On this date in 1996: UMass advances to Sweet 16

  • University of Massachusetts star Marcus Camby raises his arms to the crowd in victory Saturday, March 16, 1996 at the Providence Civic Center in Providence, R.I., as UMass defeated Stanford University 79-74 in their second round game of the east region 1996 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. (AP Photo/Jim Rogash) JIM ROGASH

Staff Writer
Published: 3/16/2020 5:57:14 PM

Editor’s note: With the NCAA Tournament canceled, the Gazette looked back to when UMass made its run to the Final Four in 1996. Below is the game story from UMass’ second-round win over Stanford on March 16, 1996.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The script never changes.

The University of Massachusetts finds itself in the closing moments of a tight game. A boa constrictor of pressure coils in the throats of UMass fans. Coach John Calipari delivers one message to the Minutemen: “Play to win.”

And then his players do just that. They come up with the biggest plays at the hardest times, and walk off the court with a victory.

On Saturday afternoon at the Providence Civic Center the crunch-time bunch came through yet again, delivering under duress in the final minute to thwart Stanford 79-74 in an NCAA East Regional second-round thriller. With UMass clinging to a one-point lead, Donta Bright buried a clutch 15-footer with 32 seconds left. After a defensive stop, a resurgent Marcus Camby knocked down both ends of a one-and-one free throw situation to keep this dreamiest of dream seasons alive.

“In tight games at the end, we always find a way to step it up and win,” said co-captain Dana Dingle. “We’re pretty much used to it. We always expect to win at the end of the game.”

UMass, 33-1, now moves on to a Sweet 16 showdown with Arkansas Thursday night in Atlanta. The 12th-seeded Razorbacks scored a 65-56 upset over 4th-seeded Marquette to gain their fourth straight Sweet 16.

The Minutemen were pushed to the limit by a fearless Stanford squad and its flamboyant point guard Brevin Knight. The 5-foot-10-inch Knight came out for warmups by spiking the ball hard off the floor, and basically delivered the same message all afternoon. He scored a game-high 27 points, dished off nine assists and generally willed an otherwise overmatched Cardinal team to the brink of beating the No. 1 club in the nation.

“Brevin Knight was unbelievable,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “We had no answers. Brevin just has too much stuff.”

UMass seemed to have a decisive 66-53 lead with seven minutes left, but the fight from Knight would not quit. In the next six minutes, he scored seven points and assisted on five other hoops, including Dion Cross’ 3-pointer with 54 seconds left, pulling the Cardinal within one at 75-74.

With the season on the line, UMass went to work.

“This late in the season they know what they’re supposed to do,” said Calipari. “They’ve done it all year. They’ve been in so many close games. All we talked about is ‘Play to win.”’

UMass point guard Edgar Padilla called a play named “Kansas,” designed to get the ball to Marcus Camby in the low post. With Camby bottled up, Donta Bright flashed to the foul line, getting free, thanks to a jarring pick from Dana Dingle. Padilla fed the ball to Bright, who never hesitated, elevating and knocking down the jumper with 32 seconds left for a 77-74 lead.

“I just shot the ball and hoped it went in,” said Bright. “It did.”

After a Stanford timeout, the Cardinal got the ball on the left wing to freshman Peter Sauer, who was 5-6 on the day including 1-2 from 3-point range. This time his jumper, with Carmelo Travieso leaping out to defend, caromed off the backboard. Camby hauled it down and got fouled by Darren Allaway.

The UMass center capped his splendid 20-point, eight-rebound, seven-block effort by swishing both ends of the one-and-one to account for the final margin of victory.

UMass’ ability to pull the game out was not lost on the one competitor who made that task so difficult.

“They’re a great team,” said Knight. “They’re a great finishing team. They’ve done it all season. They make the shots when they have to make the shots. I give them a lot of credit. We made our run, and they still won the game.”

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