Hoops set to face St. Bonaventure

By Mike Marzelli Collegian Staff

Still in search of its 100th overall win at the William D. Mullins Center since the building’s 1992 opening, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team will take to its home court for the final time this season when St. Bonaventure (6-18 2-11 Atlantic 10) comes to Amherst Saturday for an Atlantic 10 contest slated to tip off at 2 p.m.

Usually a day reserved for Senior Day festivities, the lack of a fourth-year player on its roster other than injured guard Marcus Cox, who has not played this season, will allow UMass (9-16 3-10 A-10) to use the contest for what it is: one of three remaining games in what has been a tumultuous season, and additional chance to further growth for next season.

In other words, Steve Lappas’ Minutemen are playing for pride.

The Bonnies will enter play fresh off NCAA-imposed sanctions that will, among other penalties, place the program on three years probation as well as prohibit them from entering post-season play in 2004. The sanctions come as a result of the discovery that the school did indeed knowingly compete with an ineligible player last season under then-head coach Jan Van Breda Koff.

This season, SBU has struggled mightily under first-year head coach Anthony Solomon. Losers of nine straight and 16 of their last 18, the Bonnies can however boast of a 77-71 victory over UMass on January

24 at the Reilly Center, which coupled with a win over Rhode Island just three days later accounts for all of the Bonnies conference victories on the season.

In the two teams’ prior meeting, Junior swingman Patrick Lottin poured in 22 points and six rebounds while relying on his outside shooting to help key a 12-2 run to begin the second half that allowed Bonaventure to take a commanding lead and cruise to victory in Olean, N.Y. It was one of five consecutive losses for the Maroon and White.

St. Bonaventure is led by dynamic point guard Marques Green, widely considered one of the conference’s premier players and a candidate for A-10 Player of the Year as well as All-America team consideration.

The shortest player in the A-10 at just five foot seven inches tall, Green is the first player in school history to record 1,000 points, 600 assists and 300 steals in a single career and currently averages 19.3 points, 5.0 assists, 3.7 steals and 3.3 rebounds per game this season.

Lottin is second on the team in scoring averaging 13.0 points per game, while Maurice Young (12.0 ppg) and Ahmad Smith (10.6 ppg, 5.7 rebounds per game) have also picked up the slack for the Bonnies this season.

The Minutemen are coming off their fifth consecutive loss; an 83-58 loss to undefeated No. 2 St. Joseph’s at the Mullins Center in which UMass held a lead for more than 10 minutes into the game but was unable to hang on, falling down by 10 at the half and letting the game slip away down the stretch. The Maroon and White was led by Rashaun Freeman’s team high 21 points and 15 from reserve guard Chris Chadwick.