UMass Travels To Unbeaten #15 Vanderbilt For High-Octane Battle
RV UMASS (11-2) at #15/15 VANDERBILT (14-0)
UMass Travels To Unbeaten #15 Vanderbilt For High-Octane Battle
UMass comes into the game riding a six-game winning streak and is seeking its first against a ranked team in nearly three years. The Minutemen last beat a ranked when it knocked off No. 21 George Washington (76-74) on Jan. 15, 2005. UMass head coach Travis Ford is seeking his first-ever win against a ranked team in his 14th attempt.
The Minutemen are fresh off a thrilling 95-89 win over RV Houston this past Wednesday night at the Mullins Center. UMass rallied from a 13-point deficit in the first half to pick up its third signature win of the season (Syracuse and Boston College). UMass has now won 15 games in a row at the Mullins Center and has not lost at home in a year.
With its 95-point outburst vs. Houston, UMass is up to 84.9 points per game to rank 10th in the NCAA in scoring. Vanderbilt, which will be playing its fourth game in seven days is scoring 86.6 points per game after a 76-58 win over Rice on Thursday night. The Commodores rank seventh in the NCAA in scoring.
With its new high-energy system installed by Ford this year. The Minutemen are led by Gary Forbes (20.8 points per game) and Ricky Harris (18.9) as UMass is one of three schools in the nation with a pair of NCAA Top 50 scorers as Forbes is 20th and Harris is 50th. One of the other schools on the list is Vanderbilt with Shan Foster (20.4) at 28th and A.J. Ogilvy, tied with Harris for 50th with an 18.9 average.
UMass has scored more than 80 points in eight of 13 games. Vanderbilt has reached 80 in all but three of its 14 games. They have broken 90 seven times.
This will be UMass' first-ever meeting with Vanderbilt and starts a home-and-home which will continue next season at the Mullins Center.
At 14-0, Vanderbilt has the best record as an undefeated team to play against UMass since No. 2 Saint Joseph's came to Amherst with a 25-0 record on Feb. 25, 2004.
UMass is off its best start at 11-2, since opening the 1995-96 season 26-0 on its way to the Final Four. Vanderbilt is off to its best start in school history.
The game will be carried on the UMass Sports Network on 100.9 FM WRNX in Western Massachusetts and on 830 AM (WCRN) in Central Mass and 95.9 FM (WATD) in Eastern Mass. Bob Behler calls the action alongside color analyst and Tim Kenney. The game will be available on SIRIUS Satellite Radio channel 110 as well with the Vanderbilt broadcast.
UMass Against Ranked Teams
Prior to the two wins in 2004-05, UMass had lost seven in a row against ranked teams. In both wins over ranked teams three-time first-team All-Atlantic 10 honoree Rashaun Freeman hit the game-winning shot, beating UConn with 4.3 seconds left and topping the Colonials with a lay-up with 0.4 left in overtime.
UMass head coach Travis Ford is seeking his first-ever win against a ranked team. He is 0-4 at UMass against Top 25 teams and was 0-9 while coaching at Eastern Kentucky from 2000-05.
Vanderbilt-UMass Series Notes
Against schools from the SEC, UMass is 6-9 but won its last meeting knocking off Alabama at the Mullins Center, 89-87 in the NIT First Round last season on March 13, 2007. UMass is 2-0 against Arkansas, 1-0 vs. South Carolina, 1-1 vs. Alabama, 1-1 vs. Florida, 1-5 vs. Kentucky and 0-2 vs. Tennessee.
Ford's Connections to Nashville, Vandy
In his last game as a player at Vanderbilt, a UK 77-69 win on Feb. 19, 1994, Ford had a huge game. He led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points and added five assists as he made 7-of-11 from the floor including 3-of-5 from 3-point land. UMass staff member Rodrick Rhodes added 10 for the Cats. In the first meeting in the 1993-94 season, UK pounded Vandy, 107-82 as Ford had a big game again with 15 points and nine assists. Rhodes led Kentucky with 20 points.
In each of his last four games against Vanderbilt, Ford scored at least 15 points, averaging 17.5 points and handed out 7.7 assists per game.
The city of Nashville is a special one to Ford as well when it comes to coaching. Ford coached his Eastern Kentucky Colonels to the 2005 OVC Championship at the Gaylord Entertainment Center (now Sommet Center). Ford's EKU team won the title with a 52-46 win over Austin Peay in the title game on March 5, 2005.
The last time UMass was ranked in the AP Poll was in the Nov. 18, 1998 poll, when the Minutemen came in at No. 23.
UMass is one of four Atlantic 10 teams in the poll with Dayton at No. 20 and Rhode Island ranking No. 23. In "others receiving votes" Xavier has 11 points.
Rising In The RPI With big wins at Syracuse and Boston College, UMass is at No. 14 in the RPI rankings based on RealtimeRPI.com as of mid-day on Jan. 4. The Minutemen have been as high as No. 9 this season following its win over Toledo on Dec. 15. The Atlantic 10 has four teams in the Top 25 of the RPI led by No. 7 Dayton, No. 13 Rhode Island, and No. 15 Xavier.
Beating the ACC & Big East (Maybe SEC?)
In playing Vanderbilt from the SEC, UMass has a chance to beat teams from the Big East, ACC and SEC for the first time since 1995-96 when the Minutemen knocked off Georgetown and Syracuse from the Big East, NC State, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Wake Forest from the ACC as well as Kentucky, Arkansas and Florida from the SEC.
The Minutemen hold the top four shot blocking days in Atlantic 10 history led by the 1995 showing and this year's party against CCSU. UMass also had 16 against St. Francis (N.Y.) last year and St. Peter's in 2005.
The 18 blocked shots ties for the ninth most in a game in NCAA history, dating to 1985 when blocked shots became an official statistic.
After finishing third in the nation (7.45) in blocked shots with the nation's top shot blocker in Lasme, UMass is fourth in 2007-08 with 7.8 per game. UConn and UNC Asheville lead the way with 9.1 per game. Third-ranked Duquesne leads the A-10 with 8.5 per contest.
Scoring, More and More
With the new offense, UMass is scoring a high-pace. The Minutemen are averaging 84.9 points per game, up from 74.7 points (+10.2) through 13 games last season and 77.3 points (+7.6) from the entire season.
UMass is 10th in the NCAA in scoring through Jan. 4 with 84.9 per game. The Minutemen are also second in the Atlantic 10 scoring behind No. 3 Duquesne (88.2). VMI leads the nation with a 95.4. average. Vanderbilt is seventh at 86.8.
UMass is one of three teams in the nation with two players in the Top 50 NCAA scoring leaders as of Jan. 4 with Gary Forbes standing 20th with a 20.8 average. Ricky Harris is tied for 50th with 18.9 per game. The other teams on the exclusive list are Vanderbilt -- with Shan Foster (28th at 20.4) and A.J. Ogilvy (tied for 50th at 18.9) and North Dakota State.
UMass is 32nd in total 3-pointers made with 116. With 8.9 treys per game, UMass leads the A-10 and is 18th in the NCAA in 3s per game. Vanderbilt is 17th in 3-pointers made with 127.
Showing Major Improvement
Sophomore Ricky Harris has emerged as a major weapon on offense, scoring 18.9 points per game after just 4.5 last season as a freshman. He played in 32 games, all off the bench, but has started all 13 games this season. Harris has 246 points this year after 145 all of last year. He passed his entire scoring total in the eighth game of the season against Marist with 18 points. He leads all Minutemen in scoring improvement at +14.4 points per game. Harris has scored in double-figures in all 13 games this season with a career-high 25 on two occasions (at Syracuse and at Boston College). He scored more than 15 in each of the first four games, surpassing his freshman-season high of 14 each time.
Senior Etienne Brower has become the force UMass thought he would be after transferring from Boston University. Brower is averaging 11.1 points in 13 starts after scoring just 2.7 points per game in 2006-07 when he was hindered by an ankle injury all season. Brower has 144 points in the first 13 games after just 59 all of last year in 22 games. He passed his entire total in the fifth game of the season with 75 after the Wis.-Green Bay (11/17) game which he scored a career-high 25 points. Brower has more than 12 points in six of eight games in 07-08 after his season high was just eight last year. His +8.4 improvement was aided by his career-high 25 points against Wis.-Green Bay (11/17) and a breakout game with 18 points against Houston (1/2).
Senior Danté Milligan has tallied 10 or more points in four games this season -- equalling his total from all of last year. He had his career-high of 17 in two of three games at Syracuse (11/28) and against Yale (11/14). Milligan's season-high last year was 10 points which he accomplished twice. Milligan has taken his averages from 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds to 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds. An increase of 4.5 points and 1.4 rebounds.
Junior Luke Bonner is also seeing more time and making his signature 3-pointers. Bonner, who averaged just 1.6 points in 06-07 is up to 4.7 per game and has made 12-of-30 from 3-point land. Last year he made seven treys all season in 31 games.
Among The A-10 Leaders
Ricky Harris leads in steals per game with 2.3, which is 40th in the NCAA. Harris is also fifth in the A-10 in scoring with a 18.9 average. He's ninth in 3-pointers game with 2.23.
Chris Lowe is now healthy and has returned to his usual form and place amongst the leaders when it comes to point guards. He is second in the league in assists per game with 5.5 per game. He is also seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio with 1.82 per game. Lowe averaged 14.6 point and 7.2 assists over five games after returning from an ankle injury from Nov. 28-Dec. 15. Lowe is also third in steals to Harris with 2.0 per game.
Lowe is moving up on the all-time assists list at UMass as he stands ninth with 331. Next on the list to Charlton Clarke with 350. With five assists against CCSU (12/22), he passed BC Coach Al Skinner (320) and then with five more against Houston (1/2), he passed Louisville coach Rick Pitino (329).
Danté Milligan is shooting 65.0 from the floor (39-of-60), but is shy of qualifying for the NCAA rankings (5.0 made field goals per game). If he eligible, Milligan would rank 11th nationally and first in the A-10. Milligan has taken his field goal percentage from 49.4 to 65.0, an improvement of 15.6 percent. Milligan is eighth in the league in blocks per game with 1.5.
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