Some Big Games In Store For UMass: Tourney, BU And PC
By Fred Rosenthal, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff Reporter, December 23, 1970 (last publication before winter break)
Although most UMass intercollegiate teams will be inactive for the next five weeks or so, the Redman basketball squad will play either four or five games, one of which looms very important.
The UMass cagers will be one of the eight entrees in the First Annual Hall of Fame Holiday Basketball Tournament to be held in Springfield next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Dec. 28th, 29th and 30th).
In the first round, or day, they will face Fairfield University. Should UMass defeat the Stags, it will play at least two more games in the tourney, moving into the semi-final round on day two, and the championship round or the consolation round (to decide the third and fourth place teams) on the 30th., or third day.
If the Redmen lose to Fairfield, they'll play again, against one of the other three first-round losers. Should they lose again here, they will be eliminated. However, should they win, they will be given a shot at fifth place in the final tourney standings.
This is a double elimination tourney. The champion will have to have won all three of its games, the runnerup will be 2-1, the third place team will also be 2-1, the fourth place team will be 1-2, the fifth place team 2-1, the sixth place team 1-2, and the seventh and eighth place teams both 0-2. The latter two teams will be the only ones to play just two games. A tourney table on how the winners can progress to the title game can be found elsewhere on this page.
After the Hall of Fame affair, the Redmen take time off for exams, but during intercession they have a tough contest against Boston University away on Jan. 21 and what could be a super game (the one that looms very important) versus Providence College at Providence on Jan. 23.
The following is a round-up of the teams UMass will have to encounter in the next few weeks, including Fairfield, BU and PC.
FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY: The Redmen's opening round opponent in the Springfield classic, the Stags have a 1-3 record which they will take with them when they face UMass. The three Fairfield losses have been to strong opponents Boston College 59-56, Providence 84-54, and St. Joseph's College 89-67. Top Stags include 6'6 senior Mark Frazer, the captain, and 6'2 sophomore George Groom. The coach of Fairfield is Fred Barakat, in his first year.
THE OTHER SEVEN TEAMS IN THE HALL OF FAME TOURNEY: Colgate University, Long Island University, Springfield College (which UMass defeated last year 82-76, and one which the Redmen play on Feb. 16), St. Michael's College, Valparaiso University and American International College (which UMass has already beaten this season, 93-40, on Dec. 18).
BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Here is a team the Redmen really outpointed last winter, 103-68, at the Cage. BU's record is presently 1-3 as it has really missed the play of graduates Jim Hayes and Marty Schoepfer. All of the Terrier returnees are non-double-figure scorers, they being Bob McNamara, Rich Taylor and Tom Taylor. BU has a couple of fine sophs in Jim Garvin, a 6’7 guy who averaged 20 rebounds as a freshman, and Vic Gathers, a 5'10 guard. Boston U. was expected to get off to a slow start, but its talent should push it towards improvement over the second half. The Terriers will be tough on their home floor. BU is coached by Charles Luce, in his fifth year.
PROVIDENCE COLLEGE: Here's the big game, against the team that may hold the number one ranking in New England when the Redmen arrive at Alumni Hall to face these potent Friars. Still the number one basketball name in N.E., PC hit bad times for a couple of years, but the Friars appear to be back to their old form, one that saw them consistently win over 20 games a year and receive invitations to post-season tournaments. Back from last campaign's 14-11 PC unit are these names, Jim Larranaga, Ray Johnson, Vic Collucci, Don Lewis and Gary Wilkins. Each of these five averaged in double figures a year ago, with Larranaga’s 16.3 leading the pack. Add to these veterans a group of promising sophomores up from a 21-3 frosh squad. They are Ernie DiGregorio, Fran Costello, Nehru King and Charlie Crawford. Currently PC's mark is 5-1. DiGregorio is currently the top Friar scorer with a 16.8 average. Providence is coached by Dave Gavitt, in his second year.
To say the least, these four or five games represent an important segment of the season for the 7-0 Redmen as they look to repeat last year's rise to the top of the N.E. college basketball circle. Out of all the games though, that Providence tilt should be really something.
UMass Loses First
Redmen Fall In Thriller To PC, 73-72
By Barry Rubenstein, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Assistant Sports Editor, 1/27/1971 (first publication after winter break)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - In one of the most exciting games the UMass basketball team has played in a long time, the Redmen were dumped from the ranks of the unbeaten, 73-72, in a fiercely fought “nip'n'tuck” affair at Alumni Hall before a sell-out crowd of 3300 on January 23. UMass now stands at 11-1, and the Friars are 10-3.
If one word could sum up the UMass feeling about this game it would have to be frustration. In an unbelievable turn of events, the Redmen were handed a golden opportunity to pull an almost certain defeat out of the fire, but as it turned out it was all for naught.
The situation was straight from a Hollywood 'B' movie. With 0:42 on the clock, Ernie DiGregorio, who was unbelievable throughout the game's leading scorer with 33 points, netted two free throws to give the Friars a seemingly safe lead of four, 73-69.
With one foul to waste, DiGregorio then bumped Mike Pagliara and when the junior guard hit the charity toss, Providence once again had the ball with only 37 seconds to kill on the clock.
If events to this point had been exciting, they got downright dramatic from here on. With the Friars attempting to freeze and the Redmen going for the steal, Providence center Ray Johnson was left alone underneath the hoop. He took the pass, hesitated a second, and then went up for a seemingly uncontested layup.
But Ken Mathias came from nowhere and made a phenomenal block of Johnson's shot and both sides scrambled for the precious loose ball. In the ensuing melee, Jim Larranaga rammed Pagliara sending the junior backcourtman to the line for one-and-one, since the Friars were now in the penalty situation.
With 0:20 on the clock, UMass had one, maybe two, free throws but were trailing by three points, 73-70. UMass fans were hoping that one of two things would happen. Either Pagliara would net the first free throw and miss the second with a teammate grabbing the carom, or he would sink both and UMass would try to steal the inbounds pass.
Either way, Pagliara had to make the first. With the pressure of an undefeated season on his back, the classy guard not only connected on the first but the second as well. The score: Providence 73, UMass 72 with 0:20 still on the clock.
The press was on. Despite the fanatic efforts of the Redmen, the Friars managed to get the ball into DiGregorio, the team leader and most important at this point, the best ball handler. UMass hopes looked dim. But somehow the great guard was forced into a corner and boxed in by Mathias and Pagliara.
To the disbelief of a vast majority of the audience, DiGregorio was called for an offensive foul, and with 0:18 left the Redmen actually had an opportunity to win. UMass took time out to talk it over.
During the interlude, the crowd still murmured over the turn of events and speculated about who UMass would set up for the shot. In the game for the Redmen were Julius Erving, John Betancourt, Mathias, Pagliara, and Rick Vogeley. All good shooters.
As play began, UMass worked the ball as quickly as possible to Vogeley who was at his customary spot about fifteen feet to the left of the hoop. Vogeley took the jump shot and it went in and then out again. As seconds ticked away, there was a scramble for the rebound and it ended up in the hands of Erving right in front of the basket. But he too failed to put it in.
This time the ball was batted out to the right side where Pagliara scooped it up and fired. The ball bounced off the rim and before the Redmen could retrieve it, the horn had blown and UMass had its first loss of the year.
The game had been a close affair throughout. Providence led at halftime, 40-33, mainly on the bombing of DiGregorio who seemed unstoppable. But UMass was getting some scoring from its own backcourt as Betancourt and Pagliara were both on the mark.
The Redmen closed the gap to three, 44-41, with three minutes gone in the second stanza as Betancourt banged home four straight hoops, all from fifteen feet or more. Momentum seemed to be swinging towards the Redmen as they finally were able to tie the score at 10:22 at 54-54 and then take the lead. But DiGregorio would not quit and he put the Friars back on top.
After Nehru King hit two short jumpers for Providence the teams traded hoops until Betancourt scored from eighteen feet. Then the fun started.
LAYUP LINES - Leading scorer for UMass was Betancourt with 20. Erving, who only converted six of 18 field goal attempts, had 19 points and 17 rebounds, while Pagliara had 15 points.
In This Corner
25-1 Ain't So Bad
By Peter Pascarelli, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Assistant Sports Editor-In-Chief, 1/27/1971 (first publication after winter break)
It was the odd coincidence Saturday for both UCLA and UMass to be knocked from the unbeaten ranks among the nation's college basketball teams. Both were defeated by superlative performances by a guard; UCLA by Notre Dame's Austin Carr, and UMass by Providence's Ernie DiGregorio. Both were defeated on rabid enemy courts. Both were defeated on television.
There the similarities end, between UCLA and UMass.
The Redman loss to Providence was the type of defeat that can wreck team morale, and get a team muttering to itself for weeks to come. UMass had struggled from behind all night, and with 18 seconds left, and victory in its hands, it missed three shots all by inches.
But UMass morale won't be wrecked, for this team has too much character, and guts, and ability, and too much Jack Leaman to let one loss hurt it. And the fact that the game was headlined the next day as a Providence upset of Massachusetts, shows how far UMass basketball has come. This is the Providence of Len Wilkens, Jimmy Walker, N.I.T. fame, etc., etc., whose win over UMass, on the Friars' home court, was termed an upset.
The Redmen are into the meat of their schedule, with their next three games the biggest of the year right now. Tonight, they play nationally-ranked Fordham, Saturday Northeastern, which has won ten straight, and then Tuesday, it's down to Worcester and Holy Cross. 'Nuff said.
UMass basketball is the biggest thing on campus right now. It is probably one of the few things on campus that virtually everyone has some interest in. The Redmen did not back into this interest, they have earned it.
The Providence loss is not enough to hurt what this team has accomplished the past year and a half. The N.I.T., three successive Yankee Conference titles, and a stranglehold on a fourth, 21 straight regular season wins, nation-wide attention, and the loyalties of a complete student body.
UMass has the ability to win the rest of its games. This is not an idle, partisan, pipe dream. This instead is a realistic possibility. Its backcourt has been outstanding, especially in the past two games, with John Betancourt and Mike Pagliara scoring 35 points between them Saturday, against the taller Friars. The frontcourt has been bolstered by the consistent rebounding of Ken Mathias, the improving Chris Coffin, Rick Vogeley, a deadly shooter in substitute role, and of course, the finest basketball player ever to play for a New England college, Julius Erving.
And both the frontcourt and the backcourt will be bolstered by the presence of Tom McLaughlin, a transfer who becomes eligible against Northeastern, and who will be a valuable and versatile performer. Virtually all of the remaining have helped in some way at some time, and can be counted on to do the same the rest of the way.
Yes, the Providence loss was a tough one. It can't be forgotten. But a team with this much ability and this much to play for won't be hurt by it. Neither will a team that is coached by what has to be one of the finest hoop mentors anywhere, Jack Leaman.
Besides, a 25-1 record isn't all that bad.
Getty photos credits: Fred Kaplan /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images.
Erving Chosen By YanCon
From The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, January 27, 1971 (first publication after winter break)
UMass’ Julius Erving has been selected as the top frontcourt player of the week in the Yankee Conference for his performances in the Redman’s battles with Boston University and Providence. Vermont’s Ray Ortiz and Rhode Island’s Steve Rowell were chosen as the top backcourt and sophomore players.
Erving, a 6’6 junior forward, scored 41 points and grabbed 34 rebounds while picking up 10 assists in UMass’ victory over BU and loss to Providence.
Ortiz, who stands only 5’9, connected on 10 of 15 field goal attempts and 8 of 9 free throws for 28 points, while also getting six rebounds and five assists, as Vermont upset Fairfield, 86-74.
Touching Upon The Redman Sports Scene…
By John Sullivan, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Sports Editor, 1/27/1971 (first publication after winter break)
Coach Jack Leaman's Redmen were ranked as the number one team in New England in last week's United Press International (UPI) polls. With the loss to number three-ranked PC, it's anybody's guess which squad will get the number one nod. Each team should. The poll is released on Wednesdays and represents the voting of NE's coaches.
No longer should UMass basketball fans complain of lack of coverage by the Boston media… That city's newspapers and television stations now recognize the Redman as an excellent hoop unit and Julius Erving as a super player… A perfect example can be found in yesterday's Globe where a writer discusses some of the aftermath of the UMass-PC tilt: “The UMass-Providence game proved three things: 1. UMass is one very good basketball team that will get better when 6-4 transfer Tom McLaughlin is eligible Friday; 2. No one can leave John Betancourt and Mike Pagliara alone (oh, if they were only 6-2!); and 3. Don Lewis, who did the defensive job on Julius Erving and blocked a couple of his shots, is one of the best defensive guards in New England.”
Box score as published in The Collegian only showed the UMass starters, scoring 64 points. Eight points unaccounted for.