Wednesday, March 19, 2014
AMHERST — There was “Havoc” on the floor, but madness in the stands as the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team played Virginia Commonweath on Friday at the Mullins Center.
“Oh, it’s been super,” UMass alumnus Bob Boyette said. “This is amazing, so much electricity. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 20 years, 30 years. This is the best I’ve ever seen it. Even better than the (John) Calipari days.”
The sold-out Mullins Center crowd consisted of fans wearing matching red UMass T-shirts and hundreds of waving white towels.
Russell “Cap” Kidd, a UMass Hall of Famer who played football, lacrosse and hockey, has been attending games since 1952. He put the crowd up there with the best.
“It’s been terrific, you know,” Kidd said. “To see this place so loud is unbelievable.”
The Minutemen have developed a rivalry with VCU, and many fans circled this game on the schedule. It didn’t disappoint, as UMass won 80-75.
“It’s electric, awesome, phenomenal, best crowd I’ve been a part of,” said UMass senior Chris Podymaitis of Summerville.
Fans have shown their support all season. Friday’s game with VCU was the fourth time the Mullins Center has sold out this season.
“The atmosphere is making the game,” said UMass sophomore and Medway native Mariah Hladick, who has been to every home game. “It’s absolutely insane it’s so loud, the fans are so into it. I come to all the games and I’ve been to three sold-out games. This is definitely the most student-involved game.”
The raucous crowd could be credited to the high level of play from the Minutemen this season. The team got off to a 10-0 start and spent six weeks in the Associated Press Top 25. Barring a shocking turn of events, the Minutemen (21-5) should return to the NCAA tournament.
Joe Briggs of Easthampton has been coming to UMass games since the 1997-1998 season and has been very pleased with the season.
“It’s starting to rank up there with some of the best. (Coach Derek Kellogg) turned this team around. It’s really good for the area. They’ll be in (the tournament), they earned it. I’d like to see them go to the Sweet 16.”
The Sweet 16 seemed to be the consensus prediction.
“I’m looking forward to some good March madness,” said Roger Whitcomb of Lunenburg. “I think they’ll make it to the Sweet 16, that should be the goal.”
Added Boyette, “Let’s hope they can make it to the Sweet 16.”
UMass’ uptempo style, which is full of dunks, 3-pointers and alley-oops has been a real crowd-pleaser this season. The catalyst is 5-foot-9-inch point guard Chaz Williams, undoubtedly a fan favorite.
“My favorite is definitely Chaz,” said 9-year-old Beckett Calkins of Florence.
Added Kidd, “Chaz Williams, without him they’d be lost.”
UMass returns to the Mullins Center to play Rhode Island at 7 p.m. Wednesday.