Men's Basketball

Ford Urges Fans To Show For Fast-Paced Battle With Houston Wednesday Night

Ricky Harris and Gary Forbes are both ranked in Top 50 in the NCAA in scoring.

Ricky Harris and Gary Forbes are both ranked in Top 50 in the NCAA in scoring.
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    UMASS (10-2) vs. HOUSTON (11-1)
    Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 • 7 P.M. (ET)
    Mullins Center (9,493) • Amherst, Mass.
    TV: CSTV (Tom McCarthy & Pete Gillen)
    Radio: WRNX (100.9 FM - Flagship)
    WCRN (830 AM), WATD (95.9 FM)

    Ford Urges Fans To Show For Fast-Paced Battle With Houston
    • Two of the most exciting up-tempo teams in the nation, both looking to crack the Top 25 rankings, will play on Wednesday night at the Mullins Center as 10-2 UMass welcomes 11-1 Houston for a 7 p.m. tip-off. Following UMass' 70-61 win over Boston University last Saturday, Head Coach Travis Ford urged fans to take on Wednesday's game saying, "If you like UMass or you like basketball or both than Wednesday night, this is the place to be, the Mullins Center. It is going to be a very exciting game with Houston and I urge all fans to come out to see UMass and see what should be a great basketball game."

    • UMass is riding a five-game win streak overall and 14-game home win streak at the Mullins Center averaging 84.1 points per game with its new high-energy systems installed by Ford this year. The Minutemen are led by Gary Forbes (20.9 points per game) and Ricky Harris (19.2) as UMass is one of three schools in the nation with a pair of NCAA Top 50 scorers as Forbes is 22nd and Harris is 47th.

    • The Cougars, making their first visit to the Mullins Center, have won 10 games in a row since their only loss to Virginia Commonwealth (73-72) on Nov. 15. Houston is led by Rob McKiver, who is 20th in the NCAA in scoring with a 21.3 average. Houston is scoring 78.2 points per game.

    • At 11-1, Houston has the best record of any UMass opponent to come to the Mullins Center since No. 2 Saint Joseph's came to Amherst with a 25-0 record on Feb. 25, 2004.

    • UMass has scored more than 80 points in seven of 12 games. Houston has done it in six of 12 games including an 83-69 win over Kentucky on Dec. 18.

    • Wednesday game will be nationally televised on CSTV with a 7 p.m. start. Tom McCarthy and former Virginia and Xavier coach Pete Gillen will call the action. The game will be available online for free for members of UMass' Yearly All-Access package. Monthly subscribers will have to pay the single-game $9.95 fee to watch the contest.

    • 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 former Minuteman Tim Collins.

    UMass Celebrates Ford's Birthday With BU Win
    • The backcourt trio of Gary Forbes, Ricky Harris, and Chris Lowe combined for 51 points to give UMass head coach Travis Ford a 70-61 victory over Boston University on his 38th birthday last Saturday night at the Mullins Center. Forbes finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds as he recorded his third double-double of the season. Lowe and Harris added 14 points each. Forbes and Harris have scored in double-figures in all 12 games this season.

    • With the win, UMass improved to 10-2, its best start since opening the 1995-96 season 26-0 on its way to the Final Four.

    Houston-UMass Series Notes
    • UMass and Houston are playing the first of a home-and-home series on Wednesday as UMass will travel to Texas next season.

    • Houston coach Tom Penders is no stranger to UMass. He has coached at three Atlantic 10 schools in Fordham (1979-86 -- they were not in the A-10 during his tenture), Rhode Island (1986-88) and George Washington (1998-2001). All-time against the Minutemen, Penders is 7-4. He was 1-0 at Fordham winning in 1982, 4-1 at Rhode Island and 2-3 with GW.

    • Against schools from the current Conference USA, UMass is 5-4 (3-3 vs. Marshall, 1-0 vs. Central Florida, 1-0 vs. Tulsa and 0-1 vs. UAB). The last game vs. a CUSA team was an 86-77 loss to UAB in the final Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 25, 2004 in Springfield, Mass.

    • Houston is 28-38 against Atlantic 10 teams, with the big chunk coming against former CUSA foes Saint Louis (12-24) and Charlotte (2-10).

    • The Cougars feature a few players with local ties to the Northeast. Rob McKiver is from New Haven, Conn., and finished his prep career at the Winchendon School where he was coached by UMass alum Mike Byrnes. UMass' Papa Lo played at WInchenon as well. Senior Tafari Toney is from Brooklyn where he played at Erasmus Hall and competed against UMass' Gary Forbes, who played at Benjamin Banneker Academy. Zamal Nixon is also from Brooklyn having played at Boys and Girls.

    Vote UMass!
    • For the third week in a row, UMass is "others receiving votes" with eight on Dec. 31. UMass received six points in the Associated Press media poll on Dec. 17 and 24. If you rank the teams by points, the Minutemen would be 35th in the nation. Last week, UMass would have been effectively ranked 36th with its six points. This week is the ninth time in the last two seasons that UMass is receiving votes. 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.

    • 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.

    • Of other Minutemen opponents, undefeated Vanderbilt is ranked 15th at 12-0.

    Rising In The RPI
    • With big wins at Syracuse and Boston College, UMass is at No. 21 in the RPI rankings based on as of mid-day on Monday, Dec. 31. The Minutemen have been as high as No. 10 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. 9 Dayton, No. 15 Rhode Island, and No. 23 Xavier.

    Beating the ACC & Big East
    • With the wins at Syracuse and BC, UMass has beaten teams from the Big East and ACC for the first time since 2004-05 when UMass defeated UConn and Florida State at home. The last time UMass beat teams from those two conferences away from home came in 1999-2000 when the Minutemen last won at BC, prior to Wednesday, and beat Florida State at the Orange Bowl Classic.

    Block Party
    • Even after losing the nation's top shot blocker in Golden State Warriors draft pick Stephane Lasme, UMass has risen to the top of the nation blocked shots once against in 2007-08. The Minutemen have picked it up late with 32 blocks in its last two games. 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.

    • 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 7.2 per game. UConn leads the way with 9.1 per game. Second-ranked Duquesne leads the A-10 with 8.6 per contest. UNC-Asheville is third at 8.6

    UMass Continues Home Dominance
    • UMass wraps up a four-game homestand with the Houston game and the Minutemen look to go 6-0 at home this year and win their 15th game in a row at the Mullins Center. This stretch wraps up a stint after 28 days away from home. The Minutemen finally returned to the friendly confines of the Mullins Center when it beat Toledo, 68-61 on Dec. 15. UMass has won 14 home games in a row. The Minutemen are 27-4 (87.1) in their last 31 games at the Mullins Center spanning the last three seasons spanning Travis Ford's tenure in Amherst. UMass went 12-2 at home last year and 10-2 in 2005-06.

    • The Minutemen went 12-2 at home last season playing before an average of nearly than 6,000 fans per game at the Mullins Center, including a sellout of 9,493 for the Boston College game on Dec. 2. that UMass had its second crowd of more than 9,000 this year with 9,088 against Saint Louis on Feb. 24. Last season marked the first since 1998-99 UMass has had two crowds of more than 9,000 in the same season. The Saint Louis crowd was the largest for an A-10 game, since a sell-out of 9,493 against Temple on Feb. 17, 2001. With an average of 5,968 UMass had its best attendance since 1998-99 when an average of 6,723 came to the Mullins Center.

    Ford-Tough At Home
    • UMass head coach Travis Ford has been strong at home over the last four years with a 39-5 record as the home-team coach. He is 27-4 at UMass. In 2004-05, Ford posted a 12-1 record at Eastern Kentucky's McBrayer Arena prior to this year's perfect start at the Mullins Center. Staff members Tim Maloney, Steve Middleton, and James Altman were all with EKU as well.

    Scoring, More and More
    Travis Ford has installed an up-tempo offense in 2007-08 after two years of low-post dominance with Stephane Lasme and Rashaun Freeman leading the way. 2007 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Lasme was a second-round draft pick by the Golden State Warriors. Freeman is leading the French B Division in scoring and rebounding after being a three-time A-10 First-Team selection. Heading into 2007-08, UMass returned just 40 percent of its scoring and just 35 percent of its rebounding.

    • With the new offense, UMass is scoring a high-pace. The Minutemen are averaging 84.1 points per game, up from 74.4 points (+9.7) through 12 games last season and 77.3 points (+6.9) from the entire season.

    • UMass is 13th in the NCAA in scoring through Dec. 31 with 84.1 per game. The Minutemen are also second in the Atlantic 10 scoring behind No. 3 Duquesne (87.6). VMI leads the nation with a 94.8 average.

    • UMass is one of three teams in the nation with two players in the Top 50 NCAA scoring leaders as of Dec. 31 with Gary Forbes standing 22nd with a 20.9 average. Ricky Harris is 47th with 19.2 per game. The other teams on the exclusive list are Vanderbilt -- who UMass plays Saturday and North Dakota State.

    • UMass is 31st in total 3-pointers made with 110. With 9.2 treys per game, UMass leads the A-10 and is 18th in the NCAA in 3s per game.

    Showing Major Improvement
    • With only two players returning with significant playing time (Gary Forbes and Chris Lowe), many UMass players are seeing the most playing time of their careers. With that they have made major strides in all areas. Forbes, who started most of last year has increased his average 8.9 points per game from 13.0 to 20.9 to lead the Minutemen. Lowe has also taken his average from 7.0 to 11.4, a +4.4 mark.

    • Sophomore Ricky Harris has emerged as a major weapon on offense, scoring 19.2 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 12 games this season. Harris has 230 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 +14.7 points per game. Harris has scored in double-figures in all 12 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 10.5 points in 12 starts after scoring just 2.7 points per game in 2006-07 when he was hindered by an ankle injury all season. Brower has 126 points in the first 12 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 +7.8 improvement was aided by his career-high 25 points against Wis.-Green Bay.

    • 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 8.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. An increase of 5.0 points and 1.7 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 4.5 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
    • UMass has three leaders in individual categories in the Atlantic 10. Gary Forbes is tied for the league lead with Temple's Dionte Christmas in scoring with a 20.9 average. He is first in the league in defensive rebounding with 6.4 per game with 11 against Boston University. Forbes is third in the league in total rebounds with 8.0 per game. He is eighth in assists per game with 3.6.

    Ricky Harris leads in steals per game with 2.4, which is 36th in the NCAA. Harris is also fifth in the A-10 in scoring with a 19.2 average. He's seventh in 3-pointers game with 2.33.

    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 fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio with 1.96 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 2.1 per game.

    • Lowe is moving up on the all-time assists list at UMass. With five assists against CCSU (12/22), he passed BC Coach Al Skinner (320) and now has 326 to stand 10th. Next on the list at No. 9 is Louisville coach Rick Pitino with 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 seventh in the league in blocks per game with 1.58.

    Forbes Earns National, A-10 Honors
    • UMass senior Gary Forbes was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Week for the second time this season, Sunday, Dec. 16. He was also named's National Player of the Year and the UMass Athlete of the Week. Also on Fox, Forbes was named one of Frank Burlison's Top Five Players in the nation. Forbes led UMass to a 2-0 week with a 23.5 scoring average along with 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Forbes scored 22 points, including 17 in the second half, in UMass' 83-80 win at Boston College. He had a game-high 25 points in the win over Toledo.

    • 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 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 Comm. Classic For First Time Since `99
    • UMass captured its first Commonwealth Classic since 1999 with the 83-80 on Dec. 12 at Conte Forum. Riding a gutsy second-half effort by Gary Forbes and a stifling full-court press, the UMass men's basketball team picked up a victory over cross-state rival. The win was UMass' first vs. the Eagles since December 4, 1999, and first in the last nine games. UMass was led by sophomore Ricky Harris who tied a career-high with 25 points. Forbes added 22, including 17 in the second half. Along with Forbes and Harris, Chris Lowe tallied 17 points and Etienne Brower tied a career-high with 10 rebounds.

    • 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 is playing in the NCAA College Cup this weekend, 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

    Juicy Bits From The 107-Point Outburst
    • The Minutemen's 107-100 win at Syracuse ranks on the all-time charts in UMass history. The 107 points were the most ever scored by an opponent against the Orange since the Dome opened in 1980.

    • 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 ties 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 legends has faced two or more times, UMass is the ONLY schools 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.

    • Danté Milligan continued to show he can be a force with his second career-high 17-point game in the last three games. Milligan also equalled his Yale game, two weeks prior, with an 8-of-9 showing from the floor.

    25 Is Twice As Nice
    • When Gary Forbes and Etienne Brower each scored 25 points in the win over Wis.-Green Bay (11/17), it was the first time UMass had two or more 25-point scorers in more than 10 years. The last time UMass had two with 25 or more was on Jan. 23, 1996 as Carmelo Travieso (27) and Donta Bright (26) accomplished the feat.

    UMass Goes 2-1 At BTI Tip-Off
    • The Minutemen opened the 2007-08 season winning two of three games at the BTI Tip-Off Tournament hosted by Northern Iowa on the weekend of Nov. 9-11. UMass defeated Cal Poly, 90-64 and Northern Illinois, 102-87 before losing to the host Panthers, 75-68. Senior Gary Forbes, who scored his 1,000th career point in the loss to Northern Iowa, and sophomore Ricky Harris were named to the All-Tournament Team.

    2006-07 A Season To Remember
    • The 2006-07 season was a historical one for the UMass men's basketball team as the Minutemen captured a share of the Atlantic 10 Regular-Season Championship. The Minutemen returned to the postseason for the first time since 2000 and won their first postseason game since the 1996 Final Four season. UMass downed perennial SEC power Alabama, 89-87 in overtime before a national audience. That game capped off a sensation 24-9 season, which marked UMass' best record since that 1995-96 season when the Minutemen went an all-time best, 35-2. UMass' 24-win season tied for the fifth-most win in a season in the program's history.

    • 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.

    • Lasme and Freeman were named to the NABC All-District First Team and USBWA All-District First Team.




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