Opponent: Fordham Rams
League: Atlantic 10 Conference
UMass travelled to the Bronx on Saturday to face a reeling Fordham team in a matchup between two very depleted squads. Both teams featured predominantly six players for nearly the entirety of the game due to injuries and a lack of depth.
The Minutemen got off to a great start with an electric Unique McLean alley-oop, followed by a Malik Hines and one, the latter drawing a quick second foul on Fordham’s most dynamic playmaker Joseph Chartouny. Due to limited substitutes, Fordham Head coach Jeff Neubauer elected to keep Chartouny in the game ultimately disrupting his aggressive nature on the defensive end and giving UMass a window of opportunity to attack. Carl Pierre had the hot hand in the first, scoring fourteen points from all levels on aggressive drives and pull up jumpers. Together, him and Luwane Pipkins helped spur a ten to three run to give UMass a 16-9 lead. As apart of that run, C.J Anderson nailed a face up jump shot to stretch the advantage to double digits for the first time (23-13). It was one of the best offensive performances UMass has had to start a game all year, but they were really able to build the gab by stringing together solid defensive possessions and forcing dead-ball turnovers. A great deal of this can be accredited to Unique McLean who struggled mightily from the field (2-10) but was extremely active grabbing offensive rebounds and setting the tone with his hard nosed defense. Although the Minutemen appeared the superior team for much of the first period, the Rams slowly chipped away at the lead to go into the locker room with just a four point deficit (35-31).
Pierre continued his success in the second as he hit his third three pointer of the game to extend the lead to seven (38-31). As seen in the past few games, there has been stretches where UMass has become careless with the ball and gone cold from the field, ultimately resulting in opposing runs that put them out of games. The tale of the tape was no different in this one, as the Minutemen begun to unravel yet again. Prokop Slanina began to dominate the game for Fordham scoring with an array of post moves and affecting shots at the rim. He finished with nineteen points, ten rebounds and four blocks. Beginning at just under the nineteen minute mark, the Rams went on a shocking nineteen to two Run in a seven minute span thanks to Slanina’s presence and red hot three point shooting. In fact, the Rams shot eight for fourteen from downtown in the second half and tied a season high with twelve makes for the contest. With 11:45 left on the clock UMass trailed by ten and was desperate recapture the offensive rhythm from the beginning of the game. Luwane Pipkins rose to the challenge and nailed a three pointer and a coast to coast layup to end the scoring drought. Still, the Minutemen could not solve the three point onslaught despite decent defense on highly contested shots. With just under five minutes remaining Derek Pekarak and Chartouny hit back to back three pointers to end all doubt. Fordham simply could not miss in the second and frankly shot UMass out of the gym. The final score was 82-69.
Overall, Pipkins led the way for the Minutemen with eighteen points. Unique McLean had perhaps the team’s the most dismal individual shooting performance of the season (7-24), but played his most complete game adding fourteen points, five assists and twelve rebounds (nine offensive) to notch his first career double-double. Carl Pierre was fantastic in the first, but really disappeared from the offensive end in the second half. On the other side, The Rams had a very balanced scoring attack with every player who stepped on the court contributing. Four different players hit at least two three point shots and Chartouny surely did his damage, finishing with sixteen points and thirteen assists. Speaking of passing, the Rams ball movement was impeccable all night as they assisted on twenty-six of their twenty-nine made field goals, an absurd statistic. The main positive for UMass was the offensive rebounding once again as they recorded seventeen compared to just four for the Rams. The Minutemen have now lost four straight to match their worst losing stretch of the season and things don’t look to get any easier as nationally ranked Rhode Island comes to town, Tuesday, January 30th at 6:30 P.M
Team Stats: UMass Fordham
Field Goals: 28-69 (40.6%) 29-52 (55.8%)
3 Point Field Goals 8-24 (33.3%) 12-25 (48.0%)
Free Throws: 5-10 (50%) 12-14 (85.7%)
Rebounds: 38 (17) 32 (4)
Assists: 17 26
Turnovers: 9 9