacks Weeks has had to overcome at UMass. He sat out his first season after failing to meet eligibility requirements, then suffered the foot injury just before the opener last season. Midway through the season, he battled a virus that forced him to miss several games.
But, just like last season, Weeks has had a strong finish. In last week's second-round game against Stanford, he scored 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the floor. In the first round against Central Florida, he had 13 points, 7 boards and a career-high 3 steals.
Earlier this year, Weeks had a career-high 16 points against Rhode Island, a career-high 13 boards against Xavier. And he's proven himself a team leader: In the Atlantic 10 final against Temple, Weeks angrily urged his teammates to cease their sluggish play, and they responded with one of their best surges of the season, a 13-0 run that helped down the Owls.
“Tyrone Weeks has been great,” said Calipari. “Whenever we have needed post presence, he has come through for us. One time in my office, I told him, 'We need you,' and he said, 'Coach, have I ever let you down?' He's come through for us every time. And I'm as happy for him as any player on our team.”
Weeks' resilience has earned him respect from his peers, as well. His warrior tenacity – his ability to battle players much taller underneath the boards – has made him one of the Minutemen's best big men. His mental toughness – and barrel-chested frame – have made him one of the Minutemen's most feared players.
“He says something to the guys on the team and people listen because they're afraid of him,” said center Marcus Camby, one of Weeks' best friends. “He has done a good job all year for us as a sixth man, in scoring and on the boards.”
It is that importance to his team that prevents Weeks from telling his ego to take a hike. He underwent surgery on the foot knowing it probably never would be 100 percent. Now it's worse than it was before surgery.
Yet, having carved a niche on a team loaded with talent – not to mention eyeing a national championship – Weeks bears the pain. “He doesn't complain to the coaches about it because he doesn't want to cause any trouble,” said Camby. “So he complains to me about it a lot.”
“I tell Marcus, my other teammates and my friends,” said Weeks. “The trainer Ron Laham and I talk about it every day. He gives me a lot of treatment, but it's hard for him to figure out what's wrong with it because I had surgery.
“But I don't want to complain to the coaches because it would make it seem like I was a big baby. I know I'm not and I don't want them to think that way.”
Although the coaching staff might not know the extent of Weeks' pain, they are aware the injury is still nagging him. That's why Calipari suggested surgery during the offseason.
“It was major surgery on his heel,” said Calipari last summer. “He was hurting all last year. Doctors said there is a good chance he won't ever be 100 percent. There was an option to leave it like it was, but I told him, 'Let's look at long-term, Ty.' ”
Often, like Monday, Weeks skips practice and only goes through individual workouts. His pregame workout is light as well.
Still, the injury sometimes affects his play. “Sometimes I don't jump for rebounds,” he said. “I caught myself doing that a couple of times these last couple of games. I stayed on the ground and the opposing player got the rebound and I said, 'Well, I'll have to get the next one.'
“When I think about the pain, I'm not focused on the game. So I tell myself before every game, 'Two hours and I can complain about it again.' ”
Weeks chooses not to think about long-term plans now. “I haven't discussed it with my parents,” said Weeks, who lives with a guardian in Philadelphia in the offseason. “I talked to my guardian and he said I shouldn't think about it right now. He said once the season is over, talk to Coach Cal. Right now it's a 50 percent chance this is my last year.”
In first game vs. Arkansas, the Minutemen came of age
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/21/1996
ATLANTA – Those who were there insist Corliss Williamson was only joking. At last season's Southeastern Conference Media Day, a reporter lightheartedly asked the then Arkansas forward if the Razorbacks' second string was better than the first string of the University of Massachusetts – their opponent in the Tip-Off Classic.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” said Williamson as the assembled media broke out in laughter.
Somehow Williamson's quote got back to the UMass players. They didn't see the humor in it at all. “We felt our first string was better than their first string, and we said, 'How is he going to make a statement like that, that their second unit was better than our first unit?' ” recalled senior forward Dana Dingle.
“We took that and used it as a motivational thing. We put it up on the lockers, and every day we looked at it and said, 'This is what Corliss said.' Everyone took it personal and wanted to go out and show them the team they were up against.”
Arkansas, then the defending national champion and No. 1 team in the nation (and the first since 1967 champ UCLA to return its entire starting five), had no idea what it was up against – a team just as deep and physical that was more than eager to prove a point. Add to that the venue – the Springfield Civic Center – and you had a game that favored No. 3 UMass.
Senior Lou Roe got things going on the opening tip, which he grabbed and slammed through the rim. That sent the partisan UMass crowd into a frenzy.
From there, the Minutemen unleashed a relentless, aggressive attack to lead, 52-36, at halftime. Any Arkansas run in the second half was mild at best; UMass went on to win, 104-80.
The victory was to that date the biggest in UMass history, for it solidified the Minutemen's place in the big time. Before that, UMass was perceived as an up-and-coming program, one that could handle any team on any given day if the opponent took the Minutemen lightly.
The convincing nature of the Arkansas win propelled UMass into major college power status – a team that could beat any other on any given day because its program was as sound as any other on the major college level.
Now the roles are reversed. UMass is the No. 1 team in the land and the No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Regional. Arkansas, the No. 12 seed, hopes to avenge last season's debacle in the regional semifinals tonight.
“I think the biggest wins in our program are either the Arkansas win or the win this season over then No. 1 Kentucky,” said forward Tyrone Weeks. “It's because of the teams they both had. They were stacked.
“They were just like the then No. 1 North Carolina team we beat the year before the Arkansas win. All these pro players on all three teams. And us – they said we just had average players.”
Some of those players were stung by a Globe report detailing their academic problems and listing their below-average grades. Roe, among those mentioned, blasted reporters about the story during Atlantic 10 Media Day. Derek Kellogg, a senior point guard who was not mentioned, vowed not to speak to reporters for the entire year. Others followed suit, but all subsequently changed their minds.
Dingle, also mentioned in the Globe report, said the team did not employ an us-against-the-world approach leading up to the Arkansas game. “Our mind-set was to be focused and we had a lot to prove like we were on a mission, like we were for real,” he said. “But we tried not to let any of that bother us. We huddled up and stayed together and didn't worry about all the outside distractions.”
As the Arkansas game loomed, most everyone gave the Minutemen no chance, particularly since they were without shooting guard Mike Williams, who keyed the North Carolina upset with 3-pointers in regulation and overtime.
The Minutemen staged closed practice sessions and grew more confident about their chances. “We knew if we didn't play harder, they'd blow us out,” said Weeks. “But we knew if we go after them, we would have a chance to beat them. They weren't ready for us like Kentucky wasn't this year. They thought, 'They don't have the big names like we do, so they're not going to beat us.' ”
Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said his team didn't approach the game with the seriousness it should have. “We went out there and wined and dined and everybody took us to the Hall of Fame and we were glowing and we were national champs and everybody had their rings on,” he said.
“And these guys were laying in the woods, waiting for us. When you're not hungry, you tend to be not as good. We weren't hungry when we left for Springfield. Everybody had a day in Arkansas. They had the Corliss Williamson Day. The Scotty Thurman Day. Everybody had a day.
“But you go to UMass and say, 'Hell, they ain't had no day.' But they took their day out on us.”
UMass did its best to get the Civic Center crowd behind it early. With 17:30 left in the first half, Roe missed a put-back, but reserve forward Inus Norville scored on a put-back slam that sent the crowd of 8,999 into bedlam and gave UMass a 6-4 lead.
For the remainder of the half, UMass played at an intensity level clearly above that of Arkansas. With Roe outdueling Williamson inside, center Marcus Camby altering Razorbacks attempts and the UMass defense swarming all over the floor, the Minutemen led, 50-31, with 1:23 left in the half.
“At halftime, we were up and we were saying, 'We can win this game,' ” said Dingle. “We said, 'We're up, and we're up against the best. If we can beat these guys, we can beat anybody.' ”
UMass increased its lead to 28 points, 68-40, on a jumper by forward Donta Bright with 12:40 left. Arkansas hit a few 3-pointers down the stretch, but they were too little, too late. In the end, UMass dominated most of the statistical categories, including rebounding (54-34).
“In the second half, we said we would not let up and keep doing what we were doing leading up to that point,” said Dingle.
Yesterday a reporter who attended the SEC Media Day when Williamson made the ill-fated remark told Dingle, “Nobody realized Corliss was just joking then? He didn't mean that.”
“Well, to us it was serious if he's going to say that in the papers,” said Dingle. “It can't be that much of a joke. A lot of their players did feel that at that time.”
Travieso UMass' fall guy
His platform plunge nearly sinks hopes
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/21/1996
ATLANTA – A press conference can be a dangerous thing.
Coaches and athletes have known that for years. Many a poorly constructed thought has been turned into a cause celebre of some sort.
But that's not what I'm talking about this time. We had a press conference yesterday that turned into a very physically dangerous thing. This was a press conference in which the University of Massachusetts almost lost the services of a key player on the eve of a crucial game.
People in athletics invariably accumulate a treasure trove of anecdotal material for those banquet speeches, but this was something new. “We usually don't have guys get hurt at press conferences,” pointed out trainer Ron Laham.
Patriot aficionados recall that Clive Rush was nearly electrocuted during his inaugural press conference. NBA buffs know that Mike Schuler toppled out of his chair right off the stage when he met with the press after taking the Trail Blazers job. But this is the first known player casualty.
One minute there was a Carmelo Travieso, and the next minute there wasn't. The junior guard had fallen right out of sight as he was heading for his seat on the platform in the interview room, a drab enclosure in the Georgia Dome with a sign outside which says, “Turf Storage.” For a few minutes, it appeared that the only thing being stored here yesterday was UMass' NCAA title hope.
“Marcus Camby was pulling his chair out,” explained Travieso. “I stepped around it, and there wasn't much room.” When a chair is pulled out, in fact, the width of the platform shrinks to approximately 16 inches.
Travieso instinctively reached out to his left into a blue curtain which he must have thought was a wall. Bye-bye. He toppled off the stage, falling from the 3 1/2- to 4-foot-high platform onto the hypotenuse portion of a tripod leg on the scaffold holding up the lights. As he fell, he was able to grab a large ladder for some support. Otherwise . . .
“If I hadn't been able to do that, I might have gone on my head,” Travieso reported.
He landed on his lower back and his butt, but mostly his back. Laham immediately iced him down, and Travieso did make it out to the court to shoot some free throws and launch some flatfooted threes. But he was going to be sore last night and he will surely be sore today. Praise the Lord for tonight's 10 o'clock start when UMass meets Arkansas in the NCAA East Regional semifinals.
It was difficult for witnesses to determine the severity of his injury because Camby and backcourt mate Edgar Padilla were back up on the stage laughing and joking with their fallen comrade, who had chosen to remain stretched out on the floor. “I was laughing because they were making me laugh,” said Travieso. “I was hurting. I wasn't going to move until the doctor got there to check me out.”
UMass survived without Camby during a portion of the regular season, but no one wanted to think about going into a game against a pressing, athletic team such as Arkansas without Travieso, who has been playing the best basketball of his career the past month. His 3-point shooting and straight-up defense have been transformed into moments of true greatness, and he was a thoroughly deserving Most Valuable Player honoree in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
“We'll keep icing him,” said Laham, “and we'll give him anti-inflammatories. If he develops spasms, we can give him a muscle relaxer. I would be very surprised if he didn't play. Carmelo is a tough kid.”
Coach John Calipari was outwardly calm. “I'm thinking, 'Things have been going too well,' ” he said. “But the thing is, it could really have been bad. I'm sure he's feeling OK now, but I'll give him a call tonight to see if his back is sore.”
There was another reason people In The Know weren't sure what to make of the Travieso Tumble at first. It seems that this lad is the team's resident practical joker.
“He's the master,” acknowledged Dana Dingle. “He's the comedian on this team.”
“I told the team when he came out to the practice that this was the ultimate justice,” said Calipari, “because he is the prankster. He mimics everybody. Me. The trainer. If someone says something that comes out wrong, Carmelo is all over his butt. So that was the ultimate justice right there, because there was his butt going down on national television.”
Everyone is trying to keep this thing on the light side, but the truth is that no one knows what state Travieso will be in when the ball is thrown up tonight. “Hopefully, he'll be OK,” said Coach Cal. “But he's going to have to shoot and play defense against a good team.”
One thing we do know is that more care will be exercised in the future when these platforms are constructed. NCAA committee member Terry Holland, the former Virginia coach and current Davidson athletic director, was concerned enough about this particular setup yesterday morning to suggest that a railing be installed behind the curtain.
It's tough enough to beat some of these teams when the game starts. You'd rather not lose games at the press conferences.
Arkansas feels no pressure but applies it
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/21/1996
ATLANTA – Here at the oversized crock pot known as the Georgia Dome, Arkansas gave onlookers a view of its pressure-cooker brand of basketball yesterday in a grueling, intense, emotional practice. Then the Razorbacks left the court confident about their chances of knocking off the No. 1 team in the country.
“The pressure is on Massachusetts to continue to be the No. 1 team in the country,” said coach Nolan Richardson, whose 12th-seeded Razorbacks (20-12) meet top-seeded UMass (33-1) in the NCAA East Regional semifinals tonight, approximately 30 minutes after second-seeded Georgetown faces third-seeded Texas Tech.
“Massachusetts is going to need a peak-level performance to beat us. When I think of a team I wouldn't want to face if I were the No. 1 team in the nation, it would be Arkansas.
“UMass coach John Calipari has to win this game. I want to win the game, but I don't have to win. I feel much more comfortable this year than I had been in the previous year.”
When asked about Richardson's remarks, Calipari said, “The good thing about it is Nolan doesn't know me well enough to know those comments don't have an effect on me.”
But the big question is, how will the teams' remarkably similar styles, particularly defensively, affect each other?
That will be determined by the output of several key players – particularly the guards. UMass' Carmelo Travieso bruised his lower back and gluteus maximus in a fall off the interview platform before a press conference yesterday. Trainer Ron Laham said Travieso had the areas iced and will probably still be sore today.
After being swarmed by a horde of reporters, Travieso joined his team in a free throw shooting drill at practice. He clearly wasn't following through at the start and hit just two of his first seven free throws. But he loosened up and finished 7 for 14 from the line in the drill. Then he shot 3-pointers.
“He's fine,” said Donta Bright. “Today he'll be hitting 3-pointers.”
UMass held a shootaround at the Georgia Dome, having practiced earlier at an undisclosed location.
Travieso's outside shooting will be key in the contest. UMass' perimeter shooting helps open up the interior and prevents defenses from camping out on center Marcus Camby. The junior from Hartford should expect another physical game down low.
“Teams have been playing me physically all season long,” said Camby, who rebounded from a late-season slump to post his best numbers in five games – 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting, 7 blocks – against Stanford in the second round.
The contest is also a rematch between Camby and Razorbacks junior Darnell Robinson.
In last season's Tip-Off Classic, Camby had 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor and 13 rebounds, while Robinson had 8 points on 4-for-10 shooting from the floor and 2 boards as UMass knocked off the defending national champions.
Then there's the matchup at point guard. Arkansas' Kareem Reid – one of three freshmen in the starting lineup – is averaging 6.6 assists, highest in school history. He set a school record with 211 assists this season and has scored 20 points or more six times, including 21 against Penn State in the East Regional first round.
UMass' Edgar Padilla is one of the quickest and clutchest guards in college basketball. He needs four steals to become the first player in Atlantic 10 history to register 100 for a season. He boasts a 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and has recorded 10 assists or more five times, including 12 against Stanford.
Add forwards Dana Dingle and Bright to the mix and UMass has more experience at each starting position. The Razorbacks will have to rely on quality team play to pull off the biggest upset of the tournament.
Massachusetts 79, Arkansas 63
From The Associated Press, 3/21/1996
Tyrone Weeks, starting for All-American center Marcus Camby, scored 10 of his 16 points in the first half as top seed Massachusetts rolled into the regional final with a 79-63 thumping of 12 seed Arkansas in the semifinals of the East Region at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Weeks, who was inserted into the starting lineup for Camby by coach John Calipari for missing the team bus to the Georgia Dome, responded with 10 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 13 minutes in the first half.
“I told the team this morning that I didn't want them to be sitting in the hotel all day long,” said Calipari. “I looked right at Marcus and told him not to sleep all day. He got caught in traffic and was late to shootaround. I want to preface that statement by saying that Marcus has never been late for anything.”
Weeks made all four of his shots from the field in the first half as the Minutemen (34-1) returned to the East Regional final for the second straight season.
“It felt great to start a Tournament game,” said Weeks. “I wanted to do my best. I gave it my best effort.”
Camby finished with 15 points, Carmelo Travieso added 14 and Dana Dingle netted 12 for Massachusetts.
Massachusetts will meet second-seeded Georgetown in the regional finals on Saturday. The Hoyas knocked off third seed Texas Tech, 98-90, in the earlier semifinal tonight.
“It was a great defensive effort,” Calipari added. “I'm very happy for my basketball team. We did what we had to do to win. They are a good, young basketball team. We put pressure on them early, which is just what we wanted to do.”
The Minutemen were in the East Region final last season before losing to Oklahoma State at the Meadowlands Arena, site of this year's Final Four.
Pat Bradley scored 15 points and Kareem Reid added 12 for Arkansas (20-13), which was the lowest remaining seed in the Tournament heading into tonight's game.
The Razorbacks will not be in a regional final for the first time since 1993, when they lost to North Carolina in the regional semifinals. Arkansas won the national championship in 1994 and lost to U-C-L-A in the finals last season.
Arkansas' defeat was the first loss for the Southeastern Conference in 10 games in this tournament. Kentucky had earlier extended the streak to nine games when it beat Utah in the Midwest Region earlier tonight.
The Minutemen took control of the game by scoring the first 13 points of the game. Donta Bright started the game with a basket and added a three-point play to make it 5-0.
Dingle added two free throws to make it 7-0 when Camby entered the game with 18:28 to play. Camby had a pair of baskets around a basket by Weeks to make it 13-0.
Bradley finally ended Arkansas' scoring drought with a pair of free throws at the 16:25 mark. The Razorbacks shot just 5-of-27 (18.5 per cent) in the first half and only kept it close by making 14-of-16 foul shots. “I don't think it matters what type of team you are playing and you come out there and are in a 13-0 hole,” said Arkansas forward Darnell Robinson. “Also, it did not help that we are not shooting the ball too well.”
“It seemed like we couldn't throw the ball into the ocean,” Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. “We missed four layups to start the second half, four layups. Those are missed opportunities. We put ourselves in a big hole.”
Arkansas pulled within 43-26 on a hook shot by Darnell Robinson with 17:56 to play, but the Minutemen responded with a 15-4 tear as Weeks made four free throws and Dingle and Travieso added three points apiece.
Massachusetts shot 40 per cent (27-of-67) from the field, but made only 21-of-33 from the foul line. Travieso grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for the Minutemen, who were 4-of-15 from three-point range.
Lee Wilson also scored 12 points for Arkansas, which shot just 34 per cent (22-of-64) from the floor. The Razorbacks committed 25 turnovers, leading to 24 Massachusetts' points. Arkansas went to the line just twice in the second half while the Minutemen were 13-of-19 from the stripe in the final 20 minutes.
“I told my kids they were overachievers,” added Richardson. “I've never had a group that worked so hard. I know what it's like to get here, but I told them that now they had to hit the books, get their education.”
Razor-sharpe UMass rips Arkansas
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1996
ATLANTA – For the past two weeks, they've uttered the word with confidence and caution. Now University of Massachusetts players, coaches and fans can say it aloud.
The NCAA East Regional's marquee matchup is set. Both teams made certain of that last night. Even with Marcus Camby on the bench at the start of the game because he had been late for the bus to the team shootaround, the No. 1- ranked and top-seeded Minutemen routed 12th-seeded Arkansas, 79-63, jumping out to a 13-0 lead and riding it to their second East Regional final in as many years. UMass (34-1) will meet the second-seeded Hoyas tomorrow at 6 p.m. for a trip to next weekend's Final Four at East Rutherford, N.J. Georgetown did its part by rallying from a first-half deficit to defeat third-seeded Texas Tech, 98-90.
“I think we did what we had to do to win. We made it tough on Arkansas, which was what we wanted to do,” said UMass coach John Calipari, whose team held Arkansas to 19 percent shooting from the floor in the first half on the way to a 40-24 lead at the break. “We put the pressure on them to have to make plays.”
Now come the Hoyas, long considered the most imposing obstacle on UMass' Final Four march.
“They play fast, they play physical and they play at all speeds. We're going to have to be prepared for whatever they throw at us,” said Camby, who probably won't do much sightseeing before the game, considering what happened to him yesterday.
Calipari instructed his team to escape the drudgery of the team hotel, and Camby got stuck in traffic on the way back. Because he was late for the bus, Calipari followed team policy and benched him for the start, though he was in the game after just 1:13. Forward/center Tyrone Weeks started in his place and finished with a game-high 16 points.
Ever since Georgetown flashed across the screen as the No. 2 seed in the East on the NCAA tournament pairings show, the Minutemen faithful have talked about the possible matchup.
For Georgetown, it means going to the Final Four for the first time since it was upset in the storied 1985 final by Villanova. For UMass, it means going to the Final Four for the first time ever.
“Last year was a learning experience for us,” said Calipari, thinking back to the Minutemen's loss to Oklahoma State in the East final. “It was an opportunity to learn about our program. We learned as a team and I learned as a coach. This time we will be better prepared.”
Preparation was no problem against Arkansas, Camby or no Camby. UMass got off to a tremendous start. Donta Bright got things going with 5 straight points, including a 3-point play, and Dana Dingle followed with a drive and a put-back.
Camby scored on a fadeaway, and after Arkansas failed to convert on its next possession, Weeks scored on a put-back of a Camby miss.
Following a Razorback timeout, Camby completed the run on a pull-up with 17:17 left in the first half. Arkansas scored its first points on two free throws by center Lee Wilson with 16:25 left and got a rousing ovation from the crowd.
A driving off-balance shot by Arkansas guard Kareem Reid cut the lead to 13-4, and after the Razorbacks stunted the Minutemen in the backcourt with their pressure, Calipari called a timeout.
When play resumed, the Minutemen continued to have problems with the Razorbacks' pressure, which began to pick up in the half-court after made free throws. Arkansas outscored UMass, 6-2 (all on free throws), to cut the gap to 15-10.
But UMass got a 3-point basket from Carmelo Travieso, showing no ill effects from his spill off a press conference dais the day before. After a turnover by Pat Bradley of Everett, Mass., the Minutemen took a 20-10 lead when Camby scored on a put-back of a Bright miss.
The second half was much like the first. Camby scored on a free throw with 7:00 left to give the Minutemen a 67-44 lead. By then, many of the crowd of 34,614 (largest in Georgia history to watch a basketball game) had flocked to the exits.
They'll be back for tomorrow's showdown.
Ahoy! Hoya test is all that's left
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1996
ATLANTA – Georgetown wanted UMass and UMass wanted Georgetown, and nobody wanted it more than CBS. Get ready to take the phone off the hook because tomorrow night at 6, it's going to happen.
Georgetown set it up with its frenzied 98-90 victory over Texas Tech in the first game of a Georgia Dome NCAA East Regional doubleheader last night, and UMass made it a reality with a surprisingly easy 79-63 dispatch of fuzzy- cheeked Arkansas in the nightcap.
There was some question about whether there would be a second game, because if Game 1 had gone any longer, it might have run into a local curfew. There were 59 personal fouls called and 81 free throws shot during Georgetown's victory over Texas Tech. An East Regional-record six players fouled out, one of them (Georgetown's human condo, Jahidi White) needing only seven minutes to do so. The game dragged on for an astonishing 2 hours 40 minutes, in part because of overzealous officiating and in part because of the animated play of some very talented athletes.
“The officials were calling a lot of fouls both ways because both teams were playing aggressively,” analyzed Georgetown coach John Thompson. “There were times when I thought the game was never going to end.”
Gee, Coach, you mean perhaps the final two minutes and change, which were clocked in excess of 28 minutes?
At any rate, UMass and Arkansas tipped off at 10:47, which brought back memories of the four midnight starts coach John Calipari's teams made for ESPN back when UMass was a hunter and not a huntee.
Any food-gathering latecomers must have thought the game was being played by computer because by the time Marcus Camby entered, it was 7-0 and the thing wasn't even 75 seconds along. You read that “by the time Camby entered the game” part correctly. For reasons which were unknown to all media observers (including the UMass broadcast crew) at tip-off time, Camby was replaced in the starting lineup by Tyrone Weeks. ” 'Coach's Decision' is all I can tell you,” said sports information director Bill Strickland at halftime. “Hopefully, he'll tell us more later.” (In fact, Coach Cal revealed after the game that Camby had been benched for being late for a team shootaround because he was caught in traffic.)
It's been a long time since UMass came out and really played a serious two-way, pedal-to-the-metal game, the last such occasion probably being the second Temple game (84-55). UMass has had nice defensive moments, nice offensive moments and nice move-the-ball moments, but the Minutemen have managed to put some suspense in just about every one of their games during the past six weeks or so.
They came out sizzling last night, however. Donta Bright hit a jumper to start and then stole the inbounds pass for an old-fashioned 3-point play, making it 5-0 in dramatic fashion. The lead grew to 13-0 before center Lee Wilson got the Razorbacks off the schneid with a pair of free throws.
Speaking of same, remind Nolan Richardson to send a thank you note to the Naismith Estate for the old boy's thoughtfulness in inventing the foul shot as a means of scoring. The Razorbacks were 14 for 16 from the line in the first half, which helped offset execrable shooting from the floor: 5 for 27 (19 percent).
Calipari's only real concern at halftime was that too many of his big people had incurred the wrath of the zebras. By intermission, Camby and Weeks had three personals apiece while backup forward/center Inus Norville had four. Rigoberto Nunez and Ted Cottrell were seen warming up in the bullpen.
The trip to Atlanta had gotten off to a weird and frightening start the day before when Carmelo Travieso entered an interview room and wound up toppling off a 4-foot-high platform before getting a chance to open his mouth. There had been a great deal of speculation about Travieso's health before this game, but he put fears to rest early, combining with backcourt mate Edgar Padilla to create some steals and drilling an early 3-pointer. It doesn't appear anyone has to worry about Carmelo.
Now Georgetown and UMass can start worrying about each other. UMass had some very sloppy sequences against the Arkansas press, which is a Double A affair compared to Georgetown's big league version. If UMass does not take better care of the basketball against Georgetown than it did against Arkansas, it will be a very embarrassing evening for the Minutemen.
And Georgetown can start figuring out how it will deal with the best half- court defensive team in America. There is no smarter or more precise team than UMass, and Georgetown is fueled more by energy and emotion than it is by paying attention to basketball nuances.
But as far as this particular game was concerned, it was a classic case of Boys vs. Men. Arkansas did very well to get this far, but UMass has loftier ambitions than a simple trip to the Sweet 16. People keep doubting the Minutemen, but they just keep winning and winning, and now they are one victory away from the Final Four.
Camby was late – So were Razorbacks
By Michael Vega, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1996
ATLANTA – To begin with, it was over almost as soon as it started.
The game was barely 2 minutes 10 seconds old when Arkansas – the Southeastern Conference team whose motto has been “40 Minutes of Hell” – looked to coach Nolan Richardson for redemption from the devil of a time it was having against Massachusetts.
After he watched as the Minutemen reeled off 11 unanswered points, Richardson did the only thing that could bring a temporary halt to the carnage.
He called a 20-second timeout.
In the end, it did no good.
“You have to congratulate UMass,” Richardson said after the 79-63 NCAA East Regional semifinal decision was in the books last night. “They played one of their best basketball games and just dominated both ends of the floor. We missed four layups to start the game. I mean, four layups. You can't afford to do that against a team of this caliber. But we put ourselves in a big hole and it was a constant battle to come back.”
Arkansas hit 5 of 27 shots in the first half and committed 13 turnovers, but UMass struck a mortal blow with a 13-0 opening run.
“We made it tough on them, which is what we wanted to do,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “We put the pressure on them to make the plays. We wanted to make it hard for them.”
The only lingering question wasn't about the outcome, but why Marcus Camby did not start.
Calipari explained that Camby was late for the team bus to yesterday's shootaround. Calipari also indicated that he had ordered Camby and the rest of the team “to get away from the team hotel because I didn't want them sleeping all day in their rooms.
“You're talking about a guy who hasn't a missed a meal, a practice, a bus – anything,” Calipari said. “I just said I've got to be consistent with how I deal with all my young men. I just said I wasn't going to start him. I told him, 'It's not a big deal. I'm not mad at ya.' I'm the one who asked him to go out and get away from the hotel because it was a long day, and he got stuck in traffic and he felt bad.
“But as a coach, you've got to be consistent. I don't care what the game is or where it is, you've got to be consistent in how you deal with players – even if he's your star. I told the team before the game I felt good about myself because I did it and Marcus understood. He's a fabulous kid.”
Without him, the Minutemen still managed to put the game under wraps in the first two minutes. Donta Bright ignited the run with a jumper and then converted a steal into a foul-inducing layup that made it 5-0 with 19:12 to go.
Dana Dingle followed with a 10-foot jumper when, with 18:47 to go, Camby subbed for Bright and scored on a shuffle-step hook in the lane, making it 9-0. Tyrone Weeks, Camby's replacement in the starting lineup, followed with a lane jumper for the 11-0 lead. Weeks had a monster first half with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Twenty-second timeout, Arkansas.
Camby then tipped in an offensive rebound and UMass led, 13-0. Ballgame.
“I told the team that I would expect them to respond and play well without Marcus,” Calipari said. “And they did.”
Where was wake-up call?
By Jack Craig, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1996
It was worth waiting up for, but only if you were a University of Massachusetts loyalist.
Because the preceding game in Atlanta between Georgetown and Texas Tech contained too many fouls called by the officials, too many timeouts called by the coaches and too many commercials called by CBS, the Minutemen did not tip off against Arkansas in the their NCAA East Regional semifinal until 10:47 last night. The sloppy, noncompetitive game that followed did not conclude until 12:52 a.m.
The major uncertainty occurred three minutes before the game when CBS' Sean McDonough, broadcasting Wake Forest-Louisville in Minneapolis, reported that Marcus Camby would not start for UMass. No one at CBS could say why; it had just been announced. More than two hours later on SportsChannel, UMass coach John Calipari said he sat Camby down briefly because his starting center was late for the bus for a shootaround after getting caught in traffic.
Less than two minutes into the game, Camby entered and played without distinction in the first half until he committed his third foul and sat down again. No big deal. Arkansas was terribly overmatched, although announcers Gus Johnson and Quinn Buckner could not bring themselves to state it.
Early in the second half with UMass up by 26, CBS swung even the Boston audience on Channel 4 to the final minute of the 1-point Wake Forest-Louisville game. Anything to stay awake in the Eastern time zone.
Pity CBS when it had to bring the late-night neutral fans who had been watching the thriller in Minneapolis to Atlanta, where UMass led by 26 again.
Georgetown's hard-fought win over underdog Texas Tech in the early game sets up a showdown between the Hoyas and Minutemen tomorrow night. And it will start at 6 p.m., meaning that unlike last night, the game is assured of finishing the same day it began.
Everything's a laughing matter for UMass' Travieso
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1996
ATLANTA – You couldn't blame Carmelo Travieso's teammates for their nonstop chuckles. The University of Massachusetts players obviously were concerned about the guard's health when he fell from the dais before a press conference Wednesday, winding up with a sore back that did not keep him out of last night's NCAA East Regional semifinal against Arkansas. But for a moment, they thought the junior was up to one of his pranks.
Travieso, you see, is the team's practical joker. At one time or another, he has caught his teammates, coaches and others off guard with ploys that have made for humorous – if not embarrassing – moments.
“I just try to do things to make people laugh. I like to make people laugh,” said Travieso. “Just little things here and there. I make fun of people and I call people nicknames. I'm not the only one, but it seems like . . . well, I guess I am the only one.”
One of Travieso's favorite tricks is to hop off an elevator whenever a heavyset person gets on – for fear it will plunge to the ground. Though he is among the smallest players on the team, he has uncannily strong arms and often outwrestles the taller players, pinning them to the floor.
Then he and other players tease the taller player so much that the target charges Travieso, “and I trip him up or push him up on a table and put juice on him. Looking back on it now, I feel bad that I did it.”
Travieso believes someone has to take it upon himself to keep the team loose. “They're just humor things, things to get people to relax,” he said. “That's one thing I do bring to this team.
“When things get stressed out or we're panicking about whatever – a bad practice or a hard practice – I work just as hard as anyone else, but I keep the team at a level where we know it's not do-or-die or that coach John Calipari is not going to shoot us.”
As is the case with most practical jokers, Travieso sometimes comes close to crossing the line between humorous and offensive. “One time former UMass center Jeff Meyer was doing an interview for television,” he said, “and he had his baby in his hands and I pulled his pants down.
“I shouldn't have done that one, because Jeff didn't know what to do. He didn't know whether to pull up his pants or drop the baby. I was actually scared afterward because I didn't know what he was going to do. I knew I had done that to other people, like if they're taking pictures, they'd drop the camera because they'd pull their pants up.”
Perhaps that's why Travieso's teammates couldn't help but laugh when they saw he was clearly embarrassed by his mishap Wednesday. “He's the biggest joker on the team, so when he was down, we thought he was joking a little bit,” said Dana Dingle. “Then we realized it wasn't a joke anymore.”
“They were laughing so much they made me laugh,” said Travieso. “But this is something you just have to laugh at. But I wasn't laughing until they made me laugh.”
Still, his teammates gave him a rousing cheer when Travieso took the floor during Wednesday's shootaround. “That fall will be the Play of the Day,” said teammate Charlton Clarke. “He'll probably get an ESPY.”
When Travieso was a freshman, however, he laughed very little. In addition to shooting poorly and playing sparingly, he often found himself on the cutting edge of Calipari's pointed remarks.
“That was my problem as a freshman,” he said. “I thought he was yelling at me all the time. I thought he didn't like me, but after a while, I saw he was yelling at everybody. You can't take it personal. He just told me he wanted me to be a good player and he saw things in me.”
Now Travieso makes certain everyone else doesn't take things too personally, and that has helped to make things easier for Calipari. “I will hate to see this season end, even if we win the next four games,” he said before last night's contest. “This is a unique group. There is no controversy with this team. There is very little crisis management with this group.”
There's another Camby honor
NCAA Tournament notebook
By Joe Burris and Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1996
The awards keep piling up for University of Massachusetts center Marcus Camby. Yesterday the junior from Hartford was named ECAC District 1 Player of the Year.
The honor is Camby's 17th this season, the fourth time he has been named player of the year. The other player of the year honors came from The Sporting News, Basketball Weekly and CBS/Chevrolet.
Camby, who entered last night's NCAA East Regional against Arkansas at Atlanta averaging 20.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.9 blocks a game, is the first UMass player to register 100 blocks in three consecutive seasons.
Mean on table for Clinton, Kennedy bet
By Chris Black, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1996
WASHINGTON – President Clinton and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy yesterday set a wager of hometown cuisines for the victor of last night's University of Massachusetts-Arkansas NCAA game in Atlanta.
Clinton, the former governor of Arkansas and an ardent University of Arkansas fan, pledged to host a tamale dinner for Kennedy at Doe's Eat and Drink Place in Little Rock, a well-known downtown restaurant that serves huge slabs of beef and margaritas in frosted beer mugs, if his team loses the game.
If UMass loses, Kennedy said he would host a lobster dinner at Anthony's Pier 4 in Boston, a popular seafood restaurant on the waterfront run by Anthony Athanas.
Kennedy gave the president a three-point advantage.
UMass starts fast, never lets up
By Mike Celizic, The Bergen Record Sports Columnist, 3/22/1996
ATLANTA – The University of Arkansas justified everyone's amazement that it had gotten into the round of 16 with a demonstration of awful shooting and inept ball control the likes of which even the Nets in their worst days would have had difficulty matching.
Facing top-seeded UMass, the Razorbacks turned from Cinderella into just cinders, their hopes torched by their inability to hit a basket in a 79-63 loss to the Minutemen on Thursday night in an East regional semifinal.
In the first half, the team that had shot 50 percent in knocking Penn State out of the tournament shot 18.5 percent, and nothing it did after that was going to be enough against the Minutemen, who took a 16-point lead into the locker room at halftime, and were never seriously challenged thereafter.
The only question was whether the Atlanta Olympic organizers, who are trying to pave a nearby park with commemorative bricks, would be able to finish the job with those provided by Arkansas.
The Minutemen go on Saturday to face Georgetown, 98-90 winners over Texas Tech, with a trip to East Rutherford and the Final Four on the line.
UMass, which coach John Calipari has called “the best team I've ever coached,” showed that teamwork and the depth it is built on in making chitlins of the Hogs. The Minutemen lost All-America center Marcus Camby with three fouls with 9:17 left in the first half, and forward Tyrone Weeks sat down, also with three fouls just before the end of the half.
But Dana Dingle, Charlton Clarke, and even Rigoberto Nunez stepped up and played the same smothering defense and tough half-court offense that has taken the team to a 34-1 record.
If Arkansas had any illusions that it could rip off a second-half run to climb back into it, UMass quickly dissuaded them, with an 18-4 run to start the half, giving the Minutemen a 58-30 lead with 12:40 left. The only thing that kept it from being a complete blowout was the suddenly hot hand of freshman guard Pat Bradley, who, with a streak of two three-pointers and two two-pointers cut the lead to 18 points at 60-42 with 8:46 to go. The Razorbacks didn't get any closer until garbage time.
With 5:30 to go, Calipari, with a 22-point lead, let Camby, who had been fouled hard by Darnell Robinson, sit down. The game went on, but it was over just the same.
UMass came out smoking and stroking as Donta Bright and Camby combined to score nine quick points as the Minutemen ran out to a 13-0 lead with less than four minutes gone in the half.
Arkansas, playing a trapping, full-court defense, rallied behind guard Kareem Reid and forward Lee Wilson. An 8-2 run got the Razorbacks within five at 15-10 with 14:06 to play. But Carmelo Travieso hit a three, Camby threw down a big jam off a Bright miss, and Travieso hit the front half of a one-and-one to take the lead back to 11, at 21-10, with 11:54 remaining.
The Razorbacks tried to stop the bleeding with a timeout, but Dingle got a steal and a layup to cap an 8-0 run before Arkansas got a free throw.
But Nolan Richardson's team couldn't hit the floor if it fell out of bed. They shot 5-of-27 (18.5 percent) from the field in the first half, and, if it hadn't been for a 14-of-16 effort from the line, they could have gone home at halftime and no one would have noticed.
With 9:17 to go, the Razorbacks got a big break when Camby picked up his third foul trying to block a drive by Reid, who led Arkansas with 10 first-half points. Playing a lineup with no one taller than 6-foot-7, UMass didn't crack. Dingle (nine points in the half) and Weeks picked up the scoring slack, and Travieso and Edgar Padilla consistently fought off the Arkansas full-court press.
Even with Weeks (10 points) taking a seat with 1:23 to go in the half with his third foul, Arkansas left the court at the short end of a 40-24 score.
Arkansas played hard and forced frequent turnovers, but didn't have the talent to turn the turnovers into points. Other than Reid, a freshman from the Bronx, the Razorbacks' talent level is several notches below that of the team that played in two successive championship games, winning the 1994 title. They'll be back. But not this year.
ARKANSAS (63) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Hood 18 1-6 3-4 1-5 0 4 5 Robinson 17 3-6 0-0 0-2 0 4 6 Reid 38 3-11 6-6 1-3 8 1 12 Towns 20 0-6 0-0 0-1 1 3 0 Bradley 37 6-10 0-0 1-3 0 2 15 Wilson 18 3-7 6-6 3-6 1 2 12 Williams 15 1-4 0-0 2-3 0 3 2 Davis 9 1-4 0-0 2-4 0 4 2 Thompson 22 4-9 1-2 4-6 2 3 9 Hall 5 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 0 Whitney 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-64 16-18 14-34 14 26 63 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.344, FT-.889. 3-Point Goals: 3-15, .200 (Robinson 0-1, Reid 0-2, Towns 0-4, Bradley 3-6, Davis 0-1, Thompson 0-1). Team rebounds: 10. Blocked shots: 4 (Davis 2, Wilson, Williams). Turnovers: 25 (Reid 6, Davis 4, Robinson 4, Bradley 3, Hood 2, Wilson 2, Thompson, Towns, Williams). Steals: 9 (Bradley 2, Wilson 2, Davis, Reid, Robinson, Thompson, Towns). MASSACHUSETTS (79) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Dingle 30 4-9 4-7 3-7 4 0 12 Bright 33 5-14 1-1 1-6 0 3 11 Weeks 25 5-9 6-8 4-7 1 3 16 E Padilla 31 2-5 0-0 2-3 5 3 5 Travieso 35 5-14 1-1 2-8 3 0 14 Camby 18 5-8 5-10 4-7 1 3 15 Norville 8 0-0 1-2 0-2 0 5 1 Clarke 12 0-4 1-2 1-1 1 0 1 Nunez 3 1-3 0-0 1-1 0 1 2 Cottrell 3 0-1 2-2 1-2 0 0 2 G Padilla 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 Maclay 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Burns 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 27-67 21-33 19-44 17 18 79 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.403, FT-.636. 3-Point Goals: 4-15, .267 (Bright 0-1, E Padilla 1-2, Travieso 3-9, Clarke 0-2, Nunez 0-1). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 7 (Camby 3, Weeks 2, Travieso, Cottrell). Turnovers: 21 (Bright 6, Travieso 4, Clarke 3, E Padilla 2, Weeks 2, Camby, Dingle, Norville, Nunez). Steals: 12 (E Padilla 5, Bright 2, Dingle 2, Travieso 2, Clarke). __________________________________ Arkansas 24 39 - 63 Massachusetts 40 39 - 79 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 34,614. Officials: Dave Libbey, Frank Bosone, Rick Hartzell.