Minutemen roar back to take down St. Joseph’s, 72-69

  • UMass dynamo Luwane Pipkins powers the ball up strong to the rim past Saint Joseph’s Anthony Longpre (12) Sunday at the Mullins Center in Amherst. for the recorder/J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass’ C.J. Anderson takes the ball up strong in the lane to the rim over Saint Joseph’s Shavar Newkirk (1) Sunday at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

  • UMass’ Luwane Pipkins drives to the hoop past Saint Joseph’s Nick Robinson Sunday at the Mullins Center in Amherst. for the recorder/J. Anthony Roberts

For The Recorder
Sunday, January 14, 2018

AMHERST — The comeback started a little later but the hole was a little smaller. Either way the result was the same.

Behind more additions to Luwane Pipkins’ highlight reel, UMass climbed out of another double-digit hole and sent another Philadelphia team home disappointed as the Minutemen beat Saint Joseph’s, 72-69, Sunday at the Mullins Center.

After wiping out a 21-point lead against La Salle to win in overtime Wednesday, UMass came back from 16 down to beat the Hawks in regulation.

“I was really proud of the resilience they showed late in the game,” UMass coach Matt McCall said.

Pipkins, who scored 44 against the Explorers, dropped 27 on St. Joe’s. The Hawks took away outside shots, so he did it by going to the basket. He had seven rebounds and six assists to go with it. Twenty of his points came in the second half.

“He was settling (for jump shots) too much in the first half,” McCall said. “Go by him.”

Against La Salle, McCall went to a five-guard lineup for defensive reasons. Against the Hawks, he went small for offensive reasons with 10:35 left and St. Joe’s leading 50-41, sending Unique McLean in for Malik Hines.

“I thought we had a quickness advantage,” McCall said. “I thought it was a great lineup for us. St. Joe’s doesn’t run a lot of post-up action, so I knew our guards would be OK playing on the perimeter defensively. That’s a lineup we need to work on and work on more.”

Senior C.J. Anderson echoed his coach.

“It really helped us,” Anderson said. “Playing a five-guard lineup, everybody is moving, everyone can knock down jumpers, everyone can drive. It worked tonight.”

James Demery (22 points) scored a layup on the first Hawk possession against tactic, but Carl Pierre answered with a 3-pointer and the Minutemen were off and running. They strung together a 13-4 run to get within two at 56-54 with 6:43 left. Anderson (12 points, four assists, four rebounds), who’d been in a prolonged offensive slump, had five points and an assist in the surge while Pierre (17 points) made a pair of 3-pointers.

Anthony Longpre swished a 3 from the right wing to temporarily stem the Minuteman momentum, but Anderson scored again and after a Hawk turnover, Rayshawn Miller buried a 3-pointer from right corner to tie the game at 59-59 with 5:34 left.

As the Mullins Center crowd of 2,476 grew louder, St. Joe’s appeared to crumble. After Miller tied it, UMass scored seven of the next nine to take control at 66-61 with 1:52 remaining.

The Hawks scored four straight to pull within one, 66-65, with 35 seconds left and sent Pipkins to the line. UMass traded made Pipkins free throws for St. Joe’s layups three times in the final 35 seconds and led 72-69 with 8 seconds left.

McCall opted not to foul when leading by three and Shavar Newkirk’s shot was off line with two seconds left, sealing the Minutemen’s third straight win.

Newkirk had 22 points but was 4-for-13 in the second half.

“He was exhausted and it affected his offense in the second half,” St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said.

UMass won despite grabbing just two offensive rebounds, a number that was helped by shooting 17-for-27 in the second half (5-for-7 from 3-point range) when there weren’t that many offensive rebounds available.

Neither team was especially sharp for most of the first half, as the Hawks led 29-25 with 4:13 left, but St. Joe’s scored the last eight points to stretch its edge to 37-25 at the half.

The Minutemen (10-8, 3-2 Atlantic 10) is at Rhode Island Wednesday at 7 p.m.