Men's Basketball

UMass Seeks First NIT Title Against Ohio State, Thursday

Matt Pennie, Ricky Harris and Tony Gaffney celebrate the Florida win.

Matt Pennie, Ricky Harris and Tony Gaffney celebrate the Florida win.

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    2008 MasterCard NIT Championship
    UMASS (25-10) vs. OHIO STATE (23-13)
    Thursday, April 3, 2008 • 7 p.m. (ET)
    Madison Square Garden (19,763) • New York, N.Y.
    TV: ESPN (Ron Franklin, Fran Fraschilla & Bill Raftery)
    ESPN Radio (Mark Kestecher & Bob Valvano)
    UMass Radio: WRNX (100.9 FM - Flagship)
    WCRN (830 AM), WATD (95.9 FM)

    UMass Seeks First NIT Title Against Ohio State, Thursday
    • Making the deepest run in a postseason in history of the men's basketball program, the UMass Minutemen (25-10) will take on Ohio State (23-13) in the NIT Championship on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. UMass rallied from a 10-plus point deficit for the third NIT postseason game in a row to defeat the defending NCAA national champ Florida, 78-66, on Tuesday night at the Garden. Ohio State is a No. 1 seed and beat Ole Miss in their Semi.

    • The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN with Ron Franklin, Fran Fraschilla and Bill Raftery calling the action. It will be carried by ESPN Radio with Marc Kestecher and Bob Valvano on the call. The game will be carried on the UMass Sports Network on 100.9 FM in Western Massachusetts and 830 AM and 95.9 FM in the Eastern portion of the state. Bob Behler and Tim Kenney call the action for UMass.

    • UMass is seeking its fourth overall national championship in its athletic history. The school most recently captured the I-AA football championship in 1998 in addition to the first NCAA women's lacrosse title in 1982 and the 1973 AIAW women's gymnastics championship. The Minutemen have played for two national championships in the last three seasons as they lost the NCAA men's lacrosse title to Virginia in May 2006 and the NCAA I-AA football title to Appalachian State in Dec. 2006.

    • UMass' program had a chance to reach another national title game, in men's soccer this past fall, but Ohio State, defeated the Minutemen in the 2007 Men's College Cup, 1-0, in Cary, N.C. on Dec. 14, 2007.

    UMass Support Strong
    • UMass had by far the most fans at the NIT Semifinal on Tuesday night, a sea of Maroon filled one end zone at Madison Square Garden. On Thursday 14 buses will be making their way down from Amherst for the NIT title game. Each bus carries 50 people so more than 700 fans will be brought down by UMass' athletic department.

    • The Minutemen have used their full compliment of tickets again and more than 3,500 UMass fans are expected to pack MSG on Thursday.

    Famous Alums In The House
    • It is expected that two of the most famous alums in UMass history will be on hand for Thursday's NIT Final. All-time basketball great and Hall of Famer Julius Erving will be at the game. Erving played as part of two UMass NIT teams in 1970 and 1971 leading the team in scoring both times in losses at Madison Square Garden to Marquette and North Carolina. Erving earned his degree from UMass during his NBA career, graduating in 1986. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees in recent years.

    • Entertainer, actor, comedian and writer Bill Cosby is also expected to be at the game. Cosby earned a masters from UMass in 1972 and a doctorate in 1976.

    UMass-Ohio State Series
    • UMass and Ohio State have played twice as part of a home-and-home series in 2000-01 and 2001-02. The Buckeyes won both games, winning at St. John Arena, 54-51 on Dec. 10, 2000. Then a year later at the Mullins Center in Amherst, UMass fell 70-62 on Jan. 9, 2002.

    Travis Ford is facing Ohio State for the first time in his coaching career. Thad Matta is 4-0 all-time vs. the Minutemen with all four wins coming from 2001-04 while he was at Xavier.

    Beating The ACC, Big East, SEC
    • With its win over Florida, UMass has now beaten teams from the ACC (Boston College), Big East (Syracuse twice) and SEC (Florida) in the same season for the first time since the 1995-96 NCAA Final Four season when the Minutemen beat Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida from the SEC, Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State and Wake Forest from the ACC, Boston College, Georgetown and Syracuse from the Big East.

    • UMass has never beaten teams from the ACC, Big East, SEC and Big Ten in the same season. Something it seeks to do on Thursday.

    UMass Against The Big Ten
    • UMass has not faced teams from the Big Ten very often. The Minutemen have just one win against a team when it played as part of the Big Ten. That was a 60-54 win over Northwestern on Dec. 29, 1981. Overall, UMass is 1-7 against active teams in the Big Ten at the time of the game. Indiana (0-1), Michigan (0-1), Michigan State (0-1), Northwestern (1-0), Ohio State (0-2) and Purdue (0-2). They are 10-13 against Penn State, but those games came prior to the Nittany Lions joining the league in 1991

    • UMass has never played Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Oh April!
    • UMass played its first-ever basketball game in the month of April with its win over Florida in the NIT Semifinals. The Minutemen's previous latest game came on March 30, 1996 in the NCAA Semifinals, when UMass lost to Kentucky, 81-74 at the Meadowlands.

    Comeback Kids
    • UMass has shown great resiliency over its last three NIT games, trailing by at least 10 in each game an coming back to win. The Minutemen were down by 12 to Akron in the NIT Second Round with 8:30 left, but won the game by five (68-63). UMass trailed Syracuse by 22 with 14:30 left and won by four (81-77). The Minutemen were down 10 to Florida late in the first half, but won 78-66.

    • On the season, UMass has 21 games in which it trailed at one point. Of those 21 wins, UMass trailed by 10 or more in five games which they have won.

    UMass' NIT Stars
    Dante Milligan's story of his goal to get to New York to win the NIT has been well documented. Milligan has played the best basketball of his college career in the 2008 NIT Tournament. In four games, he is averaging 15.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 66 percent from the floor. He came in the event with 8.0 ppg and 4.9 rpg averages in the first 31 games this season.

    Ricky Harris has been the most consistent scorer with and 18.8 average in the four NIT games, he has scored 16 vs. Stephen F. Austin, 20 against Akron, 23 vs. Syracuse and 16 against Florida. He is the only Minutemen with double-figures in all four postseason games. Harris has made 14 3-pointers in the four games as well, 3.2 per game.

    UMass' 20-Win Season
    • The Minutemen picked up their 20th win of the season on March 5 with the 100-63 win over La Salle. It marked the 14th time in history that UMass reached the mark and second year in a row after going 24-9 last season. The last time UMass won 20 in back to back seasons was 1994-95 (29-5) and 1995-96 (35-2).

    • With 25 wins this season, UMass has the fifth-most wins in school history passing last year's team (24-9) an the 1992-93 squad (24-9). Fourth on the list is 28 wins set in 1993-94.

    Game Number 36
    • With its 36th game of the season, UMass will come one game shy of its school record for games played in a season. In 1995-96, UMass played 37 games as it went 35-2 advancing to the NCAA Final Four. UMass played 35 games in 1991-92 and 1993-94.

    At The World's Most Famous Arena
    • All-time at Madison Square Garden, UMass has a 9-12 overall record after its 78-66 win over Florida in the Semifinals. UMass last played at the Garden in the 2005 Panasonic Holiday Festival. UMass split two games, beating St. Peter's (66-49) and losing to St. John's (51-49) in the final.

    • 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.

    Forbes Hits 1,000 UMass Points
    Gary Forbes joined Julius Erving as the only two players to score 1,000 points in their only two seasons with the Minutemen on March 5, 2008 with 26 points vs. La Salle. He became the 39th player in UMass history with 1,000 points while playing in Amherst. He had already surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career, at Northern Iowa on Nov. 11, 2007. Forbes has 1,112 in his 68 games at UMass in two years since transferring from Virginia. Overall, Forbes has 1,623 points including 511 at Virginia. The Last UMass player to reach 1,000 career points was current Miami Heat forward Stephane Lasme, who did it in his last UMass game at West Virginia in the 2007 NIT Second Round.

    • 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) has scored more in a single-season. Ricky Harris is eighth on the list with 629.

    • 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
    Chris Lowe is moving up on the all-time assists list at UMass as he stands fourth with 475. Next on the list is Alex Eldridge (518). With his career-high 14 against La Salle (3/5), Lowe moved past UMass Hall of Famer Joe DiSarcina (431) into fifth. 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).

    • Lowe has five games with 10 or more assists all in the last 12 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 204 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 8.2 assists in his last 12 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.

    Harris on The 3-point Charts
    Ricky Harris has moved in elite company on the 3-point charts in UMass history. He needs just three 3-pointers reach 100 for the season. With 97 made treys on 266 attempts, he has risen to the top two on both single-season lists. Harris stands second in single-season makes (97). He passed Monty Mack, who hit 96. Atop the list is Carmelo Travieso with 104 in 1995-96.

    • With seven attempts vs. Florida on Tuesday, Harris is also tied for first in 3-pointers attempted with 266. He is tied with Mack (1999-200) and will most certainly break that mark in the NIT title game.

    Milligan's Block Party
    Dante Milligan leads the team with 69 blocks for 1.97 per game, which is third in the A-10. Milligan has 100 swats in his career to stand ninth all-time in Amherst.

    • Milligan's 69 blocks stand ninth in a single-season. Stephane Lasme is No. 8 with 72 in his sophomore season of 2004-05.

    Stealing the Show
    • Both Chris Lowe and Ricky Harris have entered the single-season steals charts with 54 this season. Lowe and Harris are tied for eighth all-time at UMass. Next on the list at No. 7 is Will Herndon with 56 in 1991-92. No. 6 is Shannon Crooks with 58 in 1999-2000.

    UMass' Senior Class
    • Prior to tip-off vs. La Salle on March 5, UMass recognized the senior class of team captains forward Etienne Brower, forward Gary Forbes, forward/center Danté Milligan and forward Matt Pennie along with senior guard Nana Ampim.

    • 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 49-19 (72.1). Over the last three years (Milligan and Pennie), UMass is 62-34 (64.5). The lone four-year member is Ampim and UMass is 78-46 (62.9) in his tenure.




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