Double team cramps style of Camby in first half He delivers after break, but it's too late for UMass

March 31, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Marcus Camby was treated like the Player of the Year, and performed like one.

The 6-foot-11 junior center was shut down by Kentucky's double teams over the last 15 minutes of the first half last night, but he responded in the second, when UMass got within three points of the Wildcats. Camby's best half of the postseason still wasn't enough to deliver a victory, but he had Kentucky's attention for the second time this season.

In the season opener for the Minutemen, Camby opened his candidacy for Player of the Year with 32 points on 11-for-16 shooting, nine rebounds and six blocked shots in a 92-82 win over Kentucky. It was his third-highest point total of the season.

Last night, he had a game-high 25 points, eight rebounds and six blocks -- which tied a Final Four record -- but did his scoring in the second half. In the first half, Kentucky used the same double team that thwarted Wake Forest's Tim Duncan in the Midwest Regional final. Camby had five of UMass's first nine points, but had only one basket over the last 15 minutes of the first half.

Kentucky's big men doubled down on Camby as often as possible, something they failed to do in the season opener.

"Early in the year, centers were going off on us," said Antoine Walker, Kentucky's sophomore power forward. "That's something we worked on. We're not muscle guys; we're guys that use our quickness. When we double down on big guys and try to help each out as much as possible, that's the only way we can stop people.

"We're not 250, 260 [pounds], where we can sit aside and bang people."

Camby, who had spent late February and early March in a shooting slump, made six of nine shots in the second half. He made only one turnover in the half, but it was a big one: A Kentucky trap on the right baseline stripped him of the ball and the Wildcats converted it into Jeff Sheppard's dunk and a 68-60 lead with 3: 04 left.

"In the beginning, Kentucky forced me to take some bad shots," Camby said. "I probably needed to be more aggressive when the double team came."

Camby would be one of the top picks in the NBA draft if he passed on a final year of college eligibility.

"I haven't thought about that," he said. "I'm just down right now."

Forty-five minutes after the game, Camby was still in uniform, wandering across the Meadowlands floor with a towel draped over his head. Did he have an opinion on tomorrow's championship game between Kentucky and Syracuse?

"I ain't even gonna watch anymore," Camby said. "We're out of it."

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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