Opponent: VCU Rams
League: Atlantic 10 Conference
UMass was still without freshman center Khalea Turner-Morris in this one as Coach McCall is hopeful he will return this Saturday vs George Mason.
The Minutemen fell into foul trouble early as they were charged for their third team foul in just under three minutes of action. Additionally, two of the fouls were given to UMass’ only true big man Malik Hines. However, the guards responded and a Pipkins three pointer pushed UMass out to their largest lead of the game (10-4) shortly after.
Still, the Rams responded, storming back with a 12-2 run to take a 26-21 lead. The spree started at the 11:36 mark, and was capped off by a De’Riante Jenkins (17 Points, 7-16 FG) layup four minutes later, prompting Coach McCall to call a timeout to steady the slide.
The Minutemen stayed resilient and fought back in the remaining time before half, scoring 17 Points (5-9 3PFG) and entering the locker room down just one point (39-38).
The second half began with a three point shootout as both teams combined to attempt nine attempts from downtown before C.J. Anderson (15 Points, 6 Assists) connected on a jump shot with 17:19 left in the game.
As time progressed, the stars took over and court became a battlefield between VCU senior forward Justin Tillman (26 Points, 13 Rebounds) and UMass’s sophomore sensation Luwane (38 Points, 8-13 3PFG). Tillman was relentless getting inside the paint as he put up 17 second half points, weaving through the undersized UMass squad. Pipkins answered the call and matched him shot for shot, lighting up Mullins Center for a ridiculous 24 points in the 2nd half (6-8 FG, 4-5 3PFG, and 8-10 FT)
With just over six minutes remaining in the contest a highly questionable Tillman block on a Anderson layup attempt led to a transition layup on the other end by Jonathan Williams (11 Points, 6 Assists). Upon replay, the shot was clearly goal-tended by Tillman. The no call resulted in a four point swing and catalyzed an 8-1 run for VCU, increasing their lead to 75-66 and putting the game nearly out of reach.
Several VCU turnovers helped UMass get some easy transition layups and free throws, cutting the deficit to 3 points after a Pipkins layup with forty-six seconds left. Unfortunately, the Minutemen couldn’t get the stop they needed as Justin Tillman put the final dagger in his terrific performance with an uncontested layup. An ensuing Pipkins turnover lead to an empathic exclamation point dunk as the VCU bench erupted in celebration. UMass would fall to VCU with the final score of 82-78.
Pipkins assisted or scored on 67% of UMass’ total points (52 of 78 Points), another brilliant performance from the likely most improved player in the conference. The Minutemen hung in the game until the waning seconds but ultimately couldn’t get the stop they needed as Justin Tillman torched the Minutemen for 26 points. Freshman Carl Pierre struggled with his shot, only scoring 10 points (4-14 FG, 2-9 3PFG). Another rare off night, as Pierre came into the contest shooting an insane 47.1% from three, good for twenty-seventh best in the country.
Malik Hines was in foul trouble early once again as recent UMass walk-on, Football QB Randall West played a career high 18 minutes. He recorded his first career field goal on a layup while also setting a career high in rebounds (6).
The Minutemen were consistent from the free throw line (84.6%, 11-13 FT) and shot well from three (40.6%, 13-32 3PFG). They have now made ten or more three pointers in twelve games this season, shooting 39.2% from downtown on the season, good for twenty-eighth in the country.
The squad return to action on Saturday, February 24th, at 7:00 PM as they travel to face the George Mason Patriots.
Final Score: 82-78 VCU
Record: 11-17 (4-11)
Team Stats: UMass VCU
Field Goals: 27-65 (41.5%) 32-59 (54.2%)
3 Point Field Goals: 13-32 (40.6%) 9-22 (40.9%)
Free Throws: 11-13 (84.6%) 9-13 (69.2%)
Rebounds: 30 (7) 35 (5)
Assists: 18 22
Turnovers: 10 16