Aiken’s overtime bomb defeats Minutemen, 70-67

  • UMass guard C.J. Anderson drives to the basket against Harvard Sunday at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. GAZETTE photo/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass head coach Matt McCall stands on the sidelines during a game against Harvard Sunday at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. GAZETTE photo/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass guard C.J. Anderson drives to the hoop against Harvard Sunday at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. gazeTTE photo/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

For The Recorder
Sunday, November 12, 2017

CAMBRIDGE — Despite roster turnover on both sides and a coaching change for the visitors, UMass and Harvard remained a reliable exciting men’s basketball rivalry.

Luwane Pipkins made a big 3-pointer at the end of regulation and another one late in overtime, but Brice Aiken answered with a 3-pointer of his own with 1.9 seconds left to give the Crimson a 70-67 win over the Minutemen at Lavietes Pavilion.

The sequence finished off a back-and-forth between the two guards who both carried their teams down the stretch. Pipkins had 23 points and seven rebounds, while Aiken scored 30 points and grabbed eight boards.

“Luwane is not afraid,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “He likes these kinds of moments.”

Trailing 56-55 in the final minutes, Pipkins drove into the lane, jump-stopped and banked in a floater with 20.5 seconds left. But referee Paul Faia called a travel that elicited boos from the UMass fans in the crowd before and after the replay was shown on the scoreboard.

Pipkins disagreed with the call unprintably in the postgame.

After Aiken made two free throws with 12 seconds left to make it 58-55, Pipkins shook off frustration and didn’t wait long for an opening. With Aiken’s hand in his face, Pipkins pulled up and buried a 3, just to the right of the top of the arc.

When Aiken tried to answer, his baseline drive was short, forcing overtime.

Harvard scored the first four points of OT and led 67-64 after two Aiken free throws with 17 seconds left. But Pipkins hit another tying 3, this one with 7.5 seconds left to make it 67-67. This time Aiken pulled up and knocked down a 3 with 1.9 seconds left.

The Minutemen couldn’t conjure up a miracle from half court as time ran out.

“Big-time players make big-time shots, just like Aiken did for his team,” Pipkins said. “At the end of the day the ball has to be in my hands or C.J.’s (Anderson) hands to win the game.”

McCall was proud of his team but challenged it to match the intensity going forward.

“I’m not one for moral victories. I don’t believe in that. We have a chance to be a good basketball team. That’s not going to happen unless we bring it every single day,” he said. “I was really really proud of our team. I thought we showed tremendous resilience and perseverance. Some things didn’t go our way late and we didn’t flinch. But the frustrating thing as a coach is that the effort that was out there on the floor has to be there every single day in everything we’re doing to reach our potential. Our effort today was terrific. That was not our effort on Friday night or every single day in practice.”

Rashaan Holloway had 15 points and nine rebounds, while Anderson had 12 points.

The Minutemen and Crimson have played in five of the past six seasons, with all three games decided by six points or less, three by a make or miss at the buzzer.

“Every time we’ve been able to lock horns, as they say, with UMass. All the games we’ve played in this series have been hard-fought games, have been possession games, have been exciting games and I think this has to top all of that in terms of the ending,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “But it’s always been this way and we’re hopeful we can continue this amazing series.”

Pipkins said it was an enjoyable game to be part of despite the result.

“It’s very fun. Harvard had a good crowd, we had a good crowd. It was fun playing against Aiken and Harvard,” Pipkins said. “At the end of the day we’ve got to get the win, though.”

The Harvard guard had a similar assessment.

“Shoot, it was a fun game to play. I think it wasn’t just me and him, but obviously the teams were going back and forth,” he said. “They were getting a bucket, we were getting a bucket, they were getting a bucket, we were getting a bucket. But it really just came down to stops and, luckily enough, we got a few stops here and there. We just tried to grind, grind, grind.”