UMass rally falls short at Cincinnati hangs on
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/28/1994
CINCINNATI – Call them the 20-Minutemen, because coach John Calipari's eighth-ranked University of Massachusetts team has forgotten how to play for a full game.
In the most painful and frustrating sequence of the season, UMass overcame a 22-point first-half deficit last night against Cincinnati, but still came up short in dropping a 76-74 decision.
“Where were we in the first half?” fumed Calipari, who has watched his team struggle mentally and physically during its last four games, two of which it has lost.
In this game, played before a sellout crowd of 13,176 screaming Bearcat zealots at the Shoemaker Center, UMass was a study in contrasts.
In the first half, the Minutemen, now 15-3 and likely to drop out of the Top 10, were horrible in all phases. They couldn't shoot. They didn't play defense and they were physically manhandled as Cincinnati built a 37-15 lead with 3:15 remaining before assuming a 37-21 halftime advantage.
“We got away with it against Rutgers and George Washington,” said Calipari, who indicated he will make some lineup changes for UMass' next game against Rhode Island Sunday at the Mullins Center. “But we lost to DePaul because of it. We should have lost to GW and we lost to these guys.”
Not without a fight. As bad as the Minutemen were in the first half, they were just as good in the second, especially during the first 10 minutes when they went on an 18-5 binge that propelled them into the lead with 9:51 remaining, on a Derek Kellogg 3-point shot.
But the surge left UMass with limited energy. Cincinnati, which had lost twice in succession and had drawn the wrath of coach Bob Huggins, had something to prove.
Led by LaZelle Durden (21 points), who made four key free throws in the hectic final seconds, and freshman Dontonio Wingfield (15 points, 5 rebounds), the Bearcats (13-5) hung on for a remarkable victory.
“We had a chance to fold, but we stuck around,” said Huggins, who watched UMass make one run after another in the final seconds.
Playing the clock like a violin and using fouls like a bow, UMass fought back from a 7-point deficit with 32 seconds left to get within a bucket following a Lou Roe foul shot with 14 seconds showing.
But when Durden made his final pair of free throws with six seconds left to give the Bearcats a 76-72 lead, it sealed the win.
“I don't know what the problem in the first half is,” said Kellogg, who had only 5 points. “We just let them push us around in the first half. We did a better job in the second half, but it wasn't enough.”
Calipari has seen enough. “We weren't ready for the challenge,” he said. “We want to play at this level Top 10 and we're not good enough.”
Everyone at UMass was drained last night, but Calipari is determined to put the Minutemen back on a track.
He will shake up the lineup – most likely sending Roe to the bench – and hope that by the time the home-and-home showdown with the other Atlantic 10 Conference favorite, Temple, rolls around next month, UMass will be the 40-Minutemen.
UMass' Williams says he's OK after hospital stay
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/29/1994
CINCINNATI – Mike Williams made the diagnosis his teammates wanted to hear yesterday morning.
“I'm safe, I'm safe,” said the University of Massachusetts guard, who spent Thursday night in a Cincinnati hospital after collapsing during the second half of the Minutemen's 76-74 loss to the University of Cincinnati. “Everything checked out and I'm all right.”
Williams rejoined his teammates at the Cincinnati airport and flew home with the rest of the Minutemen after undergoing a battery of tests and being examined by doctors. They were attempting to determine what caused Williams to collapse at midcourt with 12:41 remaining in the second half with what appears to be a case of dehydration and exhaustion.
“All tests have been negative thus far,” said UMass basketball trainer Ron Laham, who brought Williams to the airport minutes before the team was scheduled to return to Amherst. “The doctors wanted to make sure that it was safe for Mike to travel. The next step is to determine when it's safe for him to play again, so the doctors back at school will run some more tests in the next 24 hours. If everything is 'clean,' he'll be allowed to play.”
Williams looked and sounded tired yesterday. “I didn't get any sleep at all,” he said. “They kept giving me shots and taking blood all night. And then in the morning, they did more tests and made me go on a treadmill.”
Williams said he doesn't remember passing out on the court. “I was real tired and I started to get dizzy,” said Williams, who added he had taken Nyquil, an over-the-counter medication, to counteract flu-like symptoms. “I started to raise my fist in the air the signal to the UMass bench that he wanted to come out of the game. The next thing I remembered is walking back by the Cincinnati locker room.”
Williams did not remember falling with a thud that could be clearly heard at midcourt, nor does he remember coach John Calipari running onto the court and putting his hand on Williams heart to see that it was beating regularly.
The immediate fear, of course, was that the 6-foot-2-inch junior guard was having heart problems similar to the ones Celtic captain Reggie Lewis experienced when he collapsed during an NBA playoff game against Charlotte last April.
“That never really crossed my mind,” said Williams. “I really don't think about things like that. I just knew that I was tired and I wanted to take a rest.”
Laham, who spent a busy night and morning checking on Williams' status at the hospital, had more concerns when he checked Williams on the court.
“I didn't see him fall because someone was in front of me,” said Laham. “But when I went out to see what was wrong and saw that it wasn't an ankle or a knee which had caused him to go down, I started to get worried and I began thinking about Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis each of whom subsequently died of heart-related problems.”
Williams' collapse also gave his relatives in Hartford a scare.
“They were watching the game on television ESPN, and all the announcers were saying was that I had fainted and was being taken to the hospital,” said Williams. “Once I got to the hospital and had a chance to call them and tell them I was all right, they felt much better.”
Williams said he feels fine and wants to play tomorrow afternoon when the Minutemen host Rhode Island at the Mullins Center. “I really feel OK,” he said. “It was nothing but dehydration.”
But he also conceded that he is expressing an opinion most athletes have regarding their condition.
“I know all athletes say they are all right,” he said. “Because they want to play. And I want to play.”
In light of the Gathers and Lewis tragedies, UMass officials are being extremely cautious, which is why Williams will undergo another series of tests, including possibly having his heart monitored for 24 hours, before he is allowed to resume playing.