UMass Hosts #23/22 Xavier in Battle of 2007 A-10 Regular-Season Co-Champs
UMASS (13-5, 2-2) at #23/22 XAVIER (16-4, 4-1)
UMass Hosts #23/22 Xavier in Battle of 2007 A-10 Regular-Season Co-Champs
Sunday's game will air on the CSTV Networks across the nation. In New England and the Mid-Atlantic the game will be show on CN8. The game will also air on Fox SportsNet Ohio, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, Comcast SportsNet Sacramento, Comcast Sports Southeast, Cox New England (on delay). Tom McCarthy and John Griffin call the action. The game be available on UMass All-Access through CSTV and UMassAthletics.com.
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 Collins.
UMass won its last home game against a ranked team with the memorable 61-59 victory over #7 UConn on Dec. 9, 2004 when Rashaun Freeman hit the winning shot with 4.3 seconds. Earlier this season, Travis Ford picked up his first win against a ranked team when the Minutemen knocked off #14/18 Dayton on Jan. 16, 82-71 at UD Arena. The Minutemen have won three of their last eight games against ranked teams spanning the last four seasons.
The Minutemen stand at No. 20 in the Realtime RPI as of Friday afternoon while Xavier is at No. 16. UMass has nearly inched it way into the national polls. With 47 points this week in the AP Poll, the Minutemen are effectively ranked No. 31. In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, UMass has nine points to stand 33rd.
The Minutemen have averaged 86.7 points in their last six games to raise their scoring average to 84.9, tied for fourth in the NCAA. UMass has scored more than 80 points in 12 of 18 games this season.
With a new high-energy system installed by Travis Ford this year, the Minutemen are led by Ricky Harris (20.7) and Gary Forbes (20.5) as UMass is the only school in the nation with a pair of 20-point scorers. UMass is the only school in the nation with two scorers in the nation's Top 30 with Harris at 28th and Forbes at 30th.
UMass had its best non-conference season since the Final Four year of 1995-96, as the Minutemen went 11-3 prior to beginning the A-10 season with a loss to Saint Joseph's on Jan. 9.
Harris Earns A-10, National Honors
Harris was named the Atlantic 10 men's basketball player of the week after he averaged 23.0 points in the Minutemen's 2-0 week. Harris led UMass in scoring in its win at No. 14 Dayton and against Charlotte on Saturday. Harris connected on 9-of-18 shots from 3-point range. It was UMass' third weekly honor in 2007-08 (Gary Forbes was honored twice). Overall, Harris scored 46 points on the week with 22 at Dayton and 24 vs. Charlotte. He shot 50 percent from the floor (11-for-22) and knocked down 9-of-18 attempts from beyond the arc in a pair of victories for the Minutemen. He tied his career high with five 3-pointers on Jan. 16 in Massachusetts' 82-71 win at Dayton as he added five rebounds and two assists. Harris has scored at least 20 points in ten of Massachusetts' 17 games this season. He has been in double-figures in every game this year and is second to Forbes (20.3 ppg) in scoring (20.1).
The Series With Xavier
Last season, Xavier handed UMass an 83-77 defeat in Cincinnati before a sellout and national-television audience on ESPN on Jan. 18, 2007.
The teams played twice two seasons ago in 2005-06, in back-to-back games, as UMass won the regular-season finale at the Mullins Center, 65-56 on March 4. Then just four days later at the A-10 Tournament at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Xavier gained a measure of revenge with a 75-66 win on their way to the A-10 Tourney title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The teams have split the last four games with UMass winning the their last two at the friendly confines of the Mullins Center. UMass won the 2005-06 regular-season finale, 65-56 on March 4, 2006 and an epic 90-86 win for UMass on Jan. 5, 2005 in triple overtime. Prior to that, UMass had lost four straight to Xavier.
The Minutemen are 4-2 against Xavier in the Mullins Center. Two of the last four home overtime games for UMass have been against Xavier. The 2005 triple-OT game was the first extra-session game at Mullins since the Feb. 20, 1999 contest against the Musketeers. UMass went 77 games at home between overtime action with both games coming against Xavier.
For all games played in Cincinnati, Xavier leads 6-3. UMass is 1-2 at the Cintas Center. UMass gave Xavier its first-ever loss at the Cintas Center on Jan. 9, 2001. Overall, Xavier has lost just 15 games at Cintas, with a 83-15 mark.
Minuteman head coach Travis Ford has a career record of 1-4 against the Musketeers. He won his first game vs. Xavier with UMass in 2006, prior to losing twice while at Eastern Kentucky, 84-60 on Dec. 28, 2002 and 93-75 on Nov. 2, 2001. Ford is 1-2 against Xavier coach Sean Miller. Miller is 2-2 against UMass including 0-2 at the Mullins Center.
LAST YEAR'S GAME AT CINTAS CENTER - JAN. 18, 2007: In a battle between the Atlantic 10's preseason No. 1 and No. 2, Xavier held court and handed visiting UMass its first league loss, 83-77, at a soldout Cintas Center. Rashaun Freeman became UMass' sixth all-time leading scorer notching a game-high 22 points, but the Musketeers had six players score in double figures led by 16 from Justin Doellman. Pressure free throw shooting gave Xavier the late edge as the Musketeers hit six straight from the charity stripe in the final 23 seconds. With 30 seconds remaining, UMass junior forward Etienne Brower hit a three-pointer from the left wing to pull the Minutemen within two, 77-75, following sophomore Chris Lowe's steal off the Xavier inbound.
LAST GAME AT MULLINS CENTER - March 4, 2006: On Senior Day, UMass forward Jeff Viggiano nailed a 3-point field goal with 5:13 left in the second half to put UMass ahead for good and clinch the No. 7 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament with a 65-56 win over Xavier on at the Mullins Center before 6,222 fans. Viggiano finished with 12 points in his final home game at UMass. Stephane Lasme finished with a game-high 18 points and added 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double this season. Lasme's tip-in layup made it 59-54 with 3:52 left and James Life hit a jumper for make 61-54 with 1:32 remaining. UMass held Xavier scoreless for a span of 5:29 as they went on a 9-0 run to lead 61-54. Xavier did not have a field goal for the game's final 8:02.
UMass Against Ranked Teams
UMass broke a five-game losing streak against ranked teams with its 82-71 win at #14/18 Dayton on Jan. 16. The Minutemen's previous win over a ranked team came at #21 George Washington (76-74 in OT on Jan. 15, 2005). That was the second win a row over a ranked team that season as UMass also beat #7 UConn (61-59 on Dec. 9, 2004). In both those wins, 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.
This season the Minutemen also lost at then-No. 15 Vanderbilt on Jan. 5, 97-88, in Nashville.
Last season, UMass played just one ranked team when they lost at No. 4 Pittsburgh, 85-68 on Nov. 18, 2006. Two seasons ago, UMass lost to No. 3 UConn, 78-60 on Dec. 8, 2005, to No. 11 Boston College, 91-62 on Jan. 3, 2006 and to No. 7 to George Washington, 69-66 on Feb. 15, 2006.
UMass head coach Travis Ford won his first-ever game as a head coach against a ranked team with the win at Dayton. He is 1-5 at UMass after going 0-9 while coaching at Eastern Kentucky from 2000-05.
All-time, UMass is 30-66 against ranked teams.
Rising In The RPI
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.
Three Atlantic 10 teams have been ranked this season with highs of Dayton at No. 14, Rhode Island at No. 22 and Xavier at No. 20. When all three were ranked in each of the last two weeks, it was the first since the 2003 season, the A-10 had three ranked teams.
This week, Dayton is No. 16 and Xavier is No. 23. Rhode Island has fallen to ORV with 17 points.
UMass also played No. 14 Vanderbilt (17.2), one of the final five undefeated teams in the nation, in a 97-88 loss on January 5.
This week, UMass is receiving votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll for the first time this season with nine points. Effectively, UMass is 33rd in the nation. Last season, UMass received one vote in March for its only other time with points in the last two seasons. In the Coaches poll, Dayton is No. 19 and Xavier is No. 22.
UMass Continues Home Dominance
Ford-Tough At Home
Scoring, More and More
With the new offense, UMass is scoring at a high-pace. The Minutemen are averaging 84.9 points per game, up from 76.5 points (+8.4) through 18 games last season and 77.3 points (+7.6) for the entire season.
UMass is tied for fourth in the NCAA in scoring through Jan. 25 with 84.9 per game. The Minutemen are also second in the Atlantic 10 scoring behind No. 3 Duquesne (85.6). VMI leads the nation with a 93.9 average.
UMass is the only team in the nation with two players scoring 20 or more points per game. UMass is the only squad with two players in the in the Top 30 NCAA scoring leaders as of Jan. 25 with Ricky Harris at 28th with 20.7 per game. Gary Forbes is 30th with a 20.7 average.
UMass is 30th in total 3-pointers made with 169. With 9.4 treys per game, UMass leads the A-10 and is 21st in the NCAA in 3s per game.
After finishing third in the nation (7.45) in blocked shots with the nation's top shot blocker in Lasme, UMass is tied for third in 2007-08 with 7.6 per game. UConn (9.1) and Mississippi State (8.7) and lead the nation. UMass has overtaken Duquesne (7.5), which led the A-10 until now.
The Minutemen picked up 41 blocks in three games (13.7 per game) from Dec. 22-Jan. 2. The Minutemen had 18 swats against Central Connecticut on Dec. 22 for the second-most prolific shot blocking game in school history. The only game with more came with a school-record of 20 on Jan. 3, 1995 in a win over West Virginia at the Springfield Civic Center. UMass followed that up with 14 blocks vs. Boston University.
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.
Showing Major Improvement
Sophomore Ricky Harris has emerged as a major weapon on offense, scoring 20.7 points per game after just 4.5 last season as a freshman. He played in 32 games, all off the bench, but has started every game this season. Harris has 347 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 +16.2 points per game. Harris has scored in double-figures in every game this season with a career-high 30 at Saint Joseph's (1/23). He also scored 25 on four occasions (at Syracuse, at Boston College, at Vanderbilt and Saint Joseph's). 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 10.7 points, starting the first 15 games after scoring just 2.7 points per game in 2006-07 when he was hindered by an ankle injury all season. Brower has 192 points in the first 17 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 +7.5 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 seven games this season. he had just four double-figure games in 32 contests last season. 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 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds. An increase of 5.0 points and 2.8 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 4.6 per game and has made 16-of-38 from 3-point land. Last year he made seven treys all season in 31 games.
Among The A-10 Leaders
Harris is first in steals per game with 2.17, which is 32nd in the NCAA. He's fifth in 3-pointers per game with 2.89.
After an early season ankle injury, Chris Lowe 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 with 5.3 per game. He is also seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio with 1.87. Lowe has averaged 13.8 points and 5.8 assists over 13 games since returning from an ankle injury on Nov. 28. Over three games (Dec. 29-Jan. 5), Lowe averaged 18.0 points per game and shot 62 percent from the floor along with 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Lowe is also seventh in the league in steals with 1.69 per game.
Lowe is moving up on the all-time assists list at UMass as he stands eighth with 355. With five helpers against Charlotte (1/19), he passed Charlton Clarke (350). Next is Anthony Anderson, who had 367. 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 63.7 from the floor (58-of-91), but is shy of qualifying for the NCAA rankings (5.0 made field goals per game). If he were eligible, Milligan would rank ninth nationally and second in the A-10. Milligan has taken his field goal percentage from 49.4 to 63.7, an improvement of 14.3 percent.
Milligan is tied with Tony Gaffney for fourth in the Atlantic 10 in blocked shots per game with 1.61.
Beating the ACC & Big East
Forbes Earns National, A-10 Honors
In the win at BC, Forbes also pulled down seven rebounds. For the week, he shot 13-of-28 from the field and 18-for-19 from the line on the week. He was also named A-10 Player of the Week after the second week of the season on Nov. 18.
Forbes was honored by the A-10 for the first time after his outstanding play on Nov. 18 as he was named the Atlantic 10's co-player of the week along with Rhode Island's Will Daniels. Forbes averaged 24.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in three contests between Nov. 11-17. He scored a season-best 29 points, including the 1,000th of his career, on Nov. 11 at Northern Iowa. He added 19 points and nine boards in the Minutemen's 89-80 win over Yale on Nov. 14. Finally, he scored 25 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists on Nov. 17 as UMass downed Wisconsin-Green Bay, 93-78. That game was special to Forbes as he played before his father Roberto for the first time in his collegiate career. Roberto was visiting from his home in Jonesboro, Georgia.
UMass Wins Commonwealth Classic
UMass' athletic teams have had great success against Boston College athletic teams in the 2007 calendar year. The Minutemen and Minutewomen have posted a 10-2-1 record against BC in 10 different sports. Most notably, UMass' men's soccer team, which played in the NCAA College Cup on Dec. 7, knocked off No. 1-seeded Boston College on Nov. 28, by the score of 2-1. Additionally, UMass' softball team beat BC twice last spring, while the Minuteman hockey team has a 2-0-1 record against the Eagles, who won the 2007 Hockey East title. One of UMass' losses came in football, where the FBS Eagles were challenged by UMass' FCS team on Sept. 29, in a 24-14 BC win at Alumni Stadium. The Minutemen, who play with only 63 scholarships in the former Division I-AA, were within 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
The win also marked the first win vs. an ACC opponent since the Minutemen defeated Florida State, 78-68 on Feb. 15, 2005.
UMass also defeated alumnus Al Skinner for the first time since 1999, after Skinner had won eight in a row. Skinner is one of four former UMass players to have his number retired. Skinner had his No. 30 retired on Feb. 18, 2004. All-time against his alma mater, Skinner is 11-21
Bits From The 107-Point Outburst
The 107 points were the most UMass has scored in a regulation game since a 110-97 win over Duquesne on Jan. 6, 1977. It tied for the 11th-most points in a game for UMass as it also scored 107 in a win over Colgate in 1966.
The 207 combined points tied for the third-most points in a game in UMass annals. The record is 233, when UMass lost at Rutgers in triple overtime, 119-114 on Feb. 27, 1988.
The other game with more total points (214) marked the last time UMass played in a game where both teams scored 100 points in a regulation when North Texas beat the Minutemen, 110-104 on Dec. 29, 1982.
UMass continues to be the personal bug-a-boo for Hall of Fame Coach Jim Boeheim. Of schools the legend has faced two or more times, UMass is the ONLY school which Boeheim has never beaten. The Minutemen are 3-0, winning in 1992, 1995 and 2007 against the Orange.
In the epic win, UMass rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to come away with the win. Ricky Harris led the Minutemen with a career-high 25 points while Gary Forbes added 23 points. Forbes also had seven assists and six rebounds in what Travis Ford called his best game at UMass.
Point guard Chris Lowe returned to action after sitting for 14 days of game-action and had 13 points and a career-high tying nine assists.
UMass shot 52 percent from the floor including 14-of-31 from 3-point range. Etienne Brower made 4-of-6 from trey-range.
25 Is Twice As Nice
UMass Goes 2-1 At BTI Tip-Off
2006-07 A Season To Remember
The Minutemen captured a share of the league title on March 3 with a 71-67 win at Saint Joseph's. It marked UMass' first regular-season league title since 1996 and sixth A-10 regular-season crown overall. The Minutemen won five straight regular-season titles from 1992-96 and proceeded to win the A-10 Tournament each time.
The Minutemen went 24-9 overall and had the best season since the 1995-96 Final Four year when they went 35-2 in finishing as a national semifinalist. UMass finished with a 13-3 record in the Atlantic 10. UMass had its best conference record since going a school-record 15-1 in 1995-96. Prior to the loss to Saint Louis in the A-10s, the Minutemen had won six games in a row overall, their longest win streak since capturing 10 games in a row in Jan.-Feb. 1998.
UMass senior Stephane Lasme was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 2006-07. Lasme is the first UMass player to be named the league's top player since Marcus Camby in 1996 and fourth overall joining Camby, Lou Roe (1995) and Harper Williams (1992). Lasme was named an AP Honorable Mention All-American following the season. He was UMass' first All-American honoree since Camby in 1996.
Lasme was joined by senior Rashaun Freeman on the A-10 First Team. Freeman is the first player since Saint Joseph's Jameer Nelson (2001-04) to be a three-time first-team selection.
Lasme is the second player to be named the league's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same campaign joining Pepe Sanchez of Temple in 1999 and David West of Xavier in 2002. Lasme joined Tony Dobbins of Richmond (2002-04) as the only players in league history to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors in successive seasons. Lasme was also named to the All-Defensive Team for the second year in row.
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