Minutemen work double-overtime for 86-82 victory

For The Recorder
Sunday, February 04, 2018

AMHERST — It took wild shots, daring play-calls, a handful of referee reviews and two overtimes to do it, but UMass snapped its five-game losing streak and grabbed its mojo back all in one fell swoop.

When the final horn sounded on UMass’ 86-82 win Saturday, Luwane Pipkins, who’d taken an elbow in the face in the first overtime and played 47 minutes, held his tired arms up like a victorious prize fighter who won by decision.

“We’ve been dealing with an enormous amount as a basketball team this year. They check it all at the door. They wanted to win that game,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “When you can get that mindset you have a chance to win at a high level. ... To show resilience and find a way to win that basketball game, I was proud of them.”

After neither team could convert chances in the final minute of regulation, the score was tied 75-75 with 39.9 seconds left in the first overtime. UMass had the ball with three seconds left on the shot clock, inbounding under its own basket. After failing to find somebody open for a pass, the Minutemen called timeout.

McCall changed the play, telling Unique McLean to get open. He did and took off toward the basket. C.J. Anderson lobbed a perfect pass from a difficult angle and McLean dunked home the alley-oop to make it 77-75.

“With Unique’s athleticism, I knew C.J. was going to be able to get it up to him and he was going to be able to flush it home,” McCall said.

At the other end, Dayton got the ball to Josh Cunningham (27 points, 11 rebounds) under the basket, where he was fouled by Anderson. The Flyers shot just 59.1 percent from the line in the game, but Cunningham made both with 24 seconds. Pipkins ran the shot clock down to the end and missed a 3-pointer to force a second overtime.

The teams were tied 81-81 in double-overtime. UMass had seven seconds on the shot clock on the inbound this time and the ball bounced off a Dayton leg into the backcourt. Pipkins scurried back to get it and then hurried off a weird-angle shot from just inside half court that banked in, sending the Mullins Center crowd of 4,245 into a frenzy.

The referees took a long time reviewing footage as the distance and angle of the shot made it hard to see Pipkins’ hand and the shot clock in the same frame.

“I knew it was good. The shot clock didn’t go off until it was out of my hands,” Pipkins said grinning at least a little mischievously. “There was no point going to the TV. Waste of time.”

With his father, a former Florida football player in the back of the room, McCall quoted a Gator legend.

“The great Steve Spurrier used to say ‘God smiled on the Gators today.’ God smiled on the Minutemen on that shot,” McCall said. “I’m sure it was close whether he got it off or didn’t get it off.”

The referees eventually agreed with him giving UMass an 84-81 lead with 55 seconds left. Dayton got the ball to Cunningham again and Malik Hines fouled him. This time he made just one of two with 41 seconds left to make it 84-82.

The Minutemen wound the clock down again with Dayton preventing Pipkins or Carl Pierre (15 points) from getting a clean look. But Pierre found McLean (seven points, 11 rebounds, four assists), who got into the lane and hit a floater to make it 86-82 with 12 seconds left sealing the win.

“We always want Unique to drive,” McCall said. “When he has an opportunity to get his athleticism into a play, that’s what he needs to do.”

Pipkins finished with 28 points and eight assists. Anderson had 15 points, four rebounds and three assists after halftime and finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

UMass doesn’t have a mid-week game and is at Saint Joseph’s on Saturday at 4 p.m.

“We dug deep. We kept fighting,” Pipkins said. “We had some good plays from everyone on the court. We stayed together and got the job done.”