Redmen Face Tough Stretch
Rhody Tonight; Maine Tomorrow; Syracuse On Monday
By Earle Barroll, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, February 19, 1971
“If we’re thinking about playing after March fourth, we better be ready.” These were the words of head coach Jack Leaman yesterday as his Redman hoopsters readied to face their toughest stretch of the season in number of games in number of nights, a stretch that will probably decide the length of the UMass basketball season.
With the hopes of a post season tournament still in the balance the Redmen are at home for three games in four nights against two conference rivals. Rhode Island and Maine and one of the hottest teams in the east, Syracuse, which also has its eyes on a tournament.
Tonight the action begins at Curry Hicks Cage as the Rams from URI take the court for an 8 p.m. encounter with the Redmen. Going into this contest Rhody sports a record of 4-1 in the conference and only 6-15 overall. With only the conference title left for the Rams to salvage they’ll be ready to give it their all.
Down the stretch URI has played very tough opposition and coming to the Cage will not awe the Rams. One can expect them to press the Redmen all over the court as they’re a very small, fast team having lost their regular center who flunked off the team.
In the backcourt will be the mini-guards, 5’9 Dwight Tolliver and 5’5 Ed “the flea” Molloy. The only word to describe these two is pesty. They’re always moving, going for the ball.
In the frontcourt will be Nate Adger, 6’5 at center with 6’4 Phil Hickson and 6’4 Steve Rowell at the forwards.
All five Rhody starters are hitting in double figures with Rowell leading the way with 17.4 points per game with Adger right behind at 16.7.
Although URI’s record is poor and although it lacks the big man up front, just the idea of playing UMass is enough to psych the Rams up. UMass will have to be ready.
Tomorrow night Maine comes to town with one of the biggest teams UMass will see this season. With four starters 6’5 or better the bears can be expected to crash the boards on both ends.
The toughest thing about playing Maine is the fact that there’s no time for the Redmen to prepare. The Black Bears are not a disciplined team and like to play a wide-open type of basketball. The result is they throw many shots at the hoop and if they’re hot they can be trouble.
Leading the Maine attack is 6’6 Nick Susi, a junior center, who is one of the top rebounders in New England and earlier in the season scored 26 points and pulled down 39 rebounds in one contest to be named Yan Con player of the week.
Susi will be joined up front by juniors Mark Johnson and John Sterling both 6’5 and both very strong off the boards.
In the backcourt will be Paul Bessey and Pete Gavett. Bessey, 5’11, is a junior and the field general of the Black Bears. Gavett is tall for a guard at 6’6 and is one of the finest sophomores in New England.
Reserves Bruce Stintson, 6’6, Bill Haynes, 6’6 and James Jones, 6’4 will probably all see action.
Maine will be coming into this game with a record of 7-10. A win over the Redmen would make its season a success. The Bears will be ready. The Redmen will have to be ready.
For UMass, coach Leaman has made one change for tonight’s starting lineup. Tom McLaughlin will be starting in place of Chris Coffin up front. He will be joined by Julius Erving, Ken Mathias, John Betancourt and Mike Pagliara.
Rich Vogeley will also be seeing extra action behind McLaughlin in tonight’s game. Coffin will play behind Mathias and Dempsey and or Greeley will see action if there needs to be more movement in the backcourt.
Two must games in two nights. Both opponents will be up. The Redmen will have to be ready.
HOOP NOTES - Monday’s sports page will have the preview on Syracuse… Wednesday night the Orangemen defeated St. John’s and are now 15-5… In the latest New England basketball poll Providence is still number one with UMass second, eight points back, followed by Holy Cross and Boston College… Erving is ranked third in the nation in rebounding (20.1) and 11th in scoring (27.7)… The Redmen rank sixth in team defense (63.7), ninth in field goal percentage and fourth in scoring margin (17.9)… Half time of tomorrow night’s game will feature 23 former UMass hoop captains who will be honored for their contributions to UMass basketball… UMass - George Washington tickets are still on sale at the Boyden ticket office… This season is still ahead for both the Redman hoopsters and the fans.
Redmen Take Two In YanCon Action
By Dan Kamal and Earle Barroll, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, February 22, 1971
Setting the stage for tonight’s showdown with Syracuse, the UMass hoopsters put together two solid performances over the weekend, defeating the University of Rhode Island, 83-71, on Friday night and coming back a night later to rout the University of Maine, 85-57, before a total of 8000 fans at Curry Hicks Cage. The double win set a new all-time UMass season win mark as the Redman record climbed to 19-3.
Both games went more or less as expected. In the contest against URI, the Rams played a spunky brand of basketball. They forced the play, played well underneath, and led by the shooting of Phil Hickson and Dwight Tolliver, prevented the Redmen from blowing the game wide open.
With only the Yankee Conference title to salvage from an otherwise dismal season, the visitors showed great desire but were simply unable to cope with UMass on a team basis.
With twelve minutes gone in the clash, the home team held a slim three point lead, but led by the shooting of Julius Erving, Rick Vogeley, and Mike Pagliara, the Redmen went on an 18-10 spurt that gave them an 11 point lead at the half.
Until the midway point of the second stanza, the game turned into a basket-swapping affair between UMass and Tolliver, who had 16 of his team-leading 20 points in this stretch.
Then fellows like Hickson and Steve Rowell took over, and although they could not put a dent into the Redman lead, they halted a UMass rout.
Ken Mathias, who was an inspired ballplayer in both games, was the stabilizing factor in this fray. He pumped in 15 points, but more important, he pulled down 13 rebounds which, along with Erving’s 22 caroms allowed the Redmen to enjoy a decided rebounding advantage that made the difference in the final outcome.
UMass also got some fine outside shooting from Pagliara, Vogeley, and Tom McLaughlin to offset the sharpshooting display of Hickson and Tolliver.
The battle against Maine on Saturday was just what the doctor ordered. The Redmen broke into an early lead and were never headed the rest of the way, a rare occurrence for the most part this season.
With Mathias clearing the boards and leading the fast break and Pagliara and John Betancourt hot from the outside, UMass built up an 18 point lead at the half, and by this time it had already become a ho-hum contest. The fact that the Black Bears lost their center Nick Susi early in the first half with an ankle injury totally blacked out their already very dim hopes for an upset.
The best thing about this game was that the easy victory enabled Coach Jack Leaman to substitute freely. This served a dual purpose, first of all to give the starters a rest, and secondly to prepare for the big one with Syracuse tonight in which UMass will have to substitute freely in order to keep up with the Orangemen’s immense frontcourt and overall fast style of play.
AROUND THE RIM… Pagliara and Mathias put on a shooting performance over the weekend to the tune of 60% each from the floor… Former UMass captains were honored in special halftime ceremonies Saturday night; with sentimentalism apparently prevailing, Em Grayson ‘17 and Ray Ellerbrook ‘70, the oldest and youngest former captains present respectively, received the largest ovations… Coach Leaman has acquired an ardent following who sit directly behind the Redman bench each game and label themselves “Jack’s Corner,” complete with sign and all.