MHERST - As shoddy and inconsistent as they were, they kept putting themselves in position for last-minute reprieves.
Intially, it worked. But in the final analysis, the University of Massachusetts couldn't capitalize, and the University of Rhode Island left Mullins Center last night with a thrilling 87-85 Atlantic 10 victory after the first double-overtime game in the arena's history.
UMass, ranked 18th in the nation, certainly didn't stint on drama. Charlton Clarke hit a 3-point basket with 1.6 seconds left in regulation, capping a rally that brought the Minutemen back from a 13-point second-half deficit and forced overtime. Then Clarke hit three free throws with 6.3 seconds left in the first OT, enabling the Minutemen, who had trailed by 6, to force another extra session.
This time there was no salvation. UMass fell behind by 4 in the second OT and cut the lead to 1 with 4.8 seconds left. But center Lari Ketner caught a court-length pass from Chris Kirkland and fired a turnaround 3-point attempt that hit the front of the rim.
When it didn't drop, URI had its first win over UMass since Feb. 20, 1993, a span of 11 games. Cuttino Mobley had a game-high 26 points for URI (19-6, 10-3), which pulled within a game of UMass (19-7, 11-2) in the A-10 East.
The Rams withstood a remarkable effort by Clarke (24 points, 4 assists, 2 steals), who was more than willing to fire the crucial treys even though UMass was 2 for 15 from 3-point range before his bucket that forced OT. While hitting the free throws that forced the second OT, he flashed a cool smile with each attempt.
''Charlton Clarke, he hits that 3-pointer and then those free throws,'' said URI coach Jim Harrick. ''That was March Madness two weeks early.''
But it wasn't enough to beat URI, which was without starter Luther Clay (flu symptoms). The Rams' 2-3 zone held UMass to 34 percent shooting in the game, and offensively, URI withstood stiff Minutemen pressure with several key buckets.
Senior guard Tyson Wheeler called it the biggest win of his collegiate career. ''We hadn't beaten them in a long time,'' said Wheeler, who didn't see Ketner's final attempt and thought it had gone in. ''We played our hearts out.''
In the second overtime, UMass took an 81-79 lead on a turnaround jumper by Ketner with 3:40 to go. But URI responded with a free throw by Clay's replacement, David Arigbabu, and a pull-up jumper by Mobley to go ahead, 82-81. With 54.6 seconds left, Wheeler hit an off-balance jumper to put the Rams up, 84-81.
Kirkland cut it to 2 on a free throw with 34.7 seconds left. But Wheeler sank two free throws with 20 seconds left. Fans began flocking to the exits, but some returned to their seats when Clarke hit a trey with 6.4 seconds left, cutting the lead to 1. Mobley hit a free throw with 4.8 seconds left and missed the second, and UMass got the ball back with 1.8 seconds to go, setting up the game's final play.
''We couldn't call anything because we were out of timeouts,'' said UMass coach Bruiser Flint.
Still, the Minutemen kept putting themselves in position to win, spurred on by arguably the most raucous sellout crowd this season.
''It's a tough game all around,'' said Clarke. ''We had chances to put them away; they had chances to put us away. That's just the way the ball bounces. They hit some tough shots down the end, but we just have to gather ourselves up for Saturday'' against St. Joseph's.
That might be tough to do for some - namely, Flint, who once again was bothered by missed opportunities and sluggish efforts by several players.
''[URI] said in the game that this was a must win for them,'' said Flint, who uttered a couple of four-letter words in frustration, then quickly apologized. ''Temple [which routed UMass at home Feb. 3] said it was a must win for them, too. Our team wasn't ready. We fought back tonight. Charlton, what can you way about his performance? We fought back. But we got a couple of guys who just weren't ready. That's what happens when you have some young guys. Rhode Island played with a sense of urgency, and we didn't.''
arch Madness came two weeks early for the Massachusetts men's basketball team and the Rhode Island Rams last night.
The two teams fought for 40 minutes of regulation and for two overtime sessions - the first in William D. Mullins Center history - before the Rams escaped with an 87-85 victory in front of a deafening sellout crowd of 9,493 at the Mullins Center.
Mixed results on the Lari Ketner dunks.
Rhode Island (19-6, 10-3) took over from there. Senior guard Tyson Wheeler beat Monty Mack for a lay-in and hit a pair of free throws to give the Rams an 86-82 edge with 20 seconds remaining.
Clarke then hit a trey from well beyond the arc - his fourth of the game - to pull UMass to within a point. Ram guard Cuttino Mobley, the game's high scorer with 26 points, hit a free throw to put Rhode Island up by two.
With 1.9 seconds left, Chris Kirkland hit Lari Ketner on a full-court pass, but Ketner's turnaround from 18-feet fell just short.
"The fans sure got their money's worth," Rhode Island coach Jim Harrick said. "This was one of the greatest efforts ever."
"It was a must-win game for them, and they came in and played that way," Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint said.
Mobley's three with 16:57 remaining in regulation gave the Rams their biggest lead of the game at 13. But the Minutemen, behind 18 points from Ketner and 16 from Mack, clawed their way back into the ball game with a 7-0 run.
Chris Kirkland hit a short jumper then converted on a three-point play to cut the deficit to eight, 46-38, before Clarke connected on a long jump shot.
Preston Murphy extended the Rams lead to 11 with a pair of free throws and a lay-in with 11:10 to play.
Mobley converted on two foul shots with 52 seconds left to give the Rams a six-point edge, 67-61. Following a Ketner put-back, Mack answered with an off-balance one- hander in the lane to pull UMass to within a basket, 67-65.
With 10 seconds left, Antonio Reynolds-Dean (20 points, 11 rebounds) hit only one free throw and UMass - without a timeout - was forced to take the ball the length of the court. Jonathan DePina found Clarke, who knocked down a three from the right wing that sent the game into its first overtime.
"When the team came to me, I tried to take it to another level," Clarke said. "The student body was great behind me, and coach really got me going."
The Ram guard trio of Mobley, Murphy and Wheeler avenged a 17-point loss at the hands of the Minutemen on Jan. 29. The three combined for 54 points.
"We just wanted to show that we [Wheeler and Mobley] are the best 1-2 punch in the A-10," Mobley said.
"We came out with the attitude that we're the best guards in the country," said Wheeler, who finished with 17 points and four assists. "We didn't let down."
With the victory, the Rams ended a 10-game slide against the Minutemen.
"It's been a long, long time," Wheeler said. "We really wanted this one."
"It couldn't have come at a better time for us," Harrick said.
With the win, Rhode Island moves to within a game of Massachusetts in the A-10 East Division heading into the final two weeks of conference play.
UMass was plagued by a soft defensive effort - Rhode Island shot 51 percent in the first half - and an inconsistent showing on offense. The Minutemen shot only 34 percent and committed seven turnovers.
But the Achilles heel for the Minutemen was the foul line, where they converted on only 22-of-33 attempts.
"We did not hit our free throws," Flint said. "That was the game. They hit theirs and had two big rebounds off of them."
MHERST, Mass. -- The curse has been lifted.
It took a wild, crazy, improbable game to do it, but Rhode Island finally beat Massachusetts.
The Rams did it by surviving one of the most exciting games in school history, outlasting the Minutemen, 87-85, in double overtime before a frenzied crowd of 9,493 at the Mullins Center.
The Rams led by 13 in the second half. They led through the final 29-plus minutes of regulation before UMass tied it at 68 on Charlton Clarke's three-pointer with two seconds left.
URI (19-6, 10-3) led by six with less than one minute left in the first overtime. Again the determined Minutemen came back. They tied it this time, 78-78, when Clarke was fouled by Preston Murphy on a three-point attempt with six seconds left and made all three free throws.
Finally, in the second overtime, URI's two senior guards, Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler, came through with the big plays that allowed the Rams to pull it out.
Wheeler and Mobley combined for the last seven URI points, getting the lead to 86-82 so that not even another comeback by the Minutemen could prevent URI from getting the decision. Not that Massachusetts didn't try. It closed to 86-85 on another three-pointer by Clarke with six seconds left. A foul shot by Mobley made it 87-85. When Mobley missed the second, Massachusetts got the ball back with 1.9 seconds left.
Chris Kirkland inbounded the ball about 75 feet to Lari Ketner. His shot bounced off the rim as time expired.
Oh yes, URI played all the way without its center, Luther Clay, who was sidelined because of the flu.
``It was a great win for us,'' was the way Wheeler described it. ``We deserved the victory. We played our hearts out.''
``I thought we won the game three times,'' coach Jim Harrick said. ``I thought we should have won it in regulation, I thought we should have won it in the first overtime and I thought we should have won it in the second overtime.''
``Basketball isn't for the weak-minded,'' Mobley said. ``If you are weak-minded, you won't succeed.''
Never in their careers has this veteran URI team showed as much heart and determination.
Mobley and Wheeler, who were shut down in the first meeting with Massachusetts last month (UMass won that easily, 74-57), were the biggest of many URI heroes. Mobley finished with 26 points, Wheeler 17, 8 in the two overtimes, including a spectacular driving hoop which gave URI the cushion it needed to pull it out.
``Coach was on us after the last game about how their guards shut us down,'' Mobley said. ``We wanted to show we have the best backcourt in the conference.''
Still, the guards were far from the only heroes. Antonio Reynolds-Dean, battling the bigger UMass players inside, also was huge with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Preston Murphy added 11 points and David Arigbabu, playing at center in place of Clay, had 9 points and 6 rebounds.
Clarke not only made the clutch shots for UMass. He played strongly all night and had 24 points. He was 8-for-8 from the foul line and now has made 26 in a row.
Monty Mack wasn't exactly on fire with 6-19 shooting.
In a game filled with so many twists and turns and unlikely happenings, perhaps the biggest key of all was that even without its center, URI survived inside. The Rams did it by coming out in a 2-3 zone defense and staying in that alignment all night, challenging UMass to hit the outside shots.
As it was, Massachusetts scored 50 points in the paint (to 26 for URI) and had 17 second-chance points to 10 for the Rams. But the defense did exactly what URI hoped it would, holding the Minutemen to just 34-percent shooting (29 of 85) and just 5 of 20 three-pointers.
URI took advantage of UMass' shooting problem early and built a 36-26 lead late in the first half. The lead was cut to five at the half, largely because of a technical called on URI coach Jim Harrick in the final minute of the half, a call that resulted in a five-point play for Massachusetts. Harrick was upset that Massachusetts had gone the final 13 minutes of the first half without being called for a foul.
URI led by as many as 13, at 46-33, before Massachusetts fought back. Still, URI kept the lead until Clarke's dramatic three-pointer with two seconds left in regulation.
The Rams had chances to put it away, but Reynolds-Dean missed two foul shots, including the front end of a one-and-one, in the final 25 seconds.
Mobley and Wheeler combined for 9 of URI's 10 points in the first overtime. A three-pointer by Mobley made it 78-72 with 1:10 left, but Clarke hit a trey with 56 seconds remaining, then his three free throws with six seconds left to force another overtime.
Rhode Island finally won it in the second extra-session, taking the lead at 82-81 on a jumper by Mobley. It then went up by three on Wheeler's spectacular drive with 52 seconds left, one on which he went up, faked a pass to the corner then put the ball in underhanded.
It all added up to the unlikeliest of nights for the Rams to finally put away the UMass hex.
``But now it's over. Now we've beaten Massachusetts,'' Wheeler said.
It came in only the ninth game in school history to go into a second overtime.
``This is like March madness two weeks early'' is the way Harrick summed up the wild night.
MHERST, Mass. -- David Arigbabu will never forget his first start for URI.
The 6-8 junior was forced into a starting role when Luther Clay could not go because of the flu last night. Arigabu responded with a big effort, scoring 9 points and getting 6 rebounds as the Rams nipped Massachusetts, 87-75 in double overtime at the Mullins Center.
Even beyound his numbers, Arigbabu bodied up against the bigger Minutemen pivot men, Lari Ketner and Ajmal Basit, all night. He played a career high 39 minutes.
``He made that one great driving basket,'' URI coach Jim Harrick said of a move on which Arigbabu spun past Ketner in the second half.
``It takes five guys to win a game. That's what we had tonight,'' said Cuttino Mobley, who led URI with 26 points.
Harrick irate at officials
Harrick and all the Rams were happy when the long night was finished. But Harrick was as upset late in the first half as he has been all season. He was whistled for a technical foul which led to a five-point play for UMass.
The big turnaround came in the final 90 seconds of the first half.
The URI lead was at 36-26, after a three-pointer by Tyson Wheeler with 1:54 left. UMass came down on a break and Jonathon DePina, with the ball, ran into Wheeler. One official, William Bush, started to call a charge. Another, Mike Kitts, started to call a block.
When Bush saw what Kitts was doing, he backed off and let Kitts make the call. Thus it was a foul on Wheeler.
A few seconds later, as Tyrone Weeks was fouled going up for a shot off a rebound. Harrick, who had been screaming at Bush, kept yelling at the official, and Bush called a technical with 29 seconds left.
Weeks sunk one of his two free throws. Charlton Clarke took the tech and hit both shots. Because of the tech, UMass kept the ball and scored again when Weeks rebounded a missd shot, to cut the deficit to 36-31 at the break.
Harrick did not leave with everyone else after the buzzer. He kept staring at the three officials, who wait on the court until the players leave. Harrick continued his conversation as the officials walked past him. Harrick finally left the court to the boos of the UMass crowd.
UMass went the final 13:26 of the first half, as well as the first 5:54 of the second half without committing a foul.
League MVP a tough decision
The MVP of the Atlantic 10 probably was playing at the Mullins Center last night.
But who is he?
The conference's 10 coaches, in their weekly session yesterday with media from around the country, were constantly asked about MVP prospects.
URI coach Jim Harrick said that if ballots were cast now, he would vote for UMass center Lari Ketner. Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint said his pick would be either URI's Mobley, Ryan Perryman of Dayton, or Mike James of Duquesne. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.
However, when asked about candidates on their own teams, both Flint and Harrick had trouble deciding.
``I have two candidates, Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler,'' Harrick said. ``I'd probably lean a little bit towards Mobley. He's been so consistent. He's scored. He's rebounded. He's had assists. He's had steals. He's been our best defender. He's been really tremendous in almost every game.
Flint said he would have trouble picking one candidate from his team.
``We go through stretches where I'd say Lari. We go through stretches where I'd say Tyrone (Weeks). We go through stretches where I'd say Monty ( Mack ), or Charlton (Clarke).
Other coaches contributed to the confusion. Dayton's Oliver Purnell said he would vote for Wheeler since he could not vote for his own Ryan Perryman. Xavier's Skip Prosser said that since UMass has the best record ``it would be the best player from the best team, Massachusetts, as long as he's not a jerk.'' He did not know who that would be.
This year, the decision will be left solely to the coaches. In the past, there have been 48 votes, the coaches and three members of the media who cover each of the 12 league teams.
``The coaches weren't happy with the results last year,'' said Ray Cella, the A-10's assistant commissioner for public relations. ``They want to try it this way for a year.''
NBA invites Mobley, Wheeler
Some good news already has arrived for both Wheeler and Mobley.
Wheeler has been notified that he remains in contention for the Wooden Award as the top player in the country. That list was cut from 25 to 21.
Wheeler and Mobley have been invited to postseason camps conducted by the NBA to evaluate players for the draft.
Mobley will go to the Portsmouth, Va., Invitational April 1-4, Wheeler to the Desert Classic in Arizona , April 7-11.
MHERST, Mass. -- You think you know what payback is?
You think you know what payback is?
You don't have a clue.
You think you know what payback is?
Not if you weren't here at the Mullins Center last night, you don't.
Payback is coming here into the Mullins Center, coming in here to battle the crowd and the ``Let's Go UMass'' chants, coming in here where the Final Four banner hangs from the rafters and the ghosts of John Calipari and Marcus Camby seem to hang in the air. This place where you can almost feel the tradition that Calipari built and Bruiser Flint now maintains.
Payback is coming to this place where you never have won, against a school you have lost to 10 straight times. Payback is coming in without Luther Clay and without a whole lot of hope, and taking every punch UMass has to give and still getting back on your feet and taking some more.
Payback is beating UMass in double overtime, the same UMass team that had embarrassed the Rams three weeks ago in the Providence Civic Center.
Payback is what the Rams gave UMass last night.
And last night was more than simply payback for that horror show three weeks ago.
UMass had become the Rams' version of the Great White Whale, the nemesis that wouldn't go away. The old Yankee Conference rival that sprung out of the ashes of anonymity under Calipari to become a big-time basketball name, the dominant team in the Atlantic 10 throughout the '90s. The neighboring school that's continually been the Rams' alter ego, a visible reminder of history, where the Rams had to go as a program if they ever were truly going to go big-time in basketball.
Last night, the Rams sent UMass a message. For not too many teams come into the Mullins Center and beat UMass. Not many teams can withstand the constant defensive pressure and the physical presence, the two things that make playing the Minutemen so difficult.
But there are few things in life any sweeter than payback.
At least it seemed so last night.
Three weeks ago the Rams were manhandled by UMass in the Civic Center, a game that wasn't as close as the final score of 74-57. It was a night in which all the Rams' flaws were there for all the world to see, their lack of inside strength, their offensive difficulties when the game turns into some halfcourt street fight. Out-rebounded by almost 2-to-1. Out-scrapped. Out-toughed. Out-everythinged.
And it wasn't simply that the Rams had lost to the Minutemen. It was how they did it. Beat up in their home house, as if some bully of a neighbor had come into their backyard and forced them to cry uncle. In a game the Rams wanted as a dramatic statement but endedas an embarrassment. In what arguably had been their biggest game of the season to date, they had their worst performance.
So last night was their retribution game.
Tyrone Weeks gets surprised by the steal.
• Here in the Mullins Center.
• Here where the Rams have never won.
• Here at this school where the Rams haven't won since 1988.
• Here against the 18th-ranked team in the country.
But it was even more than that. All season long the Rams have needed that one huge win, that one dramatic statement that goes out across the basketball world like a flashing neon sign. That one signature win that takes them from a nice little team that comes close against the top teams, to a team that beats them. They had come close on the road against Stanford. They had given a great effort at both Connecticut and Cincinnati.
Close, but no cigar.
Last night, they did it.
At a very difficult place to play. And without Clay, their dominant inside presence. A night in which the Rams showd grit and heart and all those other intangibles.
And there was no shortage of URI heroes.
There was Cuttino Mobley who finished with 26, and not an easy one in the bunch. There was Antonio Reynolds-Dean, who not only had 20, but kept the Rams in the game virtually all by himself in the opening minutes, an important time when it seemed as if the Minutemen were going to take control.
There was David Arigbabu, pressed into the starting lineup when Clay came down with the flu and couldn't play. Not only did Arigbabu score nine points and garner six rebounds, he also was a physical presence that the Rams desparately needed.
Then there was Tyson Wheeler.
Odds are the game won't go into his personal highlight film, but he got the big basket in the second overtime, a dashing move down the lane through the teeth of the UMass defense, maybe the biggest basket of the game. Then he followed with two huge free throws.
Let's not forget coach Jim Harrick, either. He elected to play zone, almost daring the Minutemen to shoot from the perimeter. It was a wise move. Take away Charlton Clarke's 3-pointer at the end of regulation that tied the game and UMass struggled from the outside all night long, more bricks than a masonry.
Add it all up and it was a great night for the Rams, their best of the season, a night in which they atoned for that loss in the Civic Center three weeks ago.
Payback is so, so sweet.
MHERST - Lari Ketner caught Chris Kirkland's three-quarter-court pass two steps inside the three-point line, but the junior center's desperation shot as time expired clanged off the side of the rim.
In the longest game in the history of the Mullins Center, Rhode Island outlasted the University of Massachusetts, 87-85, in double overtime in front of a raucous sellout crowd Wednesday night.
URI gave their best effort, triple-teaming Lari Ketner here.
Senior Tyrone Weeks said he hopes the loss can be turned into a positive.
"You want to learn from this loss so we can come in next time and be prepared from the beginning of the game," he said.
This is URI's first win over UMass in its last 11 tries and the second in the last 20.
"It felt great to beat them," said senior guard Tyson Wheeler. "We haven't beaten them in a long time. Except for last time, we usually play them pretty close. We played our hearts out and we deserved victory."
Ketner put the Minutemen ahead 81-79 in the second OT, but Rhode Island's senior backcourt dominated the rest of the way. After a free throw by David Arigbabu brought the Rams within one at 81-80, shooting guard Cuttino Mobley buried a long two-pointer to put the Rams ahead to stay.
UMass had the ball trailing by just one with 12 seconds left, but Monty Mack threw the ball out of bounds to give the Rams possession.
Mike Babul quickly fouled Mobley, who hit just one free throw, but the Minutemen struggled to control the rebound, which eventually rolled out of bounds off a Ram player. But time had ticked off the clock, leaving a long pass and quick shot as UMass' only chance.
The Minutemen led 72-70 with 3:32 remaining in the first overtime, but Rhody ran off eight straight points before Charlton Clarke hit a 3-pointer and three consecutive free throws after he was fouled in three-point land to force another five minutes of action.
Mobley had three of URI's nine points in the final period and finished with a game-high 26. His backcourt mate Wheeler had four in the second overtime and finished with 17.
"Rhode Island played well," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint. "They needed this game and they came out and took it to us."
The fact that overtime even occurred was due to the crunch-time performance of Clarke, who buried a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation and three game-tying free throws at the end of the first overtime.
Monty Mack gets off the shot despite double-trouble from the Rams.
The loss drops the Minutemen to 11-2 in the Atlantic 10 and 19-7 overall. The Rams are breathing down UMass' neck in the A-10 East race with a league record of 10-3 (19-6 overall).
"This was a big win for us," Mobley said. "We hadn't really beat anybody when it was time to beat somebody. Sooner or later the games become one and done. That's how you have to play - like if you lose, you're never playing basketball again."
In the first half, the Minutemen put on a clinic on how not to shoot as UMass attempts bounced off, rolled off and banged off the Mullins Center's southwest rim. The Minutemen shot just 31 percent before intermission.
The Rams opened up a 36-26 lead with just under two minutes left in the half, but the Minutemen went on a 5-0 run heading to the lockerroom, aided by a technical foul assessed to Harrick.
The Rams grabbed momentum right back, however, starting the second half with a 10-2 run to lead 46-33 with less than five minutes gone.
The Minuteman defense intensified as the hosts clawed away at the lead, cutting it to just three and setting up Clarke's dramatics.
The UMass crowd was as excited as it had been all season, which was a silver lining in the loss, according to Flint.
"The atmosphere was great," Flint said. "The fans were unbelievable tonight. The fans were fantastic."
Denied in its quest to produce victory No. 20 last night, the Minutemen will attempt to pick up the milestone victory at home Saturday at noon when they play St. Joseph's.
n the spirit of the Olympics, here's the list of medal performances from Wednesday night's University of Massachusetts vs. Rhode Island double overtime basketball game at the Mullins Center.
GOLD: The anticipation of Charlton Clarke shooting three free throws. Will he or won't he send the game into a second overtime? Three swishes.
SILVER: A game that was over not once, not twice, but three times before it was really over.
BRONZE: The death stare of Jim Harrick.
The judging here, as in the Olympics, is subjective and low marks are expected from the Russian judge. In fact, there were plenty of medal-worthy moments in this game.
With a few notable exceptions, most big hoop games at the Mullins Center over the past few years have been decided well before the final whistle. When Tim Duncan came to town two years ago, the game was a UMass blowout. When UMass trounced George Washington this year, the fans' only vocalized concerns in the second half were over increased playing time for Ross Burns.
Last night's game made up for the night the lights went out on a Wyoming snorefest last year. For a few moments, this one even reached the supersonic proportions of the Atlantic 10 championship game in 1993, when UMass beat a Temple team featuring Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie. Bleeding eardrums ruled that night.
That's why Bruiser Flint, the UMass coach who has been constantly haranguing the sedate UMass crowd for showing all the enthusiasm of a poorly-watered poinsettia, afterward credited the fans with screaming their heads off. Take note: fans' chants these days are beyond PG-13 rating.
I swear, it was a game to remember.
Harrick, the URI coach, is a great ongoing yarn. When the refereeing crew was indecisive on a charging/blocking foul toward the end of the first half and ruled against his point guard, Tyson Wheeler, the coach sent a few choice barnyard epithets in the direction of the striped arbiters.
That's a technical on the coach of the 1995 national champions. Even though that T ended up costing the Rams three points and the ball, URI guard Cuttino Mobley said there's implicit respect on the team for Harrick when he gets a T: "He's been coaching 100 years."
In a game filled with turning points, the play that won it was Mobley boxing out Ajmal Basit. The simple act of putting his rear end on Basit, a player 5 inches taller than he, gathering the defensive rebound and then steaming upcourt to hit a jumper that put URI up for good, 82-81, proved to be the difference.
Cut Harrick some respect, a refugee from UCLA where he was forced out because of recruiting violations. He made Jimmy Valvano's N.C. State national title in 1983 possible by watching his Pepperdine team forget how to shoot free throws in the final minute of their game with the Wolf Pack in an earlier round. He recovered, moved up to UCLA and eventually recruited a player (Ed O'Bannon) in 1992 who came to Westwood mostly because UNLV was about to be hit with NCAA sanctions.
What goes around comes around. As halftime ended, Harrick stood on the court staring at officials William Bush, Mike Kitts and David Day as though they had just burned his house down. The striped trio got together at the other end of the court and then dared run past Harrick, who abandoned his death stare and proceeded to throw a few more choice adjectives their way.
The night had wasn't half over.
So when is a game really over? The fans started to leave after UMass lost control of the ball under their own hoop with six seconds to go in the second overtime, trailing 86-82.
It was time to get in the car, listen to former coach Jack Leaman dissect the game on the radio for the ride home, and then hit the hay. All Rhody needed to do is inbound the ball and run out the clock. Simple?
Nothing was simple on this night. Antonio Reynolds-Dean, charged with the task of inbounding the ball, traveled with it. Former UMass coach John Calipari once called him a "UMass player" because he liked him so much. For one moment, he seemed like he was. It led to UMass nearly tying it at the buzzer.
Reynolds-Dean had missed two of three free throws in the last 25 seconds of regulation to set up one of many chapters of Clarke heroics.
"It's March Madness two weeks early," Harrick declared afterward.
It was all gold.
MHERST - In an early-season press conference a reporter asked University of Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint who he would want shooting the ball with the game on the line.
At the time Flint didn't know, saying that player had yet to step forward.
The suspense is over. Unless legendary buzzer-beater Mike Williams scrapes up some eligibility, the ball will be in Charlton Clarke's hands as the seconds tick down.
Charlton Clarke single-handedly kept the Minutemen in the game.
Clarke shot just 6-for-17 on the night as his trademark running-one-hander found iron more often than it did nylon, but none of that mattered late in the game.
UMass trailed 68-65 with nine seconds left following a missed free throw by URI's Antonio Reynolds-Dean. Lari Ketner cleared the boards and outlet the ball to Jonathan DePina, who fed Clarke for a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left on the clock to force overtime.
When Cuttino Mobley nailed a 3-pointer with 1:00 left in the first overtime to put the Rams ahead 78-72, the undertaker raised the hammer. But before he could drive the nail into UMass' coffin, Clarke came to the rescue again.
Holding the ball at the top of the key, he scanned the floor hoping to find Monty Mack open. Seeing Mack covered, Clarke threw up a deep three with a hand in his face that dropped in to cut the lead to 78-75 with 56 seconds left.
Neither team scored until the final 10 seconds. Clarke stepped up to fire the three, but was fouled by Preston Murphy. Clarke smiled as he stepped to the line and sank all three free throws to send the game to the first double overtime in the history of the Mullins Center.
"The 3-pointer was tougher," Clarke said. "The foul shots I wasn't worried about so much. That's my time to relax... take deep breaths. The 3-pointer I just had to put it up there real quick."
"Charlton Clarke is a great competitor," said Rhody senior Tyson Wheeler. "He's a great guard and he made big shots. He hit those three foul shots, so you know he was ready to win the game."
UMass head coach "Bruiser" Flint (foreground) and assistant coach Tony Barbee can only watch and pray.
"When I felt like my team needed me, I just tried to step it up to another level," said Clarke, who pointed to the game's atmosphere as a key motivator for him. "The fan support really got me into the game."
Flint praised Clarke's courage.
"He made some huge shots and he wasn't afraid to take them. He did the things we needed him to do. We talked about them and he went out and did them."
During the Atlantic 10 teleconference Monday, several A-10 coaches said they believed that the league's Player of the Year Award should go to a Minuteman because of the success the team has had. Last night, Flint mentioned Clarke as a worthy candidate.
"He's played well the last few weeks," Flint said. "He's been the heart and soul of the team. It would be a great honor for him to be the MVP of the conference."
|Rhode Island Rams||87||2OT|
|Massachusetts Minutemen (#18)||85|
|at the Mullins Center|
RHODE ISLAND (87) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp King 21 1-6 0-0 0-0 1 2 2 Reynolds-dean 45 8-12 4-7 4-11 3 3 20 Arigbabu 39 3-6 3-6 1-6 3 4 9 Mobley 43 8-13 5-7 0-4 0 4 26 Wheeler 46 5-13 6-8 1-6 4 1 17 Jefferson 8 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 1 0 Murphy 37 4-10 1-2 1-5 0 4 11 Bennett 11 1-3 0-0 1-2 0 3 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 250 30-63 19-30 8-35 11 22 87 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.476, FT-.633. 3-Point Goals: 8-22, .364 (King 0-5, Mobley 5-7, Wheeler 1-6, Murphy 2-4). Team rebounds: 9. Blocked shots: 3 (Reynolds-dean 2, Jefferson). Turnovers: 9 (Wheeler 5, Mobley 3, Reynolds-dean). Steals: 4 (King 2, Arigbabu, Murphy). MASSACHUSETTS (85) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Babul 13 1-3 0-0 1-2 1 2 2 Weeks 36 3-11 4-6 6-12 0 5 10 Ketner 42 8-17 2-7 5-11 0 1 18 Clarke 47 6-17 8-8 3-4 4 4 24 Mack 44 6-19 3-3 0-6 5 2 16 Depina 25 1-8 0-0 0-1 4 4 2 Kirkland 21 3-5 2-3 1-2 0 2 8 Basit 22 1-5 3-6 5-9 0 4 5 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 250 29-85 22-33 21-47 14 24 85 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.341, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals: 5-20, .250 (Clarke 4-12, Mack 1-8). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 4 (Weeks 3, Basit). Turnovers: 7 (Babul, Basit, Clarke, Depina, Kirkland, Mack, Weeks). Steals: 4 (Clarke 2, Mack 2). ____________________________________________ Rhode Island 36 32 10 9 - 87 Massachusetts 31 37 10 7 - 85 ____________________________________________ Technical fouls: Rhode Island 1 (URI Head Coach Harrick). A: 9,493. Officials: William Bush, Michael Kitts, David Day.