Opponent: La Salle Explorers
League: Atlantic 10 Conference
La Salle entered the contest without their best player, B.J Johnson, but the Explorers opened up strong and stretched their lead to 17-7 with a nine to zero run early on. Eventually, Luwane Pipkins hit a three pointer with a fortuitous roll, and Carl Pierre followed with one of his own on the following possession after Chris Baldwin drew a charge for UMass. Unique Mclean was fantastic on the glass for the Minutemen with seven boards on the night and recorded three defensive rebounds in a row, the last resulting in a quick outlet to Luwane Pipkins who nailed a three pointer to cut the deficit to just three at the 7:53 mark . At this point, it appeared that UMass was settling into the flow of the game and looked confident in their play, but instead they went ice cold from the field missing five out of their next six shots from that point. In comparison La Salle got hot and Pookie Powell capped off a twelve to two run with a wide open jumper to give the Explorers a 33-20 lead. Thankfully, Ray Miller hit a big three pointer with just over two minutes left in the half, but a controversial call led to Matt MCcall getting T’d up Perhaps the technical was for the best as MCcall sought to rally his team with his energy. Still, the Minutemen went into half with a sixteen point deficit at 41-25 as Lasalle shot 59.3% compared to a measly 35% for UMass. Pookie Powell dominated the period with sixteen points coming in an array of ways.
The Second half was undoubtedly the most entertaining of the year as Luwane Pipkins put together one of the best individual performances College Basketball has seen this entire season. Yet, it didn’t start that way as he missed his first couple of shots and UMass still trailed by fifteen with sixteen minutes to play. A frustrated Pipkins simply needed to see the ball go through the basket and all of a sudden, the flip switched and the Sophomore guard exploded. Still, he didn’t do it alone as sidekick Carl Pierre started the run with ten straight points of his own for the team. Pierre continues to impress and poured in twenty-five huge points, tying his career-high and cutting the lead to single digits at 54-45. Now, it was Luwane Pipkins turn as he ignited the Minutemen with his intensity and playmaking ability as he made steph curry esque scoop layups, hit stepback three pointers and dropped no look dimes. From just under nine minutes remaining to the 3:25 marl the Pipkins scored of 16 Umass’ points 20 to give them their first lead of the contest at 68-66, but he was not done there. He would then go on to hit a ridiculous reverse layup in transition and a tough leaner to give the Minutemen their largest lead of regulation at 72-66. The game looked all but lost for the Explorers but Isaiah Deas (19 points) nailed two huge three pointers in a row and the game was headed to overtime.
In O.T, Carl Pierre was clutch once again as he hit an and-one and contested jumper to put the Minutemen up five with just 2:28 left. The Batman and Robin combo continued to wreak havoc and Pipkins Iced the game with back to back threes to put the Minutemen up six with just over a minute remaining. What a game and performance it was.
Pipkins was the star as he finished with a career-high and program record forty four points with thirty-one coming in the second half. It was the biggest comeback of the season for UMass as the Minutemen trailed by twenty-one at one point in the second, speaking greatly to the resilience of this team. Pipkins and Pierre combined for an absurd sixty-nine of the Minutemen’s eighty seven points, but every single player contributed valuable defensive intensity and rebounding, especially in the second half. La Salle was paced by Powell who finished with thirty points of his own. The next game is Sunday, January 14th at 5:00 P.M against the Saint Joseph Hawks. Hopefully the contest matches half the excitement we had at the Mullins Center tonight.
Team Stats: UMass La Salle
Field Goals: 31-64 (48.4%) 29-64 (45.3%)
3 Point Field Goals: 11-24 (45.8%) 6-20 (30.0%)
Free Throws: 13-15 (86.7%) 15-19 (78.9%)
Rebounds: 35 (7) 36 (9)
Assists: 16 13
Turnovers: 10 12