Opponent: Providence Friars
League: Big East Conference
The Friars entered the game hobbled by injury as backup guard Maleik White and second leading scorer Alpha Diallo sat while Kyron Cartwright played on a sore ankle and was clearly not his normal self (2-11 Fg). As a result, The Minutemen formulated their best start of the year, taking advantage from the get go and completely dominating the first part of the opening half. In fact, they rushed out to quick lead thanks to Luwane Pipkins who was unconscious from three to begin the contest. A Carl Pierre three pointer (3-5 3FG) capped a 13-2 run and gave the Minutemen a 22-10 advantage. A major takeaway from the first half was the play of Rashaan Holloway who looked much more comfortable on the block and active on the defensive end (11 Points). Still, the Friars stayed persistent and forced Pipkins into live ball turnovers that led to layups on the other end. Isaiah Jackson was the most consistent player for Providence in the first period as he contributed mightily to a twelve to three stretch that trimmed their deficit to two at 34-32. However, Pipkins responded with a number of buckets to give the Minutemen a 38-33 lead and give him a whopping twenty-two points heading into the break.
Providence started off the second strong thanks to their leading scorer Rodney Bullock (15 points) who recorded their first nine points as the teams traded baskets. C.J. Anderson matched his counterpart as he glided to the rim for a up and under layup to keep the Minutemen lead at four (44-40) with fourteen and a half minutes remaining. Up to this point, UMass was running an efficient offense and getting high quality looks, but the Friars started to turn up the defensive intensity and the tide began to turn in their favor. After a Holloway layup, the big man did not track back on defense which led to a breakaway dunk for Center Nate Watson on the other end. The following possession Kyron Cartwright drove to the basket and dished off to a cutting Watson for another dunk to tie the game at 46-46. The Minutemen continued to struggle as Bullock hit another jumper and sharpshooter Jalen Lindsey nailed a wide open three, silencing the crowd and energizing the Providence sideline. It was an eight to nothing run for the Friars and it appeared as if the Minutemen were on the ropes. Thankfully, Luwane Pipkins, who had been quiet since his impeccable performance in the first, hit a much needed reverse layup to get the team back on track. Shortly after, Anderson (10 Points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) tied the contest with a tough leaning and-one. The Minutemen showed resilience of their own and had stolen momentum back, but could they close the game out?
Catalyzed by the play of Malik Hines once again, the Minutemen were menacing for the rest of the game and as Providence went ice cold, things began to spiral out of control. In all, the Minutemen put together a 17-2 stretch in a six minute span and it was the best quality of basketball the team had played all season. The run was emphasized by a an outlet pass to Hines to beat the full court press, leading to fast break dunk to make it 67-54 and end all doubt. Eventually the game would finish with a final score of 72-63
For Matt McCall it was his first marquee win as head coach of UMass and it could not have came in more satisfying form. Luwane Pipkins was truly special as he recorded his second thirty point game on the year on a remarkable twelve for sixteen shooting from the floor. Hines continued his consistent play and keeps proving he is far more capable of the backup role he played a season ago. The win marks the second in a row for the team and shows that the Minutemen are moving in the right direction and starting to mesh as a unit once and for all before heading into conference play.The next game is Saturday, December 16th, against a physical Georgia Bulldogs team at the Mullins Center.
Final Score: 72-63
Team Stats: UMass Providence
Field Goals: 27-48 (56.3%) 23-57 (40.4%)
3 Point Field Goals: 7-19 (36.8%) 6-18 (33.3%)
Free Throws: 11-19 (57.9%) 11-20 (55.0%)
Rebounds: 32 (6 offensive) 30 (11 Offensive)
Assists: 16 16
Turnovers: 17 12