Massachusetts 73, Memphis 72

BY foxsports • December 22, 2009

John Calipari left behind a tattered legacy at Memphis and Massachusetts, where a pair of Final Four appearances were expunged by NCAA investigations.

At least the schools got a pretty good basketball game out of it.

Terrell Vinson came up with the ball after a scramble in the lane and banked in a basket with 0.7 seconds left on Saturday night to give UMass a 73-72 victory over Memphis. Calipari set up the series with his former teams - and former assistants - before he left Memphis for Kentucky.

``It would have been more of a deal if Coach Cal was here, because he coached both programs,'' Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. ``This game, there was really no story line. It was Memphis vs. UMass with two young coaches. That's really what the story line is.''

At least until the final seconds.

UMass (6-5) cut a 72-69 deficit to one point on a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left. After a Memphis (7-2) miss, the Tigers tied the ball up under the basket with 3.8 seconds left, but UMass had the possession arrow.

Gary Correia's inbound pass wound up in Memphis' hands, but Ricky Harris knocked it loose to Vinson, who put the game-winner off the glass. Correia said his teammates were all covered, so he threw the ball up toward the basket in the hopes that one of his teammates would get to it.

``We worked on it in practice,'' said UMass coach Derek Kellogg, who played for Calipari in Amherst and coached under him at Memphis. ``But I'll take it the way they did it.''

And no one was more surprised than Vinson.

``First it looked like Memphis had stolen it, and then it ended up in my hands,'' Vinson said. ``It won't hit me until I turn on my phone and get my text messages.''

The Minutemen began celebrating - there was just 0.3 seconds on the clock - before the officials checked the video and restored the time to 0.7 seconds. Wesley Witherspoon got the inbound pass near half-court and put up a desperation shot that fell far short.

``I guess we just didn't come up with the ball,'' said Elliot Williams, who scored 15 points. ``We kind of tapped it around.''

Vinson had 21 points and nine rebounds for UMass. Anthony Gurley scored 14 and Harris had 13 for the Minutemen, who wore throwback uniforms from the 1960s and '70s, an era when Hall of Famer Julius Erving, current Boston College coach Al Skinner and Louisville coach Rick Pitino played in Amherst.

Doneal Mack scored 23 for Memphis, which had won six straight since a two-point loss to No. 1 Kansas. Witherspoon scored 14 for the Tigers, who trailed 58-51 with 11:22 left when he started a 7-0 run with a fast break jam and a foul.

Memphis had been on the cusp of the Top 25 for the past two weeks under Pastner, who took over from Calipari after he signed a $31.65 million contract with Kentucky this spring. The game was set up as part of a home-and-home series when Calipari, who coached at UMass from 1988-96, was still at Memphis.

When he left, the would-be Calipari Classic lost most of its buzz.

Throw in the snowstorm that was headed for Boston, and the two-hour drive from UMass' Amherst campus, and it's easy to see why the game drew a generously counted crowd of 8,096. Tickets were sold to the lower bowl only at the TD Garden, where Celtics and Bruins banners hang from the rafters.

No such mementos are allowed in Amherst or Memphis from Calipari's Final Four appearances in 1996 and 2008, respectively, because of NCAA sanctions that forced both schools to vacate their appearances.

At UMass, an investigation revealed that star Marcus Camby accepted money, jewelry and prostitutes from agents while in school. The NCAA expunged Memphis' 2007-08 run to the national championship game because a player, who was not identified but is believed to be Derek Rose, was found to have someone take the SAT for him.

Calipari was not implicated in the investigations, nor affected by the sanctions. But former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight criticized Calipari and the NCAA at an Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame fundraiser on Thursday, saying he doesn't understand how someone who left two programs with NCAA infractions should still be allowed to coach.

Calipari didn't respond directly, saying that he doesn't think college basketball lacks integrity and that he is a big fan of Knight.

Kellogg wouldn't address the comments, but Pastner defended his former boss.

``All I can tell you is that I loved working for coach Calipari. He was great to me,'' he said. ``I wouldn't be a head coach at Memphis without him giving me the opportunity for me to be his assistant coach. We won 33 games last year, and I learned a lot from him.''

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