ATLANTA -- Carmelo Travieso started and tardy birthday celebrant Marcus Camby didn't, but every combination worked for Massachusetts last night, as the Minutemen coasted to a 79-63 victory over Arkansas in an NCAA East Regional semifinal.
It was Late Night at the Georgia Dome, where a crowd of 34,614 was the largest ever to watch a game in this state. The second half didn't start until after midnight, but the suspense was over well before then, as top-seeded and top-ranked UMass scored the first 13 points, led 40-24 at the half and toyed with the young Razorbacks in the second half.
The challenge will be considerably stiffer in tomorrow's regional final against Georgetown. In the East final for the second straight year, UMass (32-1) will attempt to become the first Atlantic 10 team to play in a Final Four.
Travieso, a junior shooting guard who fell off an interview platform Wednesday and bruised his lower back, started and scored 14 points. Camby, the leading candidate for National Player of the Year, didn't start after showing up late for a team bus to a shootaround, but entered after just 73 seconds had been played, and collected 15 points, seven rebounds and one very hard foul from Darnell Robinson.
"I told the team this morning I didn't want them to stay in the hotel all day," UMass coach John Calipari said. "I turned to Marcus and told him I didn't want him to sleep all day. Get out, go to a mall, do something. He got caught in traffic coming back.
"It's not a big deal, but I've got to be consistent as a coach even if he's our star."
Camby turns 22 today.
L "I just went to a mall to buy myself something," Camby said.
The Minutemen had a 23-point lead with 5: 49 left, when Camby, rising for a dunk, was sent to the floor by Robinson. Camby, who was roughed up in the first round by Central Florida, slammed the ball to the floor in disgust, and refused Robinson's attempt to help him up.
Tyrone Weeks, who made his first start of the season in place of Camby, had a team-high 16 points.
Forwards Dana Dingle and Donta Bright, a senior out of Dunbar High, combined for 23.
Bright jumped center in Camby's absence. Robinson won the tip, but Arkansas controlled little else. Bright got the Minutemen a 5-0 lead in the first 48 seconds with a 14-foot jumper and a three-point play, and Camby's tip-in with 17: 18 left in the half made it 13-0.
Three minutes and 35 seconds had been played before Arkansas finally scored on a pair of Lee Wilson free throws, the first of eight straight Razorbacks points. The Minutemen had the difference right back up to 23-10 with 11: 40 to go in the half, and after that the lead was never less than eight.
"I don't care what team you're playing, you get down 13-0 that's a real deep hole," Robinson said. "Especially the way we were shooting."
The difference reached 28 points, at 58-30, with 13: 21 left, when Arkansas (20-13) appeared headed to its worst tournament loss since 1958, but the Razorbacks and Pat Bradley (15 points) found some of their shooting touch in the closing minutes.
UMass routed Arkansas, 104-80, in the 1994 Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, so Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson already had high regard for the Minutemen. After a 13-point Southeastern Conference loss to Kentucky last month, he said the Wildcats should be playing the Chicago Bulls, and he has just as high a regard for the Minutemen.
"UMass played great," Richardson said. "They were tremendous. They dominated both ends of the court. I told our kids they were overachievers. . . . Let's not forget they're freshmen."
Arkansas, which won the title two years ago as a No. 1 seed and went to the championship game last season as a No. 2, was attempting to become the first No. 12 seed to advance to a regional final. The Razorbacks upset Penn State and Marquette with four freshman starters and their scramble defense, but it was the UMass defense that couldn't be solved.
DTC Two minutes into the second half, Arkansas had made five of its 30 field-goal attempts.
Arkansas finished 22-of-64 (34 percent), including just three of 15 from beyond the three-point arc. About the only thing the Razorbacks shot well was free throws (16 of 18).
Pub Date: 3/22/96