Redmen Meet UConn in “Must” Game
By Peter Pascarelli, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, 12/16/1969
It will be the task of what has been an inconsistent UMass basketball team to cool off a streaking, undefeated Connecticut five tonight at the Cage. Tapoff is at 8 p.m. with a freshman clash between the two teams scheduled for 6:30.
The Redmen find themselves in a must win situation versus the fast starting Huskies who are in the midst of retaining their glory hoop days of old under the leadership of new coach Dee Rowe.
UMass cannot afford to lose another Conference game since their late season schedule has them playing on enemy courts for the most part. The Redmen are one game down to both UConn and Rhode Island. Thus they must win tonight, simple as that.
Coach Jack Leaman is well aware of the importance of this one. “This is more important than any game we have played this year. We can't lose tonight or we'll be in a very bad spot to repeat as Conference champion. This is the trouble starting with all these home games with a young team. You lose one and you must make it up on the road.”
Leaman has been displeased with two things thus far, inconsistency and lack of the production he exepected at center. “I think that the inexperience of much of the team has contributed to our inability to put together two good halfs of basketball. But we must get better performances from the center position.”
In UConn Leaman's charges will face a team that as sophomores were 5-19 and as freshmen 7-8. But the combination of Rowe, and the addition of some transfers and sophomores have quickly made the Huskies a top contender for Conference and New England honors.
UConn has won simply through torrid shooting and hard-nosed rebounding from a bulky front-court. They have averaged will over 50% in field goals shooting in every game.
Leading the bombing have been two excellent guards. Bob Boyd, a 5'11 junior from Worcester has been the leading scorer averaging around 20 points, while also being the chief playmaker. He is joined by 6'4 junior Bob Staak, who is averaging around 18 points. Both are two of the best guards in the Conference, and have some backup help in sophomores Roy Brooks, Paul Zorsky and Doug Melody.
Upfront the Huskies are big and tough and include two capable scorers. Bob Taylor, a sophomore transfer at 6'5 has been averaging in double figures while pulling down a like number of rebounds. Ron Hrubala, a 6'6 junior, who was a pleasant surprise for UConn as the sophomore has picked up where he left off averaging in the teens for both points and rebounds.
Also playing a lot up front is 6'8 senior Tony Budzinsky and 6'3 junior Tom McCrocklin who came off the bench to spark UConn in their win over B.C. In addition 6'8 senior Steve Koski and 6'4 junior John Crisp who is back after a year's ineligibility, give UConn frontcourt detpth.
UMass must get a stout defensive job from its backcourt plus a hard-hosed performance from the forwards if they hope to knock the well-balanced Huskies from the undefeated ranks.
The Redmen will start Ray Ellerbrook, who appears all right after suffering a neck injury, and John Betancourt at gard, Ken Mathias at Center, with Dennis Chapman and Julius Erving at forward.
An extra added attraction, in what should be one of the big games in this hallowed rivalry, will be the fact that Connecticut has not been too inconspicuous in the recent trials and tribulations UMass has suffered with the Yankee Conference. UConn, from the illustrious President Homer Babbidge on down to the team would like nothing better than to knock off the Redmen tonight.
It should be an interesting evening.
UMass Bows to UConn, 88-71, In Weird Basketball Contest
By Peter Pascarelli, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, 12/17/1969
If anyone had told you that UMass would outrebound Connecticut, 63-41, take 88 shots to the Huskies' 64, and lose 88-71 you'd think them crazy. But that's just what happened last night at a less than full Cage.
The disciplined Huskies, who remained undefeated under their new coach Dee Rowe, had the necessary firepower at the right time to send UMass to their second Yankee Conference defeat of the young season, and put the Redmen's Conference hoop title in severe jeopardy.
As well and steady as UConn played, the fact is that UMass beat themselves. The Redmen shot an atrocious 31% from the floor and committed 17 turnovers. The score is really not indicative of the type of contest it was throughout. The Huskies scored the last 11 points of the game as UMass quit.
The Redmen started things off as if they would blow the Huskies all the way back to Storrs. UMass rushed out to score the first ten points of the game within three minutes. Julius Erving had two buckets, John Betancourt, and Ken Mathias and Dennis Chapman divided four foul shots.
UConn, however, spurred on by a vocal group of supporters that made more noise than the meager home crowd, kept battling back in the next five minutes to slowly close the gap. The bulk of the Husky scoring was done by Ron Hrubala and Bob Boyd. UMass, meanwhile, had their shooting turn from luke warm to ice cold.
UConn finally made up the deficit to tie the game at 21 with ten minutes left in the first half.
It was then that UConn made a 12-point splurge that went unanswered by the Redmen.
Bob Taylor, Steve Koski and Hrubala were the big guns that shot UConn into their first lead of the game, 33-31, with three minutes left.
The teams traded baskets the remainder of the half to give the Huskies a 38-37 lead at the half.
The first nine minutes of the second half were equally as even. UMass persistently kept close despite their inability to shoot at all consistently, and actually led at a couple of junctures. However, the more steady Huskies, who were led by sharpshooting Bob Staak, never lost control of the tempo of the game.
UConn began to stretch their lead out a bit behind Staak and Taylor, and held a 63-56 lead with seven minutes left.
Good defensive work by Betancourt, who kept UMass close earlier with some long range gunning and the shooting of Erving, Mathias and Ellerbrook, brought the Redmen within four with still 3:50 remaining.
It seemed that it was still anyone's ballgame. But it was safely in the hands of UConn.
The Huskies broke the UMass all-court press to shreads, with Staak, Boyd, Taylor and Koski all getting easy layups.
UMass meanwhile became sloppy all over the court, and suddenly the game was out of hand. After an Ellerbrook field goal, UConn ran off 11 straight points in a minute and a half, as UMass never got the ball over midcourt, save for the last few seconds.
Staak led all scorers with 22 points many of them coming on late layups, and 15 of them coming in the second half. He got a lot of help from Hrubala who fouled out with five minutes left, with 11, Taylor with 19, Boyd with 14 points and 11 assists, and Koskie with 13.
Erving had 20 points to lead UMass and also added 23 rebounds. Mathias had 16 points, 11 in the first half, Ellerbrook 13 and Betancourt and Chapman both had ten points.
It was a decidely discouraging performance by a UMass basketball team that is enormously talented. If the game ended with the talented Huskies outplaying an inexperienced UMass team, it wouldn't be so hard to take. But those last couple of minutes, when hustling ceased and chaos reigned, left a pretty lousy taste in everyone's mouth.
REDMAN RANTINGS - Nothing much was said in the UMass locker room, but the Huskies were making up for it across the way … They carried off their new miracle worker Coach Rowe, and one UConn player, said, “We are beginning to believe in this guy (Rowe) more and more. We might never lose” … UMass did a good job defensively on those two talented UConn guards Boyd and Staak, especially in the first half … UConn maintained its season record of not shooting under 50% from the floor as the Huskies hit the halfway exactly … There were only five UConn cheerleaders and around 100 fans, but they generated more noise than the UMass spirit leaders who sat for the most part passively … Rhode Island eked out a 100-54 win over New Hampshire, while Boston College lost another, this time to Penn State, 67-64.