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UMass hammers New Hampshire, 104-75

  • UMass center Rashaan Holloway attacks the basket against New Hampshire, Friday at the Mullins Center. J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass guard Luwane Pipkins launches up a 3-pointer over New Hampshire’s Marque Maultsby, Friday at the Mullins Center. FOR THE RECORDER/J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass guard Luwane Pipkins, left, defends Marque Maultsby, of New Hampshire, Friday at the Mullins Center. FOR THE RECORDER/J. Anthony Roberts



Staff Writer
Friday, November 09, 2018

AMHERST — On a night UMass broke into triple digits, coach Matt McCall didn’t want to talk about his offense.

The fact the Minutemen shot 66.7 percent from the field, just shy of setting a program record, was irrelevant. The five scorers in double figures and seven with at least nine were not nearly as important to McCall as the other end of the floor.

The defensive numbers won’t look pretty for UMass in its 104-75 thrashing of New Hampshire, Friday at the Mullins Center, but the Minutemen certainly passed the eye test for the second-year coach.

“I was concerned going into the game and I thought we were going to have to rely on our communication defensively, and it’s something that hasn’t been great for us,” McCall said. “I was really proud of our team’s effort defensively. In the first half, especially, we were talking, we were engaged, we were communicating.”

The Minutemen (2-0) jumped on top of the Wildcats early and held a 16-4 advantage just six minutes into the game. Junior guard Luwane Pipkins sparked that opening run with 10 of his 14 points coming in that stretch. He hit two step-back 3-pointers over defenders and added a midrange jumper as well as part of a 3-for-3 start to the game.

Much of that early push began on the defensive end of the floor as UMass watched several good shots not go in early. Carl Pierre missed both of his 3-point attempts in the opening minutes and Rashaan Holloway left a hook shot short of the rim. But the Minutemen buckled down on defense and kept New Hampshire at a double-digit deficit for the final 32 minutes of the game.

“In the beginning of the game, we got some good looks and they weren’t going down … and we still were able to sit down and guard,” McCall said. “That to me shows maturity and growth because a lot of times if the ball’s not going in the basket for you, you get deflated and then you stop doing your job on the other end. We didn’t do that and I was really proud of that. I thought our defense really elevated and got our offense going.”

After Pipkins jump-started the offense with his early surge, the attack ran through Holloway in the post. The fifth-year center was unstoppable when he received a pass on the low block, spinning his way with ease to layups next to the rim. He scored a game-high 18 points on 9 of 11 shooting, monopolizing the offensive touches in his 16 minutes of action.

Holloway scored eight of UMass’ first 10 points of the second half as the Minutemen built upon its 27-point halftime advantage. The only way the Wildcats (1-1) seemed to slow down the big man was to time their flops to draw charging calls on Holloway, but their decision not to double team him made Holloway the perfect target for the UMass offense.

“When Rashaan is rolling, he’s rolling,” Pipkins said. “We try to talk trash to him in practice because when he’s mad no one can stop him. We just saw they couldn’t guard him inside and we were just feeding him and we kept telling him to eat. We kept going to him every time we came down the court and he took advantage of it.”

The Minutemen also demonstrated an unselfishness with the ball, rotating well around the perimeter and finding the open man for quality shots. They finished with 24 assists on 34 made baskets led by eight helpers from freshman Tre Wood and seven from Pipkins.

Wood stood out for all the right reasons in his first extended action in a UMass uniform. The point guard added 11 points and two steals in 24 minutes, a significant improvement in his performance from Tuesday’s win over UMass-Lowell. Wood said he felt a lot more comfortable running the offense thanks to some coaching from Pipkins and relying on his natural instincts.

“It’s been my job ever since I started playing to get everyone else involved before I look for myself,” Wood said. “Once I got the ball and got everyone else rolling, that’s when things started opening up for me.”

McCall knows the Minutemen likely won’t make two-thirds of their shots every night, so he said he will continue to stress defense to his team. He said he cleared up several key principles by changing some terminology to make sure his players understood their assignments, and he believed that helped Friday.

With Harvard, a team ranked by several publications as the best in Massachusetts, coming to Amherst on Tuesday, McCall said he’s not concerned about how his players will bounce back after a strong performance.

“I think after wins like this, sometimes you worry about your focus level coming back for practice on Sunday,” McCall said. “Our guys will be ready to go. Our guys know what’s at stake.”