UMass Faces Defending NCAA Champion Florida In NIT Semi
2008 MasterCard NIT Semifinal
UMass Faces Defending NCAA Champion Florida In NIT Semi
Ford, Staff Face Mentor & Friend
Two of UMass' coaches served under Donovan with the Gators. UMass Associate Head Coach Tim Maloney was on Donovan's staff from 1997-2002 before joining Ford at Eastern Kentucky. Minuteman Assistant Coach Adam Ginsburg, served as a staff assistant for Donovan in 1998-99.
New Yorkers Return Home
Of UMass' coaching staff, other than head coach Travis Ford, Kentucky born-and-bred, all of the members are New York-area natives. Associate Head Coach Tim Maloney is a native of Floral Park and Long Beach. Assistant Coach Steve Middleton grew up in Brooklyn and played at Samuel J. Tilden High School. Assistant Coach Adam Ginsburg is a native of Baldwin on Long Island while Director of Basketball Operations James Altman grew up in Rockville Centre and played his high school basketball at South Side. Director of Player Personnel Rodrick Rhodes was a three-time All-American at St. Anthony's High School just across the river in Jersey City, New Jersey. Rhodes also played under Donovan at Kentucky.
UMass 3-1 Vs. Defending Champs
UMass won its last game against a defending champion on Dec. 9, 2004 as the Minutemen downed No. 7 UConn at the Mullins Center, 61-59 as Rashaun Freeman scored with seconds left to lift UMass to the historic win. The game marked the first time a defending champion visited the Mullins Center.
UMass knocked off North Carolina, 91-86, in overtime on Nov. 24, 1993 as part of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. One year later, UMass thumped Arkansas, 104-80, on Nov. 25, 1994 in the Tip-Off Classic at the Springfield Civic Center.
That win over No. 1 Arkansas is symbolic, as it vaulted UMass to the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll for the first time in school history. This week is the 10-year anniversary of the school's first No. 1 ranking, as the Minutemen played their first game as the No. 1 team on Dec. 3, 1994.
UMass' only loss against a champ came on Nov. 22, 1999, as the Minutemen lost to UConn at Gampel Pavilion, 79-65, on Nov. 22, 1999.
More UMass-Florida Connections
High school teammates will meet up as Chris Lowe, UMass' starting point guard, played with sophomore forward Jonathan Mitchell at Mount Vernon High School, just north of New York City. They combined to help coach Bob Cimmino win the 2004 New York State title.
Florida won the first meeting, 89-65 in the Gator Bowl Classic held in Jacksonville on Dec. 28, 1978.
UMass' Road To The NIT Final Four
The win, which was UMass' second of the season at the Carrier Dome against the Orange, marked the first time an opponent defeated Syracuse twice in the same season at the Dome and the first time since 1923, that Syracuse lost at home to the same team twice in a season. Earlier this season, UMass won an amazing 107-100 game at the Carrier Dome on Nov. 28, 2007, as the Minutemen scored the most points of any Syracuse opponent in the history of the Dome.
Tuesday was the third anniversary of the hiring of Travis Ford as the head coach at UMass. Ford was introduced at a press conference/pep rally before thousands of fans on March 25, 2005. Ford is 61-34 at UMass.
The UMass basketball team advanced to the NIT Quarterfinals by virtue of a 68-63 comeback win over Akron on March 22 at the Mullins Center. Ricky Harris led the Minutemen with 20 points as they rallied from 12 points down with eight minutes left in the game. Chris Lowe made four clutch free throws and finished with 17 points in the win. In the first round, UMass posted a solid 80-60 win over Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin on March 18 at the Mullins Center. Dante Milligan had a career game in UMass' NIT First Round win over SFA last Tuesday, as he had 24 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots. A-10 Player of the Year Gary Forbes added 19 points and the league's Most Improved Player Ricky Harris had 16 points.
UMass At The "World's Most Famous Arena"
UMass has had two of the biggest wins in school history at the Garden, beating a ranked team for the first time ever and beating a No. 1 team for the first time ever.
The Minutemen are 6-3 in regular-season games at the "Mecca of Basketball" including a 1-1 mark in the 1993 Preseason NIT and 5-2 in other regular-season games, mostly against metro New York area teams. The Minutemen are 1-8 in the postseason NIT, winning only once in 1973, over Missouri, 78-71 -- the first win over a ranked team in school history.
Prior to the 2005 Holiday Festival, UMass had not played at MSG in nearly 10 years when then-No. 1 UMass beat Fordham, 73-47 on Feb. 6, 1996 as part of the Chemical Bank Challenge. In that game, current Denver Nugget Marcus Camby led UMass with 26 points as then UMass coach and current Memphis coach John Calipari won his 100th Atlantic 10 game.
The most memorable game for UMass at the Garden came in the 1994 Preseason NIT. then-No. 18 UMass beat No. 1 North Carolina, 91-86 in overtime on Nov. 24, for the Minutemen's first win over a No. 1-ranked team in school history. Lou Roe led UMass with 28 points. With the big win and nation taking notice, the Minutemen played No. 6 Kansas tough two nights later but lost to the Jayhawks, 86-75 as Roe had a team-high 25 points.
UMass played its first-ever game at MSG against St. Peter's. The then-Redmen beat St. Peter's 94-75 on Feb. 1, 1962. UMass played Iona in each of the next two seasons at the Garden, losing both times.
UMass made its postseason NIT debut at the Garden in 1970, falling to Marquette, 62-55 on Mar. 14. Hall of Famer Julius Erving was held to just 18 points in the game -- only the second time that season he failed to score 20 in a game -- as he averaged 25.7 that season.
In the lone postseason NIT win, coming at MSG, UMass defeated No. 15 Missouri, 78-71 on Mar. 17, 1972 for its first-ever win over a ranked team in school history after being 0-10 against Top 10 teams. Coached by UMass Hall of Famer Jack Leaman, current Boston College coach Al Skinner had 14 points and six rebounds in the win. UMass lost to No. 11 North Carolina in the second round, 73-63 on Mar. 20 as current Louisville coach Rick Pitino scored eight points.
UMass advanced to the NIT Final Four for the first time in school history in 1991, playing at the Garden, but lost in the semifinals, 73-71 to Stanford on March 25, 1991. In the third place game, Colorado beat UMass, 98-91 on March 27.
Head Coach Travis Ford At The Garden
Against St. John's, Ford played 32 minutes and scored eight points while handing out six assists. UMass' Director of Player Personnel Rodrick Rhodes led the Wildcats with 23 points. Versus Rutgers, Ford played 28 minutes and scored two points while dishing out six assists. Jamal Mashburn led the way with 22 points.
Welcome (back) To The Garden
Head coach Travis Ford returned to MSG for the first time since 1992, here's a look at the last time UMass' staff and players have been the Garden in addition to notable trips in.
Associate head coach Tim Maloney was part of the Florida staff which played in the 2002 Preseason NIT. The then-No. 7 Gators beat then No. 2 Kansas, 83-72 for Florida's win over a highest ranked team in school history to that point.
Assistant coach Steve Middleton had not been the Garden in 21 years since he played in high school summer league tournament and a Brooklyn prep game while he attended Tilden High School.
Those games in 2005 marked first time assistant coach Adam Ginsburg and director of basketball operations James Altman were on the sidelines for a game at the Garden. Both are lifelong Knicks fans, who grew up going to games during the Patrick Ewing era at MSG.
Chris Lowe played in the Garden twice while at Mount Vernon High School, during his senior year in 2005, Lowe played against Rice High School and also played against Bayonne (N.J.) as a junior in 2004.
Danté Milligan was on the Pitt Panthers bench for several games at MSG including the 2004 Big East Championships while he was redshirting. Pittsburgh lost to UConn 61-58 in the Final on March 13, 2004. He was on the bench in the 2004-05 season when Pitt played Memphis in the Coaches Vs. Cancer event and when the Panthers played St. John's last season.
Of the players on the current roster Luke Bonner played at the Garden while with West Virginia in 2005. Gary Forbes played at the Garden while in high school at Benjamin Banneker High School in Brooklyn. His team split two games in New York State title games, beating Thurgood Marshall in 2002 and losing to Lincoln in 2003. Etienne Brower will be playing at the Garden for the first time, but has been to Knicks games.
Milligan's Connection to The Garden
UMass' NIT History
Some of UMass' all-time greats have played in the NIT. Hall of Famer Julius Erving played in UMass' first two NIT appearances, as the then-Redmen lost to Marquette in 1970 and North Carolina in 1971.
The 1972-73 UMass team won the school's first postseason game beating Missouri, 78-71 on March 17, 1973, at Madison Square Garden. That team featured current Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Boston College coach Al Skinner. Skinner had 14 points an six rebounds in that win.
Last Year's NIT Run For UMass
In the second round, it looked like it might be a repeat of the 1995 season when UMass rallied back from 18 points down to beat West Virginia in overtime, the last time these two teams played. This time, the Minutemen trailed by 19 in the second half, whittling it to four on two occasions, but WVU was too much down the stretch defeating UMass 90-77 in the second round of the NIT at the WVU Coliseum. At 24-9, UMass finished its season with the fifth-best record in history. West Virginia's Frank Young led all scorers in the game with a career-high 31 points on the strength of six three pointers and 11-of-15 shooting. Stephane Lasme led UMass with 14 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks to finish his career with 1,011 points becoming the 38th player in UMass history with 1,000 career points. James Life was the high-scorer for the Minutemen with 20 points.
Forbes, Harris Gain Atlantic 10, Regional Honors
Forbes was named the Atlantic 10 First Team as well as he tied for the league's regular-season scoring crown with Temple's Dionte Christmas. Both players had 20.3 averages with 610 points in 30 games. Forbes is now second for the league in scoring with a 19.5 average through the postseason. Forbes is also fifth in the league in rebounding with 7.7 UMass had two first-teammers last year in Lasme and three-time winner Rashaun Freeman.
Sophomore guard Ricky Harris was named the Atlantic 10 Chris Daniels Most Improved Player of the Year. Harris took his scoring average from 4.5 to 18.0 in his second collegiate season. It was the largest improvement of any player in the league at +13.5. UMass had the three largest jumps as Etienne Brower is +10.0 and Forbes is +6.5. Harris is the first UMass player to win the honor since 2001 when Micah Brand and Kitwana Rhymer shared the MIP.
Forbes was also named to the NABC and USBWA All-District First Team. It is the fourth year in a row UMass has had a first-teammer as Lasme and Freeman made it last year and Freeman was honored in 2005 and 2006.
UMass' 20-Win Season
With 24 wins this season, UMass has tied the for the fifth-most wins in school history with last year's team (24-9) an the 1992-93 squad (24-9).
Last year, UMass picked up its 20th win of the season on Feb. 21, 2007 beating St. Bonaventure, 83-44. The win gave the Minutemen their first 20-win season since 1997-98 when UMass went 21-11. Prior to that season, UMass last won 20 or more when they set the school record for wins a season when a 35-2 record the Final Four season of 1995-96.
UMass' Senior Class
The senior class is made up five players, playing three different lengths of years at UMass. Over the last two years (Forbes and Brower), UMass is a combined 48-19 (71.5). Over the last three years (Milligan and Pennie), UMass is 61-34 (64.2). The lone four-year member is Ampim and UMass is 77-46 (62.6) in his tenure.
UMass had its most complete showing of the year in a 100-63 trouncing of La Salle on Senior Night at the Mullins Center. The A-10 Player of the Year Candidate Gary Forbes scored his 1,000th point at UMass as he racked up 26 points and 11 rebounds in his final regular-season home game. Chris Lowe posted the sixth triple-double in UMass history with 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. Three other Minutemen reached double-figures as sophomore Ricky Harris scored 21, Dante Milligan tallied 18 points, six rebounds and blocked five shots. Etienne Brower started slow, but finished with 11 points. It gave UMass its 20th win of the season, the 14th time in school history.
Racking Up A-10 Players Of Week
On the week ending March 2, Harris was honored after he averaged 19.0 ppg in a 2-0 UMass week. Harris hit seven 3-pointers in the two wins. He shared the award with Richmond's Dan Geriot.
Chris Lowe earned his first-ever A-10 Player of Week on Feb. 24. Lowe averaged 17.0 points and 11.5 assists in a 2-0 week for the Minutes, who knocked off a Saint Louis and Rhode Island.
Forbes Hits 1,000 UMass Points
Forbes is now 29th all-time with 1,093 points at UMass. Next at No. 28 is Mike Williams (1,122 from 1991-95).
Forbes is also moving up the charts in terms of single-season marks at UMass. He has the third-most single-season points with 663. Only Erving (727 in 1970-71) and Marcus Camby (675 in 1995-96) have scored more in a single-season. Ricky Harris is ninth on the list with 613.
Forbes' 19.5 points per game stands as the ninth-best single-season scoring mark in history. He could be the first 20-point scorer since Camby in 1995-96, who scored 20.5 per game.
Lowe Moving Up Assists Chart
Lowe has five games with 10 or more assists all in the last 11 outings, most recently with 11 at Syracuse in the NIT Quarterfinals. He set a then-career-high 13 against Saint Louis (2/17). That was the highest total since all-time leader Carl Smith tied the school record with 15 on Jan. 23, 1986. Then, Lowe bettered it in the La Salle game, which with 14 is tied for the fourth-most assists in a game in UMass history.
With his 199 assists this season, Lowe is up to fourth-best single-season in UMass history after passing Smith (191), Alex Eldridge (174) and Rick Pitino (168). Smith is also next with 212 in 1983-84.
With a similar season as a senior, Lowe would be on pace to pass all-time career assist leader Smith (633).
Lowe is averaging 8.4 assists in his last 11 games with his first five career games with 10 or more assists with double-doubles in the three of the last 10 games including the sixth triple-double in UMass history.
Lowe's Amazing Triple-Double
Harris on The 3-point charts
Scoring, More and More
With the new offense, UMass is scoring at a high-pace. The Minutemen are averaging 81.5 points per game, up from 77.3 points (+4.2) for the entire season.
UMass is tied for eighth in the NCAA in scoring through March 27 with 81.5 per game. The Minutemen are also second in the Atlantic 10 scoring behind No. 6 Duquesne (82.3). VMI leads the nation with a 91.3 average.
UMass has scored 80 or more points 17 times with a 15-2 record in those games. The Minutemen have reached 90 points nine times, standing, 8-1.
UMass had been one of two squads with two players in the in the Top 50 NCAA scoring leaders for nearly the entire season (until Feb. 11) with Gary Forbes, who is now 42nd with a 19.5 average and Ricky Harris, who was as high as 28th, is now 70th at 18.0.
UMass is eighth in total 3-pointers made with 314, which is school record (the former mark was just 204 in 2001-02). With 9.2 treys per game, UMass leads the A-10 and is 16th in the NCAA in 3s per game. UMass has made 10 or more treys in 15 games, most recently with 11 in the NIT Quarterfinal at Syracuse. UMass has 104 treys in its last 10 games.
Showing Major Improvement
The Atlantic 10's Most Improved Player Ricky Harris has emerged as a major weapon on offense, scoring 18.0 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 613 points this year (ninth-most in UMass history) 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 and all players in the Atlantic 10 in scoring improvement at +13.5 points per game. Harris scored in double-figures in the first 18 games this season and in 31 of 34 overall 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 12.7 points, starting 28 games after scoring just 2.7 points per game in 2006-07 when he was hindered by an ankle injury all season. Brower has 431 points in 34 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. He has 24 games with 10 or more points, UMass is 18-6 in those games. Over an eight-game span from Jan. 27-Feb. 21, Brower averaged 18.1 points including 20 or more in four of those eight games. He set a new career-high with 26 points at Rhode Island (2/21) including 8-of-10 from the floor and 5-7 from 3-point range. He had 22 vs. Xavier (1/27) and 21 against both Temple (2/10) and Duquesne (1/30).
Senior Danté Milligan has tallied 10 or more points in 12 games this season. He had just four double-figure games in 32 contests last season. Milligan's dunkw ith 27 seconds left at Syracuse gave UMass the lead for good as the Minutemen capped a 22-point comeback in the NIT Quarterfinals. He had a career game in the NIT First Round vs. SFA (3/18) with a career-best 24 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks. He netted 21 against Saint Louis (2/17) in front of more than 40 friends and family. He had his previous 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 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds. An increase of 5.3 points and 2.6 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 3.7 per game and has made 20-of-55 from 3-point land. Last year he made seven treys all season in 31 games. Bonner had a career-game with 13 points, making 6-of-7 in the NIT Quarterfinals.
UMass has nine games with 10 or more blocks most recently with 11 against Charlotte (3/13).
Dante Milligan leads the team with 66 blocks for 1.94 per game, which is third in the A-10. Milligan has 97 swats in his career to stand ninth all-time in Amherst.
Milligan's 66 blocks stand tied for 10th in a single-season. No. 9 is Lari Ketner with 67 and Stephane Lasme is No. 8 with 72 in his sophomore season of 2004-05.
Tony Gaffney is second with 57 blocks for 1.7 per game, fourth in the league.
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 tied for the ninth most in a game in NCAA history, dating to 1985 when blocked shots became an official statistic.
Among The A-10 Leaders
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 first in the league in assists with 6.22 per game. With 82 assists in his last 10 games, he is now tied for 13th in the NCAA in assist average along with Florida's Nick Calathes. He had a career-high 14 assists vs. La Salle (3/5) to better his 13 against Saint Louis (2/17) on the heels of his first-career game in double-figure assists against Fordham (2/14) with 10. He is also fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.07. Lowe tied his career-high with 23 points against Rhode Island (2/7). When Lowe has five or more assists this season, UMass is 20-3. The Minutemen are 2-7, when he has less than five.
Lowe has risen to a fourth in steals with 1.69 per game after 17 steals in his last six games.
With his sensational 50 percent shooting from 3-point range of the last 19 games, Etienne Brower is now fifth in the league in 3-point field goal percentage at 44.0. He is also 10th in the league in rebounding at 6.6.
Dante Milligan is third in the league in swats with 1.94 after a career-high seven against Stephen F. Austin (3/18). He is shooting 63.8 from the floor (118-of-185), but is shy of qualifying for the NCAA rankings (5.0 made field goals per game). If he were eligible, Milligan would rank fourth nationally and first in the A-10. Milligan has taken his field goal percentage from 49.4 to 64.7, an improvement of 15.3 percent.
Tony Gaffney is fourth with 1.7 blocks per game including a career-high six at Duquesne (1/30).
Harris is seventh in steals per game with 1.53 and sixth in 3-pointers per game with 2.82.
UMass Continues Home Dominance
Ford-Tough At Home
UMass Against Ranked Teams
This season the Minutemen are 1-2 against ranked teams, losing at then-No. 15 Vanderbilt on Jan. 5, 97-88, in Nashville and falling to #23/22 Xavier on Jan. 27, 77-65, at the Mullins Center.
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 1-6 at UMass after going 0-9 while coaching at Eastern Kentucky from 2000-05.
All-time, UMass is 30-67 against ranked teams.
For the week of Jan. 21, UMass received 47 votes in the AP Poll to effectively rank the Minutemen No. 31. It was the most points UMass received since the 1998-99 season. UMass was part of "Others Receiving Votes" from Dec. 17-Jan. 7 polls. In the Jan. 7 poll, UMass had five points, UMass would have been ranked 34th. UMass had eight points on Dec. 31. UMass received six points in the Associated Press media poll on Dec. 17 and 24. UMass has received votes in a week for the 10th time in the last two seasons with the votes on Jan. 7. Last season, the Minutemen received a season-best 11 votes in the March 3, 2007 poll to "rank" them 37th that week.
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 the same weeks of Jan. 7 and Jan. 14, it was the first time since the 2003 season, the A-10 had three ranked teams.
UMass also played Vanderbilt, which was one of the final five undefeated teams in the nation, in a 97-88 loss on January 5.
For the Jan. 21 week, UMass received votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll for the first time this season with nine points. Effectively, UMass was 33rd in the nation according to that poll. Last season, UMass received one vote in March for its only other time with points in the last two seasons.
Getting It Done In 3S
The Minutemen also had three players grab 10 rebounds in a game for the first time since 1999. UMass was led by Tony Gaffney, who also had a career-high six blocked shots, with 12. Dante Milligan had 11 rebounds and Forbes had 10 to give him his fourth double-double of the season.
UMass had the 23rd-best non-conference RPI.
Beating the ACC & Big East
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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