EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The day before playing Tulsa in the East Regional semifinals, Massachusetts coach John Calipari said he was "scared to death" of the Golden Hurricane. He cited its huge front line, its hot backcourt of Shea Seals and Alvin Williamson, and the coaching of Tubby Smith, who guided the school from the unheralded Missouri Valley Conference into its second straight Sweet 16 appearance.
But last night at the Meadowlands Arena, it was the Minutemen who put on a frightening performance, as UMass charged into its first Final Eight appearance with a dominating 76-51 victory before a sellout crowd.
Tulsa (24-8) had the size advantage, but the Minutemen (29-4) had too much quickness, too much depth, too many offensive weapons, too much defense and, mostly, too much Marcus Camby.
Camby, the 6-foot-11 sophomore center, led the Minutemen into tomorrow's East Regional championship showdown against Oklahoma State by scoring 20 points and adding nine rebounds and five blocked shots, all game highs. And he did it in just 22 minutes.
"He is a tremendous player. You know his presence in the lane," said Seals, who led the Golden Hurricane with 19 points.
gets up quicker than anybody. He runs up the floor like a point guard."
"He has such a strong presence in the lane," Smith said of Camby. "We couldn't get anything easy, even layups. He affected all our shots. They contested every shot. They contested every cut. Obviously, they're one of the better teams we've faced all year. And one of the deeper ones."
Even after starting guard Edgar Padilla limped off the floor midway through the first half with a sprained ankle and did not return -- he is questionable for tomorrow -- the Minutemen didn't miss a beat. Point guard Derek Kellogg stepped up to score 12 points to go with his four assists. Guard Carmelo Travieso came off the bench to add nine points.
Even though senior forward Lou Roe had a subpar game, scoring eight points and committing five turnovers in 28 minutes, and even though forward Dana Dingle scored only three points in 22 minutes, the Minutemen marched on with ease. Donta Bright (Dunbar) and Tyrone Weeks came off the bench to combine for 15 points.
"I had a subpar game, but I'm feeling good because we won," Roe said. "If I'm not playing well, Marcus and the others can step forward, so I'm confident. It feels good right now, but we're looking forward to reaching higher. All year long, we've been concentrating on one thing."
This marks a milestone in Calipari's seven-year resurrection of the UMass program. The Minutemen have been to four straight NCAA tournaments but had never advanced beyond the round of 16.
"Our defense was great," said Calipari, whose team has disposed of its three NCAA tournament opponents by an average of 21 points. "We swarmed well. We rebounded above the rim. It was nice to see we could put it all together."