Pipkins powers UMass blowout

For The Recorder
Sunday, November 19, 2017

AMHERST — A week off did nothing to slow down Luwane Pipkins’ offense.

The UMass sophomore guard’s hot shooting carried over from the Harvard loss against Niagara Sunday at the Mullins Center. There was no need for buzzer-beaters this time. At least partially because of Pipkins’ offense, the Minutemen took a big lead early and kept building it en route to a 101-76 win over the Purple Eagles.

“Pipkins has bought in with everything we’re doing,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “He’s improved in so many areas, not just on the basketball floor. He’s been great. He deserves to play well with how he’s played in practice. He’s doing the right things.

“We’re asking him to do a lot,” McCall continued. “When C.J. (Anderson) is out of the game, he always has to play the point. He’s always guarding the other team’s best player. I’m really proud of him and his effort tonight.”

Niagara came into the game attempting to clog the lane to limit UMass’ driving and negate its size advantage. The strategy left the Minutemen open on the perimeter, and they took advantage, making 15-of-26 3-pointers, highlighted by their 9-for-15 in the first half.

Pipkins, who made 7 of 10 3-pointers, gathered momentum late in the first half and exploded after intermission with 23 of his career-high 34 points coming in the second half.

“If we all come to play like we did tonight, it’s going to be hard for a team to stop us from driving, once we get going outside from 3-point range,” Pipkins said. “I stayed after practice, me and Carl (Pierre), getting up shots together. In the game, it paid off. I just took the shots they gave me.”

Pierre, who had 16 points, said he fed off Pipkins’ play.

“When I see Pip out there doing his thing, making shots bringing energy, it bring me confidence to be ready and continue the energy he’s bringing.”

With 5 minutes, 15 second left and a chance to crack 30, Pipkins drove into traffic. Instead of either trying to make a contested layup or draw a foul, he whipped a sidearm no-look pass to Rayshawn Miller (14 points) in the corner. Miller made the open 3-pointer, earning an appreciative mini-roar from the student-less crowd of 2,112.

The unselfish play didn’t cost Pipkins (five assists) the milestone. He hit a 3-pointer and then another driving layup to reach his scoring total. He spent the last few minutes watching his teammates cap the blowout.

UMass held senior guard Kahlil Dukes to 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting. He was 0-for-4 from 3-point range. Matt Scott led Niagara (1-2) with 26 points. C.J. Anderson had nine points, eight assists and five rebounds. UMass outrebounded the Purple Eagles, 40-21.

“I’m pleased with our guys and their effort. It started with their mindset and their effort,” McCall said. “No one was hanging their head feeling sorry for themselves after what happened Sunday (loss to Harvard). We came to work. This game, the way we played, is a byproduct of the work we’ve done this week. It’s got to be like this every week as we prepare.

UMass (2-1) hosts Western Carolina, Tuesday at 7 p.m.