Georgetown, UMass get their wish

March 23, 1996|By Bob Ryan | Bob Ryan,BOSTON GLOBE

ATLANTA - Georgetown wanted UMass and UMass wanted Georgetown, and nobody wanted it more than CBS. Get ready to take the phone off the hook because tonight at 6, it's going to happen.

Georgetown set it up with its frenzied 98-90 victory over Texas Tech in the first game of a Georgia Dome NCAA East Regional doubleheader Thursday night, and UMass made it a reality with a surprisingly easy 79-63 dispatch of fuzzy-cheeked Arkansas in the nightcap.

There was some question about whether there would be a second game, because if Game 1 had gone any longer, it might have run into a local curfew. There were 59 personal fouls called and 81 free throws shot during Georgetown's victory over Texas Tech. An East Regional-record six players fouled out, one of them (Georgetown's human condo, Jahidi White) needing only seven minutes to do so. The game dragged on for an astonishing 2 hours 40 minutes, in part because of overzealous officiating and in part because of the animated play of some very talented athletes.

"The officials were calling a lot of fouls both ways because both teams were playing aggressively," analyzed Georgetown coach John Thompson. "There were times when I thought the game was never going to end."

Gee, Coach, you mean perhaps the final two minutes and change, which were clocked in excess of 28 minutes?

At any rate, UMass and Arkansas tipped off at 10: 47, which brought back memories of the four midnight starts coach John Calipari's teams made for ESPN back when UMass was a hunter and not a huntee.

Any food-gathering latecomers must have thought the game was being played by computer because by the time Marcus Camby entered, it was 7-0 and the thing wasn't even 75 seconds along. You read that "by the time Camby entered the game" part correctly. For reasons which were unknown to all media observers (including the UMass broadcast crew) at tip-off time, Camby was replaced in the starting lineup by Tyrone Weeks. " 'Coach's decision' is all I can tell you," said sports information director Bill Strickland at halftime. "Hopefully, he'll tell us more later." (In fact, Coach Cal revealed after the game that Camby had been benched for being late for a team shoot-around because he was caught in traffic.)

It's been a long time since UMass came out and really played a serious two-way, pedal-to-the-metal game, the last such occasion probably being the second Temple game (84-55). UMass has had nice defensive moments, nice offensive moments and nice move-the-ball moments, but the Minutemen have managed to put some suspense in just about every one of their games during the past six weeks or so.

They came out sizzling Thursday night, however. Donta Bright hit a jumper to start and then stole the inbounds pass for an old-fashioned three-point play, making it 5-0 in dramatic fashion. The lead grew to 13-0 before center Lee Wilson got the Razorbacks on the scoreboard with two free throws.

Speaking of same, remind Nolan Richardson to send a thank you note to the Naismith estate for the old boy's thoughtfulness in inventing the foul shot as a means of scoring. The Razorbacks were 14-for-16 from the line in the first half, which helped offset execrable shooting from the floor: 5-for-27 (19 percent).

Calipari's only real concern at halftime was that too many of his big people had incurred the wrath of the officials. By intermission, Camby and Weeks had three personals apiece and backup forward/center Inus Norville had four.

The trip to Atlanta had gotten off to a weird and frightening start the day before when Carmelo Travieso entered an interview room and wound up toppling off a 4-foot-high platform before getting a chance to open his mouth. There had been a great deal of speculation about Travieso's health before this game, but he put fears to rest early, combining with backcourt mate Edgar Padilla to create some steals and drilling an early three-pointer. It doesn't appear anyone has to worry about Carmelo.

Now Georgetown and UMass can start worrying about each other. UMass had some very sloppy sequences against the Arkansas press, which is a Double-A affair compared to Georgetown's big-league version. If UMass does not take better care of the basketball against Georgetown than it did against Arkansas, it will be a very embarrassing evening for the Minutemen.

And Georgetown can start figuring out how it will deal with the best half-court defensive team in America. There is no smarter or more precise team than UMass, and Georgetown is fueled more by energy and emotion than it is by paying attention to basketball nuances.

But as far as this particular game was concerned, it was a classic case of Boys vs. Men. Arkansas did very well to get this far, but UMass has loftier ambitions than a simple trip to the Sweet 16. People keep doubting the Minutemen, but they just keep winning and winning, and now they are one victory away from the Final Four.

Pub Date: 3/23/96

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