Opponent: Saint Louis Bilikens
League: Atlantic 10 Conference
Saint Louis entered the matchup with a sub .500 winning percentage, but the Billikens proved they are far better than their record suggests and why they have a very bright future. Led by former top one-hundred recruit Jordan Goodwin, fresh off the first triple double in School history, Saint Louis raced out to a 6-0 lead with three aggressive drives to the rim, but Carl Pierre responded with back to back three pointers of his own to tie the game early on. From the tip, Hasahn French, another elite freshman for the Billikens, brough physicality and toughness that UMass struggled to match all game. French was a menace on the block as his strength set the tone and served as the main reason for the success of the billikens inside, scoring twenty of their first twenty-three points in the paint. Although the Minutemen appeared outmatched, they hung around thanks to a number of bailout shots by Luwane Pipkins, who paced the team with twelve points in the first half. Additionally, Malik Hines was very active on the interior, notably grabbing an offensive rebound of his own miss and finishing at the rim to cut the Saint Louis lead to just two (19-17) around the eight minute mark. With five and a half minutes remaining in the period, Pipkins nailed a three pointer to finally tie the game at twenty-three all.
Although the Minutemen had battled back, one major problem remained pertinent. UMass had failed to grab a defensive rebound until fifteen minutes left in the half, an unbelievable statistic. Somehow, they were able to stay in the contest by forcing Billiken turnovers, but things would have to change if they wanted to have a fighting chance. Unfortunately, UMass began giving up wide open three point looks and started to commit turnovers off their own, which led to easy baskets and a 15-4 Saint Louis Run to end the first half. UMass had recorded just two defensive rebounds in the first and trailed 38-27.
UMass entered the second focused on improving the rebounding numbers and being more efficient on both ends. With just under seventeen minutes remaining, both Malik Hines and Unique McLean crashed the offensive glass and were rewarded with tip in layups to get the lead back under double digits at 40-31. After Luwane Pipkins nailed another three pointer with the shot clock running out, UMass trailed by just eight 46-38 and looked prime to make a run for the comeback. Then, they sputtered, failing to score for the next seven minutes and watching the game painfully slip away behind a twelve to nothing Saint Louis run to give them their largest lead of the contest (62-38). The final five minutes were played out sloppily and the game would conclude with a final score of 66-47.
The Billikens were led by Goodwin who recorded 19 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. French, who actually considered signing with UMass before committing to the Saint Louis, plagued the Minutemen with twelve points, ten rebounds and even more value through his physicality.Pipkins finished with seventeen points, while Carl Pierre added thirteen. The next game is a rematch at La Salle, Wednesday, January 24th at 7:00 PM.
Team Stats: UMass Saint Louis
Field Goals: 19-54 (35.2%) 29-56 (51.8%)
3 Point Field Goals: 6-22 (27.3%) 7-18 (38.9%)
Free Throws: 3-5 (60.0%) 1-3 (33.3%)
Rebounds: 25 (14) 37 (16)
Assists: 12 19
Turnovers: 12 14