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Minutemen face No. 1 Wildcats in Great Eight
By Justin C. Smith, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, November 28, 1995
It’s late November and for the Massachusetts basketball team that means only one thing: playing the top ranked team in the country.
Two years ago in the Pre Season NIT semifinals, UMass knocked off then No. 1 North Carolina 91-86 in overtime. Last year it was the reigning national champion Razorbacks who came calling in the Tip-Off Classic and toppled from their top ranking by being blown out by the Minutemen 104-80.
Now comes round three: the preseason number one Kentucky Wildcats in the Great Eight.
The standout Minuteman in each of those contest was pre-season All-America selection, Marcus Camby. The 6 foot-11 junior center from Hartford, Conn, averaged 27.5 points per game during the prelude to the season opener with Kentucky.
UMass will need strong backcourt play out of Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso, as well as quality time off of the bench from freshman Charlton Clarke.
Travieso led Minutemen guards averaging 16.5 points, per game including 7-for-17 from three point land. The Thayer Academy grad also has dished out six assists per game. Padilla, the starting point guard, averaged 7.5 apg along with six points per game. Clarke played only against Converse with seven points and two assists.
Rick Pitino’s ‘Cats overcame an early 11 point deficit in their first regular season game against Maryland. UMass' next opponent, to trounce the Terripens 96-84 in this year’s Tip-Off Classic. Senior transfer from Washington Mark Pope scored a game high 26 points on his way to the game's MVP. Senior Tony Delk added 21 points including 10 in the last 1:12 to hold off a Maryland run.
There is good reason for Kentucky’s top billing as they are loaded from top to bottom, their second unit capable of starting on most programs around the country. Junior forward Jared Prickett was the key ingredient in the Wildcats 67-64 victory over UMass during a neutral site battle in the 1993-94 season. Prickett logged 17 points and 15 rebounds that night. In the Maryland contest Friday, he played sparingly with five points on two-of-three shooting from the field
Kentucky also added two key freshman in their current recruiting class, signing Massachusetts native Wayne Turner as well as Ron Mercer. Both played significant minutes in the Tip Off Classic as they played a combined 30 minutes while contributing eight points to the Wildcat cause.
These teams have met three times already in the ‘90s with Kentucky coming out on top each time. The Wildcats won both contests in the’91-92 season, once at Rupp Arena during the regular season and later eliminating the Minutemen in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament 87-77. They met again at the Meadow lands in February of 1994 as Kentucky squeaked out a 67-64 victory.
A Mass. of anxiety
Calipari not crying wolf as he braces for Wildcats
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/28/1995
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - John Calipari is preaching pessimism again. Seems every year about this time, the University of Massachusetts coach gives a dismal account of his team. Before the season opener, he urges fans to be patient. His team is not performing well, he says. They're not ready for the tough schedule ahead, he says.
Considering that UMass is the fourth-winningest team in college basketball the last five years, Coach Cal's speeches are viewed with skepticism.
“If you listen to John, you'd think UMass won't win a game this season,” said Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, whose top-ranked Wildcats meet the fifth- ranked Minutemen in the Great Eight tournament tonight at 9.
This season, however, Calipari's concerns seem legitimate. Inconsistent showings in two exhibition games prove that UMass sorely misses power forward Lou Roe and point guard Derek Kellogg. The Minutemen undoubtedly will iron out the wrinkles, but they must do so against one of the toughest Division 1 schedules.
“We're still trying to find ourselves,” said Calipari yesterday. “We lost one of our exhibition games and in the other we didn't play well. We're not playing with the intensity we need to have but we will get there.”
Since Calipari arrived at UMass eight years ago, every one of his teams has matched or bettered the success of the previous one. That has been due in part to players like Roe, who was the school's leading career rebounder and No. 2 scorer, and Kellogg, who had a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and was a coach on the court.
With those two in the lineup, Calipari's concerns about intensity and leadership were minimal. Now he must rely on players who aren't accustomed to those roles.
“What I probably didn't realize earlier is that we have good players but we're asking them to do things they're not accustomed to,” he said. “They're not able to do things Lou and Derek can.
“That means we're going to have to do things we've never done before. We have been a man-to-man team 99.9 percent of the time. But this year, we may have to play a little triangle-and-two, box-and-one.”
While some things might change, Calipari wants to maintain the claw-and- scrap work ethic. At times, he hasn't seen much of that in practice – like yesterday. He wasted no time voicing his displeasure.
“The mood of the team has been fine, my mood hasn't been good,” he said.
“We want to have football practice. We want them out there diving for loose balls, getting back to the way we've played – with intensity.”
That would come in handy against a Kentucky team that is one of the deepest in the nation. The Wildcats are coming off a 96-84 win over scrappy Maryland in the Tip-Off Classic. The Minutemen are 0-3 against Kentucky, with all of the games in the last four years.
Among Calipari's concerns is Kentucky's press, which Maryland beat early with lob passes but struggled against in the second half.
“They press depending on what they do offensively,” said Calipari. “They have a press after a 3-point shot, a press after a layup, one for if you throw it over the top.
“The main thing is not to hurry. That's what they want. You have to attack it – if not you're playing right into their hands.”
Calipari said the Minutemen will not be carried by Marcus Camby, but the 6-foot-10-inch star center must make his presence felt against the Wildcats.
“We need him to be more assertive,” said Calipari. “I told him, 'If you have the shot, take it.' But we need his post presence, too. He has to rebound and block shots.”
Identity, not talent, needed
By Bob Ryan, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/28/1995
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Another year, another search. A coach never knows what's going to make his team tick.
Even if a team returned 12 out of 12 members from a successful squad, it wouldn't necessarily mean everything would kick in just as before. There are always shifting roles, shifting dynamics.
“What we're looking for,” sighed John Calipari, head basketball coach at Your State U, “is a team personality. We don't know who we are. We've got a lot of good players, but this isn't wrestling, where we're not sure who's going to fill in at the 130-pound class. There is so much involved. It's how we have to shift them around, how we're actually going to play.”
Of course, even without playing, Calipari's team had somehow managed to rise to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll.
“If I'd have known we'd move up in the polls by not starting until the 28th,” he quipped, “we'd have waited until Dec. 14. Maybe we'd be No. 1 by then.”
It was hours before his team took the floor in Game 1 of a new season against nothing less than the No. 1-ranked team in the country. It was the second season in succession the University of Massachusetts had been placed in that exact scenario, and that's without counting the 1993 squad, which had to wait all the way till the third game of the season before upending No. 1 North Carolina in the semifinals of the preseason NIT.
In last year's opener, the Minutemen found themselves staring at defending national champion Arkansas, which had every key player returning. Two hours later, UMass had a 104-80 victory and the attention of every college basketball fan in America.
But the ringleader of that bunch was Lou Roe, and he can be found in the FleetCenter tonight in his new gig as a member of the Detroit Pistons. Roe was more than just a rugged, 6-foot-7-inch inside player who guaranteed the Minutemen X points and X rebounds a night. Lou Roe was a ferocious competitor, and that spirit rubbed off on the team.
Also missing from the '94-95 cast is Derek Kellogg, the three-year point guard who seemingly never made a mistake. Many's the night Calipari knew how lucky he was to have such a thoroughly dependable point guard at his disposal.
“The layman would never understand how valuable a player like Kellogg was to us,” Calipari explained. “Real basketball fans know. There were many more talented players around, but not many as steady.
“When you've got to depend on erratic players,” Coach Cal continued, “it means you really need three game plans. What if he shows up tonight? What if he's average? And what if he doesn't show? And if that's your point guard, you're in deep trouble. Derek Kellogg made it look like I was coaching my butt off many nights, but he was making the necessary judgments himself.”
This year Calipari has no true point guard. He's got Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso, each of whom can shoot better than Kellogg, but neither of whom has ever really had to take permanent control of the team. Could either or both survive Kentucky's vaunted pressure? Hours before game time, Coach Cal had no idea.
Speaking of Kentucky, what kind of an opener is this? Where is North Adams State when you need it? What, was AIC booked?
“We're playing in the Great Eight, and that's the way it is,” shrugged Calipari, whose team split its two exhibition games. “If we want to continue to be in a national program, it means we can't back away from games like this, if asked. I'm not worried about my record. We have to look at it as a valuable way to help prepare for March. The other thing is that it takes away a home game, but you do get a financial reward.”
OK, so you wind up with a tough opener when you get into the Great Eight. But Kentucky?
“It's like going to school and have them hit you with a midterm exam on the first day,” laughed Calipari.
While the hoop junkies would be in near unanimous agreement that most of Calipari's players would have little chance of cracking Rick Pitino's 10-man rotation, everyone would certainly agree that Coach Cal had one thing Kentucky didn't have.
In other words, Kentucky would be happy to find a spot for Marcus Camby.
“Marcus is good,” said Calipari of his 6-11 All-America candidate, “but I've been trying to explain to him that he shouldn't try to be Superman out there. Granted, it's a fine line. I certainly want him to be aggressive. I've told him that it's all right to try to score, even if he's double-teamed, even though he can really pass the ball. But in the same sense, I know that if he comes down and starts trying to shoot threes and do some other things and just generally go nuts out there, we can't win that way.”
Harking back to the whole team personality business, Coach Cal was very concerned that Camby has been too generally laidback of late. He needs his one acknowledged star to set an example for the lesser lights, and he wasn't sure that Camby was getting the message.
But Camby, however talented, and however great his NBA earning potential, is still just a kid. None of us know who's got his ear when the coach isn't around. He could have 157 other things on his mind.
The coach, meanwhile, has only one: How can I maximize this team's potential?
“We have all these questions,” Calipari said. “We've got talent, but are we tough enough? Do we have the arrogance to be a Top 10 team? Is there anyone good enough to take over if someone can stop Marcus? Do they understand that even if they're not scoring, there are other things they can do to help the team win?”
The coach knew that if his team wasn't ready to play, the game had the potential to become ugly in a big hurry. But he had to assume they would get up for Kentucky, no?
“I'm excited,” he said, “and that's a big part of coaching, the capacity to get excited. You can't get excited for Popcorn State, but I think you can get excited for Kentucky.”
Massachusetts 92, Kentucky 82
From The Associated Press, 11/29/1995
Marcus Camby had 32 points, nine rebounds and five blocks as fifth-ranked Massachusetts toppled number one Kentucky, 92-82, in a Great Eight game at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
It is the second straight season that the Minutemen (1-0) started their season by defeating the top-ranked team in the country.
Massachusetts routed Arkansas in the Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, last year, 104-80.
The Minutemen improved to 3-0 all-time against number one teams and won for the first time in four tries against Kentucky.
“It was incredible that these guys stepped up,” Minutemen coach John Calipari said. “We have been playing awful. We lost to an A-A-U team, so the last six or seven practices have been so grueling that this game was easy.
“The biggest thing I was worried about was would we play the way we always played, which is aggressive, go after the jugular and play with emotion. We did today.”
Kentucky had pulled within 76-74 on free throws by Walter McCarty, but Camby made a pair of free throws and hit a turnaround jumper to make it 80-74. The Wildcats never threatened after that.
“We got beat by a great team and a great player,” Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said. “Marcus Camby is truly one of the best players in the country. We tried to trap him with two people and he still got off awfully good shots.
“We didn't make our free throws, there's really no excuses for our players not shooting well at the foul line. No way is this a great basketball team. The number one thing is that we're not executing. Our veterans are playing like inexperienced players.”
Dana Dingle added 19 points for Massachusetts, which ran out to a 29-10 lead and never trailed in the game. Camby scored eight points in the first 10 minutes for the Minutemen.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” said Camby. “You have to give credit to our team, our guards were outstanding. We knew they would double and triple-team me, but the guards got me the ball and I was able to do something.”
Camby finished 11-of-16 from the field and made 10-of-11 free throws. Massachusetts enjoyed a 31-18 edge at the foul line, as Kentucky missed 10 free throws. The Minutemen shot 53 per cent from the field (29-of-55), while Kentucky shot 27-of-62 from the field (44 per cent).
Tony Delk had 21 points and McCarty added 17 for the Wildcats (1-1), who played their second ranked opponent in as many games. Kentucky defeated number 19 Maryland, 96-84, in its season-opener last Friday.
Massachusetts started the second half with a 11-1 run. Camby opened the half with a dunk. After Mark Pope made one of two free throws to pull the Wildcats within 47-46, Camby made a jumper, Edgar Padilla made a pair of free throws and Dingle added a three-point play to make it 54-46. Padilla capped the run with a layup with 16:51 to play.
“Marcus is one of the best players if not the best player in the country, who's on a mission right now,” Calipari added about Camby. “He's so unselfish, I told him, 'If I was as good as him, I'd shoot it every time.'”
Trailing 60-50, Kentucky used a 7-0 burst to cut the gap to three points, capped by Jared Prickett's two free throws to make it 60-57 with 13:37 remaining.
No. 1 still can’t beat Minutemen
By Justin C. Smith, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Staff, November 29, 1995
“If we can't play defense against these guys,” junior Marcus Camby asked after playing a sloppy exhibition game. “What are we going to do against Kentucky?”
For the third straight year, the Massachusetts men's basketball team took on the No. 1 ranked team in the country and made the pollsters eat their votes. Camby led the way for Minutemen scoring 32 points in a rousing 92-82 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.
This adds another chapter to the legacy of UMass knocking off top ranked teams. North Carolina 91-86 (OT) in 1993 and Arkansas 104-80 last year.
Just 37 seconds into the contest senior co-captain Donta Bright nailed a three-pointer with the shot clock running down to give UMass the lead. It also started a 9-to-1 run that got the Minutemen out of the blocks quickly, as well as gaining confidence over Rick Pitino’s troops.
Instead of letting up. the Minutemen continued what got them the lead pressuring the Kentucky backcourt and making the Wildcats take rushed shots. That lead to UMass opening up their biggest lead of the night at 29-10, ten minutes into the first half. At that point Kentucky had only hit three baskets from the field.
The Wildcats true to their ranking were far from finished as they used the three-pointer as the major weapon in getting back into the game hitting six-of-seven from downtown, including all five in the final 10 minutes of the half. Tony Delk (21 points) hit three while Walter McCarty (17 points) sank two in the 31-14 run that got the Wildcats within two with 1:43 left in the first half. And when Antoine Walker hit a bank shot with three seconds remaining, the game went to the half tied at 45.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Camby said. “They are a good team and you've got to give them credit.”
The second half started much like the first, as the Camby stole a Ron Mercer pass from the top of the key and went in for a flying two-handed slam for a lead the Minutemen would never relinquish.
Camby, who was by far the standout in the first half, got tremendous support from senior Dana Dingle (15 second half points, 19 for the game). Bright chipped in as well, scoring 17 on the night.
The UMass backcourt of Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso played all but the last minute of the game. Freshman Charlton Clarke attempted to play, but after on the court for less than a minute in the first half, had to come out of the game. When he returned from the locker room at halftime, Clarke was on crutches.
Camby credited the juniors for their yeoman-like efforts.
“Our guards were outstanding,” the All-American said. “They got knocked in the beginning of the season. I got a game ball and they should get it.”
The Wildcats refused to roll over and die as they cut the UMass lead from 10 down to two on a McCarty three-pointer with less than seven minutes remaining in the game. But Kentucky would get no closer.
A glaring weakness in the past for the Minutemen was their foul shooting. There was no sign of that on this night as the margin of victory came down to how UMass shot from the charity stripe. Calipari's corps was 31-37 from the line, while Kentucky was only 18-28.
UMass returns to action Saturday in the Franklin National Bank classic against Maryland.
Taking it from the top: UMass stuns Kentucky
Minutemen knock off the No. 1 team – again
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/29/1995
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - From now on, don't believe a thing John Calipari says. The man cannot be taken at his word.
Throughout the preseason, the University of Massachusetts coach said his program was perched on the panic button. He said his team could not defend, could not hit the open man and didn't play with passion and emotion.
The same players that cried after a subpar effort in an exhibition game against a Russian team scored one of the biggest wins in school history last night, a 92-82 dismissal of top-ranked Kentucky in the second annual Great Eight tournament at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
It marks the third consecutive season that UMass has upset the nation's No. 1-ranked team. Last year, the Minutemen stunned Arkansas in their opener; two years ago, they knocked off North Carolina in the Preseason NIT.
Center Marcus Camby scored a game-high 32 points and added 9 rebounds and 5 blocks for fifth-ranked UMass. The Minutemen jumped out to a 29-10 lead with 10:10 left in the first half, saw Kentucky hit six 3-pointers to tie the game at the break, 45-45, then outplayed the Wildcats throughout the second half, taking a 47-45 lead on a Camby dunk and never trailing.
“I was worried about this team playing with passion,” said Calipari. “It was incredible how we stepped up.”
A few weeks ago, the coach's fears seemed justified. On Nov. 17, the Minutemen were embarrassed by a Converse All-Star squad and hardly looked ready to face the deepest team in college basketball.
“I got mean,” said Calipari. “I made our practices wars. It was like football practice out there. Compared to our practices, this was easy.”
With just two guards available, the Minuteman surprisingly exploited Kentucky's deeper, more experienced backcourt. Point guard Edgar Padilla officially logged 39 minutes, shooting guard Carmelo Travieso 36. Padilla tallied 14 points and 6 assists, while Travieso contributed 10 points.
“Our guards were unbelievable tonight,” said Calipari. “They were strong and they controlled the tempo.”
Then there was forward Donta Bright. He scored 7 of UMass' first 16 points and finished with 17. Dana Dingle overcame a sluggish start to tally 19 points.
That was it for UMass' scoring. While Kentucky got a combined 32 points from its reserves, the UMass bench players did not take a shot from the floor or the line.
“I think it was one of the biggest wins in our school's history,” said Bright. “The big lead in the first half gave us the confidence. At halftime, we said, 'We let them off the hook.' We went out in the second half and attacked them the way we did in the first half.”
UMass got the second half going on a steal and dunk by Camby.
“That play was key for us,” said Dingle. “After the way they came back, that gave us back our confidence.”
Kentucky's press was not as effective in the second half, and UMass surprisingly risked a 2-3 zone trap against the Wildcats' 3-point shooters. It worked.
With 16:50 to go, UMass went ahead, 68-58, and appeared primed to open more room. But again Kentucky rallied and with 10:05 left cut the margin to 64-62 on Tony Delk's trey. UMass answered with clutch basketes by Camby, Dingle and Bright to keep the Wildcats at bay.
“They were a better team tonight, no question about it,” said Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. “Marcus Camby is truly one of the best players in the country offensively and defensively. We had too many difficult baskets, and that is because Marcus played so well.”
UMass went up, 78-74, with 3:18 left, and with the Wildcats misfiring on most of their perimeter bids, the Minutemen sank 14 of 16 free throws over the last 2:58 to seal the stunner.
“My team needed me to step it up tonight because we no longer have Lou Roe and Derek Kellogg,” said Camby. “And that's what I did.
“I'm glad I came back to school. This is better than the NBA.”
In this Great Eight game, they were the Great Five
By Bob Ryan, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/29/1995
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - We should be used to this by now. If it's early in the season, then Your State U is busy dusting off a No. 1 somebody, right? Isn't that the way it works?
Two years ago, it was North Carolina. Last year it was Arkansas. This year it was Kentucky. And it doesn't matter where they play these games, either. Two years ago, it was in Madison Square Garden. Last year it was in the Springfield Civic Center. Last night it was in the Palace of Auburn Hills. What difference does it make? Just bring 'em on.
Of course, John Calipari still wants to know exactly where it came from. “I'll tell you,” said Coach Cal after his team's 92-82 spanking of the Wildcats. ``We've been playing awful in practice. But the last six or seven practices were so grueling, playing this game was easy. Lately, we've just had football practices.”
His team had lost an exhibition to the Converse All-Stars. He had no idea what to expect last night from a group playing its first real game without emotional leader Lou Roe and intellectual leader Derek Kellogg.
And then there's the matter of the opponent. Kentucky, says every basketball expert from Pensacola to Puget Sound, is the deepest basketball team in the country. Nobody's better than Kentucky, 1 through 10. It just so happens that last night Your State U was better, 1 through 5, which is the maximum number allowed on the floor at one time.
Beating Kentucky is always great fun. Rick Pitino has McDonald's All-Americans. He's got Burger King All-Americans. He's got Wendy's All-Americans. He's got Pizza Hut All-Americans. He's got Subway All-Americans. He's got High School All-Americans backing up High School All-Americans.
John Calipari? He's got a backcourt born the same day (5/9/75) on the same Caribbean island. Swear to God. Kentucky has been playing basketball since Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, and here is a statement you can take directly to the savings institution of your choice: Never before has Kentucky been beaten by an all-Spanish-speaking backcourt.
``Can you imagine our two guards playing 40 minutes?” gushed Calipari. He was exaggerating, but very little. Carmelo Travieso played 36 minutes, receiving a three-minute respite in the first half. Edgar Padilla, meanwhile, played 39 consecutive minutes and change, being removed by Coach Cal in the final minute when the game's winning or losing issue was no longer in doubt.
The two Puerto Rico natives had to withstand the most frightening pressure college basketball has to offer. ``Kentucky comes at you in waves and swarms,” said Calipari. Padilla and Travieso had zero backcourt help because prime sub Charlton Clarke sustained a foot injury in the only minute he played. Under the relentless Kentucky pressure, they cracked on occasion. But they hung in there and they got the ball to the right place often enough for the starting frontcourt to score 68 points while scoring 24 themselves.
The five University of Massachusetts starters scored every one of the 92 points. It was one of the truly great five-man efforts in UMass history. But it represented something more than points, rebounds, assists and steals to the coach. He was looking for some things that were not to be found in any box score.
``The biggest worry I had was whether or not we would play UMass basketball,” said Coach Cal. ``Would we be aggressive? Would we go for the jugular? Would we play with passion and emotion? Would we dive on the floor? Would we make the extra pass? Would we play with that `refuse to lose' attitude? Those questions were answered. How we're going to play, I don't know yet. But if you play hard, you've got a chance.”
When Coach Cal is old and gray and he once again thinks about this game, he'll be thinking about a team that built a 19-point (29-10) first-half lead, found itself tied at halftime, then never allowed a deeper team to feel the satisfaction of a second-half lead for so much as one second or one possession. In other words, UMass took Kentucky's best comeback shot and then turned around and beat the Wildcats a second time. I would wager that when Grandpa Cal starts reminiscing about his fondest UMass memories, this game will be very close to the top of the list.
What a sweet game it was. It was Padilla and Travieso burying early threes to give themselves some confidence. It was Donta Bright owning the baseline and playing his best game since hitting Arkansas with 24 last year. It was Dana Dingle slashing to the hoop, hitting face-up jumpers and even astonishing Minutemen hoop cognoscenti with two right-hand baskets.
And it was Marcus. Oh boy, was it Marcus.
``Marcus Camby,” said Coach Cal, ``is on a mission.“
Marcus Camby was a Man, capital M, last night. He let Kentucky know who was boss inside with five blocks. He hit enough soft turnarounds, graceful moves to the hoop and free throws (10 of 11) to match his career high of 32 points. He had nine rebounds. And he made clutch play after clutch play after clutch play.
Three times in the second half, he hit turnarounds in traffic when the lead was down to 2. On one, he looked like Patrick Ewing as he took three men to the left baseline and swished a monster shot.
But perhaps the biggest play of the entire ballgame came on the first possession of the second half. Kentucky had the basketball. One of those patented threes could have done some damage. Not to worry. The 6-foot-11-inch Camby flashed out high to pick off a sloppy pass and took it all the way for a thundering dunk, which, according Dingle, ``picked our emotional intensity up again.”
``The thing about that play,“ explained Padilla, ``is that it shows how we can follow instructions. The last thing Coach Cal said before we left the locker room was that they were going to run that double screen high. Marcus cheated out. He knew exactly what was coming.”
We all should have known what was coming. Early-season No. 1's have no chance against Your State U.
UMass' Camby turned Kentucky's night into a horror show
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/30/1995
UBURN HILLS, Mich. - The first feats – a couple of tomahawk rejections – were downright scary. Right up there with the bedroom scene in “The Exorcist.” Then Marcus Camby stole an errant pass, drove the length of the floor and threw down a two-handed, rim-rattling dunk. Frightening.
When the University of Massachusetts junior center swatted a University of Kentucky attempt into orbit for the fifth time, you pitied the Wildcat fans who couldn't stomach horror films. But he was like the Rottweiler in “The Omen”: Whenever he entered the picture, the adversary had no chance.
When the game was over, Camby had led fifth-ranked UMass to a 92-82 shocker over top-ranked Kentucky with an awesome display of power and precision.
“Marcus Camby is truly one of the best players in the country, offensively and defensively,” said Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. “We had so many difficult baskets, and that was because Marcus played so well.”
In doing so, Camby proved he will take over the leader-enforcer role that Lou Roe and Harper Williams once assumed. Yet unlike Roe and Williams, ferocious warrior types who outmuscled the opposition, Camby uses size, finesse and timing. With him, UMass still is capable of matching up with anyone in the country.
“I just had to step it up,” said Camby, who finished with 32 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. “We were getting a lot of pressure; a lot of people were saying that because we lost Lou, Derek Kellogg and Mike Williams, we weren't going to be as skilled. We circled the wagons, put together a strong effort and got away with the victory.
“I want to be a leader out there a lot. Lou was our vocal leader, our heart and soul of the team last year. I think someone had to step it up. And it should be me, considering I'm going to get most of the shots and the focus is going to be on me. That's why I worked hard on my game this summer.”
Among the things Camby worked on was handling the ball. He provided glimpses in the Minutemen's exhibition against Dynamo of Russia as he handled the ball in transition.
With 2:10 left in the Kentucky game, Camby rebounded a missed free throw by guard Allen Edwards, then dribbled the length of the floor and dished off to forward Donta Bright on the wing. Bright was fouled on the drive and sank two free throws to give UMass an 82-78 lead.
“I pretty much had that in my hand for a while now,” said Camby. “But we're still trying to lob it to me so I can make plays and allow Edgar Padilla to bring the ball up the floor.”
Point guard Padilla, much maligned during the preseason, had a 14-point, 6- assist effort Tuesday night – and Camby had a big role in that, too. After Padilla botched a few plays, coach John Calipari colorfully voiced his displeasure. But Camby motioned to the coach to ease up on the guard, and Padilla played through the errors.
“Edgar's going to do those things; that's why Marcus kept looking at me, going, 'He's OK, leave him alone. We need him,' ” said Calipari. “And I said, 'You're right, Marcus.' The greatest thing that happened in this was when they came over to me and said, 'Coach, don't act like this wasn't supposed to happen.' The arrogance that you want your basketball team to have, they have. We didn't have that two weeks ago. We want them to be arrogant.”
With an intimidating presence like Camby in the middle, UMass can be as arrogant as a BMW driver. “We're good ballplayers, too,” said Camby. “Just because they're Kentucky, we're not supposed to back down.”
UMass made its case to Kentucky, country
By Bob Ryan, The Boston Globe Staff, 11/30/1995
he letter should be arriving at Coach Cal's desk sometime today.
Thankyouthankyouthankyou for the game on Tuesday night. You knew that's just what we needed. Keep making me proud I recommended you for the job, but don't ever do to us in March what you did the other night, or else people down here might start thinking perhaps you and I should switch jobs. Heh-heh.
Yours in Armani,
When you're Kentucky, and the major issue with your conglomeration of pampered High School All-Americans is parceling out playing time, a loss on Nov. 28 is not such a bad thing, as long as it doesn't come to someone your fans really care about, like, say, Louisville. Hence Rick Pitino's postgame attitude, which could be described as borderline cavalier.
“Trying to mesh 10 or 11 players is harder than trying to mesh seven,” declared Pitino following the 92-82 University of Massachusetts triumph. ''We're going to lose again, early on. We're not a great basketball team, but we will be come March.”
Pitino needed something to get his players' attention, and he has it. Meanwhile, he can get the fans off his back by pointing to Marcus Camby and saying, “Hey, they had him, and we didn't.”
Ah, but for Your State U, Tuesday night's performance in Auburn Hills was intoxicating. Kentucky may be working on its 18th season without an NCAA title, but the Wildcats are still basketball's ultimate Establishment team. The University of Kentucky is the home office for basketball passion. Nobody in the collegiate basketball world takes themselves more seriously than the people in Kentucky, and this is supposed to be a Wildcat team with a great chance of ending that NCAA title drought. So when a UMass beats them, it is an achievement that cannot possibly be overstated.
Simply put: UMass is relentlessly on the make. Kentucky was made a long time ago, along about the time FDR was into his Fireside Chats.
Never, ever forget how recently UMass was a certified college basketball bozo. In the 10 years B.C. (Before Calipari), UMass was 81-194, without a winning season. The best year during that span was 13-15 in 1984-85. There was even a season in which UMass did not win a Division 1 game.
If a Kentucky coach ever went through a season without defeating a Division 1 opponent, he would not be fired. He would be executed. On statewide television.
UMass is now 112-18 during the last four-and-a-fraction seasons, with four consecutive Atlantic 10 championships, but it is still nowhere near Establishment. Despite John Calipari's reputation as a demon recruiter, the fact is he is making do with something less than first-choice recruits. There are certain programs that routinely recruit on a national basis. The Dukes, Carolinas, Kansases and Kentuckys are always assumed to be involved with any Top 20 player. Even archrival – and don't think it's anything less than that – Connecticut now regularly recruits from Calais to Chula Vista. Not so Your State U. In the last four years, they have recruited exactly two (2) players who had attracted widespread national interest – Lou Roe and Donta Bright. Even Camby is a lucky accident of geography. Most people didn't catch onto him until it was too late. It became a battle of Storrs vs. Amherst. Coach K and Little Ricky were never involved.
Calipari has good players, but they aren't the inner sanctum high school elite people sometimes think they are. Indeed, Coach Cal and his staff, only hours prior to pistol-whipping Pitino's assortment of marquee studs, were amusing themselves by speculating on just how few of their players Pitino would even put on a list, let alone actively recruit.
Kentucky is Kentucky is Kentucky, but UMass is still out there hustling, trying to get attention. That's why a game like this is so vitally important for Your State U.
This was a Validation Game, of which, I reckon, there have been at least five during the Calipari Era:
1. Jan. 4, 1992. UMass 86, Oklahoma 73. A true national TV Coming-Out Party.
2. March 22, 1992. UMass 77, Syracuse 71 (OT). Take that, Big East.
3. Nov. 24, 1993. UMass 91, North Carolina 86 (OT). Topples top-ranked team and legendary coach.
4. Nov. 25, 1994. UMass 104, Arkansas 80. Pulverizes defending national champ with every key player returning.
5. Nov. 28, 1995. UMass 92, Kentucky 82. Roughs up yet another No. 1 team with a classic tradition.
When UMass plays brilliantly to defeat a No. 1-ranked Kentucky team, John Calipari never knows who is sitting home watching. It might be a 6-foot-11-inch center. It might be a 6-7 forward with Grant Hill skills. It might even be the next Muggsy Bogues. Whoever he is, there might be something about the UMass style of play, something about Calipari, something about – who knows? – the uniforms that kid may like. He might factor UMass into his thinking. You never know.
What we do know is that Your State U's display of athletic excellence two nights ago put the name of the school on the lips of every college basketball fan in America. Now it's up to incoming president William (“How-Many-Men-Did- You-Say-There-Are-On-A-Side?”) Bulger to give his basketball team a university it can be proud of.
MASSACHUSETTS (92) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Dingle 31 7-14 5-8 1-4 1 2 19 Bright 29 6-8 4-4 1-3 2 4 17 Camby 33 11-16 10-11 1-9 2 2 32 E Padilla 39 3-8 7-8 2-7 6 4 14 Travieso 36 2-9 5-6 4-6 1 4 10 Norville 11 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 3 0 Weeks 15 0-0 0-0 1-5 0 5 0 Clarke 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Nunez 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Cottrell 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Mcclay 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Burns 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 29-55 31-37 10-34 12 24 92 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.527, FT-.838. 3-Point Goals: 3-9, .333 (Dingle 0-1, Bright 1-1, E Padilla 1-2, Travieso 1-5). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 6 (Camby 5, Bright). Turnovers: 23 (Bright 6, E Padilla 6, Dingle 4, Camby 3, Travieso, Weeks). Steals: 5 (Camby 2, Dingle 2, Travieso). KENTUCKY (82) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Mccarty 27 5-9 3-4 3-7 1 4 17 Mercer 26 2-10 1-2 1-3 1 2 6 Pope 22 0-3 5-10 3-7 2 4 5 Delk 33 7-16 4-4 1-1 1 5 21 Anderson 13 0-0 1-2 1-1 0 4 1 Sheppard 14 1-1 1-2 0-2 1 2 4 Walker 20 6-11 0-0 2-2 1 4 12 Prickett 11 1-2 2-2 0-0 1 2 4 Edwards 9 1-3 0-0 0-1 2 0 3 Epps 17 1-4 1-2 1-3 6 1 3 Turner 8 3-3 0-0 2-2 1 0 6 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 27-62 18-28 14-29 17 28 82 _______________________________________________ Percentages: FG-.435, FT-.643. 3-Point Goals: 10-20, .500 (Mccarty 4-4, Mercer 1-2, Pope 0-1, Delk 3-6, Sheppard 1-1, Walker 0-2, Edwards 1-1, Epps 0-3). Team rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 2 (Pope, Anderson). Turnovers: 23 (Mccarty 6, Pope 4, Delk 3, Prickett 3, Walker 3, Mercer 2, Anderson, Epps). Steals: 10 (Delk 3, Pope 2, Turner 2, Mccarty, Mercer, Walker). __________________________________ Massachusetts 45 47 -- 92 Kentucky 45 37 -- 82 __________________________________ Technical fouls: Kentucky bench. A: 15,454. Officials: Frank Scagliotta, Larry Rose, Stephen Gordon.