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The Rhody Special worked to perfection for the University of Massachusetts Saturday night as they upset Harvard, 74-70, at Amherst.
With the Minutemen leading, 71-68, with 44 seconds left in the game, Harvard put, on a full-court press. Rick Pitino eluded Jean Wilkinson and laid in a length-of-the-court pass from Tom Austin. Wilkinson fouled Pitino and the junior guard converted his free throw, putting the game out of reach.
After the game, UMass coach Jack Leaman said the play Pitino scored on was called "the Rhody Special."
"A couple of years ago Rhode Island used it against us, and ever since then I've employed it in tight situations," Leaman said. "Our guards are instructed that if their man is face guarding them, they are to break for the basket. This time the play worked against UConn last week, it didn't."
In the first half Harvard opened an 11 point lead after 12 minutes of play. They ran their fastbreak to protection during this stretch, with Tony Jenkins hitting consistent from the corner. The Crimson had little trouble with UMass zone press in the early going repeatedly beating it for it for two-on-one and three-on-one break.
After opening a margin against the Minutemen, coach Bob Harrison took out guards Jim Fitzsimmons and Ken Wolfe and replaced them with Hal Smith and Wilkinson. Umass immediately went into a 1-3-1 zone defense which stopped the Harvard running game and produced a number of turnovers.
Leaman said after the game that he could only use the zone against Harvard with Fitzsimmons out of the game. "I wanted to use the zone against Harvard, because I knew it would help us get control of the game around for us."
By the time Fitzsimmons and Wolfe returned, the momentum had shifted and UMass had cut the lead to 32-29. With A1 Skinner doing most of the damage, the Minutemen opened up a 44.40 halftime lead. Skinner scored 11 points during the stanza.
Tony Jonkins had an excellent first half for the Crimson, pouring in 18 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. James Brown also had 12 points during the half.
Harvard could not get its running game untracked in the second half and UMass opened up a 65-58 lead with seven minutes left in the game. Harvard fought back to within three points but could never cut the margin further.
The defense was not up to par as the Minutemen get numerous uncontested lay-ups and jumpshots. UMass played a disciplined offense which allowed its outmanned front line to get open against the superior Harvard forwards. UMass also rebounded surprisingly well against Harvard, pulling down 55 compared to 52 for the Crimson.
After the game, Harrison, fighting off obvious disappointment, tried to be optimistic. "We made them commit a lot of turnovers and shot only 37 per cent from the field," he said
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