Minutemen look to end regular season on high note

For the Recorder
Friday, March 02, 2018

AMHERST — Tangibly, there’s not a lot for the UMass men’s basketball team to play for Saturday night.

The 8 p.m. season finale against Duquesne at the Mullins Center likely means the difference between finishing 13th or 14th, or last or not last in the Atlantic 10 standings.

Intangibly there’s more at stake.

1. The Minutemen would like to send C.J. Anderson out with a win on Senior Day.

“We got to get this for C.J. That’s what drives me to get this win,” freshman Carl Pierre said. “I’m really close to C.J. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s been helping me through this season.”

Sophomore Luwane Pipkins agreed.

“We’ve all talked about getting C.J. his last home game win. He’s got to go out with a bang,” Pipkins said. “We’ve got to do something big for him.”

Anderson hasn’t gotten emotional yet.

“I just love the game. I don’t look at it as my last. I feel like I have a bright future after this,” he said. “I want to leave something behind for the guys who are still playing.”

Anderson, and senior managers Sam Rubinstein and Pat Kearney will be honored before their final game at the Mullins Center.

2. UMass would like to end its losing streak and put Wednesday’s blowout at Richmond behind them.

“Wednesday was definitely the worst game we played,” Pipkins said. “We have to go in with the mindset that the season isn’t over yet. We have to keep going hard until the last minute and try to do something special.”

3. The Minutemen would like to have some momentum heading into the next week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament. UMass coach Matt McCall said he didn’t care about seeding, only about playing well and getting better.

“I care about winning Saturday,” McCall said. “Whatever that means in D.C. it means in D.C. We’re not getting a bye. I care about playing well tomorrow and closing out this part of the season the right way. We have to play inspired for a lot of different reasons.”

UMass (11-19) is tied with Fordham at 4-13 in conference play. If both teams win or both teams lose Saturday, the Minutemen will finish 14th because the Rams won the regular season meeting. UMass needs to win and have VCU to beat Fordham in their 2 p.m. game in the Bronx, New York, to finished 13th.

Duquesne (16-14) is in a four-way tie for ninth at 7-10 and trying to stay in the top 10 to avoid playing in Wednesday’s first-round games.

Helped by playing one of the nation’s softer nonconference schedules, the Dukes were 9-4 before conference play under new coach Keith Dambrot. A 5-2 start to league play seemed to validate Duquesne’s start. But the Dukes went 2-8 down the stretch and had dropped six straight before beating Saint Louis, 76-69, Wednesday.

Freshman Eric Williams Jr. has stood out right away. His 8.8 rebounds are second in the league to go with his 14.7 points per game. Sophomore Mike Lewis II has built off his strong freshman year with 14.3 points per game.

“Coach Dambrot has done a terrific job of getting them to buy in and play really really hard,” McCall said.