Opponent: Rhode Island Rams
League: Atlantic 10 Conference
Luwane Pipkins stepped to the line with five seconds remaining and UMass down just three to #22 ranked URI. He calmly drained the first to cut the deficit to two and was now faced with the option of making the second or intentionally missing and hoping for an offensive rebound. Pipkins elected for the latter, quickly throwing the ball off the rim before anyone was set and collecting the carom off the front rim himself. What ensued next was pure chaos.
That was the situation UMass faced in the closing moments of their hectic matchup versus Rhode Island last night, but lets explain how we got there. The first half was a rollercoaster ride of runs as momentum shifted back and forth between both teams in mammoth proportions. The Minutemen started off fantastic, making eight of their first nine shots as nearly all of the starters contributed early. After back to back three pointers by Carl Pierre and C.J Anderson, Pipkins nailed a midrange jumper to give UMass their largest lead of the game (23-10) with just over thirteen minutes remaining in the first half.
At this point, the Minutemen were in complete control and looked destined for their biggest victory of the season and a massive upset at home. Then came the stampede from the Rams. After a relatively slow start, Rhode Island began to move the ball and find open shooters on the block through Andre Berry (13 points in first half) and on the perimeter, eventually retaking the lead on an E.C Matthew’s (10 points) contested three pointer as the shot clock expired. After a few more baskets, the dust had settled and Rhode Island emerged with a 33-27 lead in the midst of a 23-4 run. The Minutemen were able to stay close for the remainder of the half and Luwane Pipkins nailed a step-back three pointer as time expired to ignite the crowd and head into the locker room down just three, a major accomplishment for the Minutemen.
The first part of the second half was very back and forth. Every time, the Rams looked to push the lead to double digits, UMass seemed to have a response. With just over eleven minutes remaining, Carl Pierre hit one of his four three pointers on the day (16 points) to reduce the lead to 60-54. After this bucket, Jared Terell and the Rams began to assert their dominance and run away with the contest. Terell showed his full arsenal of scoring moves, hitting a midrange layup, driving aggresively to the rim for a layup and nailing a wide open three pointer on consecutive possesions to give the Rams their largest lead (74-60) with just under seven minutes left in the game.
UMass struggled to fight back to single digits as the lead stayed at fourteen (80-66) with three minutes remaining. All hoped looked lost, but the squad fought back with a sixteen to five run spurred by an aggressive tone set by C.J Anderson (15 points) and Malik Hines (18 points, 6 rebounds) as well as a number of three pointers from the usual suspects in Pipkins and Pierre. The Rams had finally cooled down from the offensive end and were choking the game away with costly turnovers and missed free throws. Now, Pipkins stepped to the line down just two. As stated before, he had made the first free throw and collected the intentional miss, now for the chaos. Pipkins was hacked as he caught the ball and the referee signaled a foul. It appeared that Pipkins would have the opportunity to go back to the line, where he had been automatic all game (8-9), and tie the contest. Yet, it was not meant to be as he was called for a line violation, giving the Rams possession and virtually ending the game. The contest concluded with a final score of 85-83.
It was a disappointing loss, but a great deal of positives can be taken away from the strong effort. For one, the Minutemen used the three point shot (9-16) and the free throw as ways to climb back into the game very effectively. At the line, they converted at a nearly perfect percentage (23-24), and getting there as much as they did speaks highly to their aggressive nature to take it right to the teeth of an intimidating opponent. On the other side of things, defense was solid early, but not consistently good enough to compete with a team as offensively talented and well coached as URI.
Rhode island was led by Terrell, who finished by twenty-one points, but Jeff Dowtin was undoubetdly their most effective playmaker on the night, dicing the defense with dribble moves and finding his teammates for good looks. Pipkins paced the Minutemen with twenty-seven points and Malik Hines (18 points, 6 rebounds) had arguably the best performance of his UMass career. Hines has developed into a well rounded post player and his value as an offensive rebounder is immense. The losings streak continues but the team stays optimistic as they travel to Dayton on Saturday, February 3rd at 2:00 P.M
Final Score: 85-83 URI
Record: 10-13 (3-7)
Team Stats: UMass URI
Field Goals: 25-49 (51.0%) 30-49 (61.2%)
3 Point Field Goals: 9-16 (56.3%) 8-15 (53.3%)
Free Throws: 24-25 (96.0%) 17-24 (70.8%)
Rebounds: 25 (12) 22 (9)
Assists: 17 22
Turnovers: 12 8