A Bad Time for a Timeout

By David Scott - December 07, 2006


BOSTON - Down, 56-54, his private school Terriers dressed in white, wouldn't stop biting, scratching and nipping at the heels of the big state university with the mean, black uniforms and the script "UMass" on the chest.

Unfortunately, Dennis Wolff, the coach, did stop pestering the repeatedly lackluster and mostly benign Minutemen.

He stopped everyone, in fact, with a timeout - ball in hand - with 4.2 seconds remaining and BU down a deuce.

Problem was, that at about 4.4 seconds, freshman Tyler Morris launched what would have been his third 3-point attempt of the game. It also would have been the only one he made (a swish, no-less) and it would have, in all likeliehood given BU a deserved come-from-behind win.

Instead Wolff, in his 13th year at BU, called a timeout he later said he wished he didn't have. He was granted the stoppage, rightfully so, by official John Hughes, and Travis Ford's Minutemen escaped Boston - barely.

"Obviously I should not have called that timeout," said Wolff. "What I told the kids in the locker room is that the only person that should be blamed for this loss, is me."

The timeout negated the Morris shot and a final Terrier play was badly botched (or well-defended as UMass will tell you) with an airball miss by freshman Carlos Strong, who, like Morris finished 0-for-2 from 3-point land. (As a team, BU shot 2-of-10, with both makes coming in the first half.)

"Thank goodness for the timeout, for sure," said Ford, whose twang gets more pronounced after a win (like tonight) than a loss (like Saturday's to another city school - Boston College). "But beware of them in the next couple of years, I'll tell you that."

For now though, the baby Terriers are still learning to crawl. Wolff, of course, wasn't the sole reason BU lost - a 33 percent effort from the field in the first half was a primary obstacle, as was being out-rebounded by 12 boards (39-27). Still it was revealing to see Wolff get so hard on himself for a decision that will be repeated dozens of times with dozens of different outcomes in the coming weeks and months of this - or any - college basketball season. End-of-game situations are tricky beasts - made even trickier by a freshman-dominated team like the one Wolff has.

Know this too, the Wolff who coaches Dogs was probably a bit more on-edge with UMass in The Agganis Arena (and gaining a three-to-one edge in fan support, it seemed). Two of his recent defects from a somewhat unstable program (Etienne Brower and Tony Gaffney) have found new homes in Amherst with the new neighborhood gunslinger, Ford.

Brower, however, did not play in the game and Gaffney becomes eligible next Fall. But unless either of them can fix badly broken free throws and prevent ghastly turnovers, their use to UMass will be negligible. Ford's Minuteman were 14-of-25 from the free-throw line for 56 percent (its season average is 59 percent). And, the Minutemen turned the ball over 22 times (well above its season average of 18.9 turns per game).

"Our achilles heel is turnovers and free-throws," said Ford. "That is holding us back."

Meanwhile, senior Stephane Lasme and Rashaun Freeman are pulling the Minutemen forward, as they did on Wednesday with a combined 32 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots. "Rashaun had 20 and 12, but it was really one of his worst performances," said Ford, noting Freeman's game-high six turnovers.

But it was the TO off another sort - the time out, that ultimately decided this oddly enjoyable intra-state battle.


. . . The announced attendance was 3,101 - we feel safe in saying it was a UMass house, probably 3-to-1.

. . . Ford got hustled out of his postgame press conference to make way for BU players and Coach Wolff - but Ford wanted to stay and chat a bit. "I like taling when we win," he said, seemingly enjoying the big city.

. . . Tyler Morris (Indianapolis, IN - Lawrence North) was actually signed to go to Eastern Kentucky when Travis Ford was at the school, but ultimately got dropped (and released from his NLOI) by Ford when he left for UMass. "I told him I thought BU would be good for him," said Ford, who added he was regretting that advice as Morris was one of the Terriers' top-3 scorers with nine points in 26 minutes. And also had what would have been the dagger shot on the timeout-cancelled 3-pointer.

. . . It's quite possible that Boston University will spring some America East "upsets" in the coming months. They've got a few guys who can hit the three and they don;t mind playing defense. They're stilla year away, at the least, but you don't want this team in your portion of the AE Tournament draw.

. . . The BU game was an Adam Ginsburg "scout," meaning the UMass assistant was responsible for dissecting the Terriers plays and tendencies. Junior guard Brandon Thomas went out of his way in the post-game presser to praise the efforts of the ex-Northeastern assistant (and frequent BU foe) - especially on the final play. "We knew exactly what they were doing, it was just how coach Ginsburg diagrammed it," said Thomas.

However, Ford pointed out that Ginsburg had also said Wolff would barely ever double the post, but that's exactly what the Terriers did each time UMass's bigs got the ball inside.

Such are the vagarancies of scouting.

Posted by David Scott at 02:26 AM on December 07, 2006
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