Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks
League: Southeastern Conference (SEC)
The Gamecocks came out of the gates hot and quickly raced out to a 21-9 lead, despite little production from their star player, Chris Silva, in the first half. The lengthy forward was straddled with foul trouble early on which hurt South Carolina’s defense and allowed the Minutemen to find their way back in the game. Unfortunately, Umass’ biggest paint prescence, Rashaan Holloway, also failed to stay on the floor due to fouls and was limited in minutes. In response, the final seven minutes of the half were dominated by UMass guards, notably Luwane Pipkins who responded to horrible shooting performances in the past two games with one of his best games of the year. Pipkins finished with twenty-five points and catalyzed a sixteen to four spurt. To finish the run, Carl Pierre hit one of his four three-pointer on the day to give the Minutemen their first advantage of the game and go into the break up 35-34.
The teams traded baskets consistently in the second half but the Minutemen were able to hold the lead for the beginning of the period. Later, UMass created some separation as they stretched the lead to their largest advantage at 48-43. If they had been able to extend this differential, they may have crushed the gamecocks hopes, but South Carolina refused to go away. At the 11:21 mark, the Gamecocks recaptured the lead on a Silva layup, capping off a seven to nothing run. The basket jump started his activity as he would finish with twelve points in the half and fourteen for the game.
The Killer sequence for the Minutemen came with just under six minutes left after Unique Mclean hit a three pointer to cut the deficit to two. In need of a defensive stand, The Minutemen allowed Silva to sneak behind the back line and powerfully slam an alley oop lob from point guard Hassani Gravett. The following possession, Silva forced a steal and finished the fast break with a ferocious cock-back dunk, killing any momentum for a minutemen comeback and forcing Matt McCall to call a timeout. It was evident that the energizer and vocal leader of the gamecocks surely played his part in this one. The closest Umass would come would be two with just twenty seconds remaining after a Pierre three pointer made it 72-70. Similar to the Quinnipiac game, South Carolina was clutch from the line when it mattered as Gravett nailed four free throws to ice the game.
The loss marks the fourth in a row for the Minutemen as they continue to struggle to grind out close victories. The three pointer served as a great equalizer, but UMass failed to get to the free-throw line once again. In fact, South Carolina attempted twenty-five more free throws in the game. This disparity may be in some part due to the officiating, but it is getting to the point of being unacceptable as Umass ranks tied for 310th in the country in free-throw attempts this season. The Minutemen need to find ways to get to the foul line because easy points will be the difference in some of these tight games. Overall, C.J. Anderson continued his steady play with eight assists, but the team as a whole did not take great care of the ball and ran into a resilient Gamecocks team who shot the ball pretty darn well. Outside of Silva, they received a great deal of production from their freshman as Justin Minaya poured in seventeen points and Felipe Hasse recorded his first career double-double. The Next game is against Holy Cross at the Mullins center on Wednesday, December 4th, at 7:00 PM.
Final Score: 76-70
Team Stats: UMass South Carolina
Field Goals: 27-59 (45.8%) 28-55 (50.9%)
3 Point Field Goals: 12-26 (46.2%) 3-15 (20%)
Free Throws: 4-5 (80%) 17-29 (58.6%)
Rebounds: 26 36
Assists: 13 14
Turnovers: 17 11