UMass holds off Black Bears

  • Carl Pierre, right, of UMass, shoots against Miks Antoms, of Maine, Friday afternoon during the Minutemen’s 74-63 victory at the Mullins Center in Amherst. For The Recorder/Jerrey Roberts

For The Recorder
Friday, December 22, 2017

AMHERST — UMass coach Matt McCall said the last game of his team’s nonconference schedule encapsulated both the good and bad from the first 13 games.

The Minutemen were locked in for the first 30 minutes and dominated a struggling Maine team. For the final 10 minutes, the Minutemen lost focus with a big lead and held on to beat the Black Bears, 74-63, at the Mullins Center

“When we’re locked in, when we’re on edge, when we’re focused, when we’re into the game, we’re pretty good. We’ve beaten some really good teams and had some great wins. When we’re not locked in, when we’re not focused, when we’re not on edge, we’re average at best,” McCall said. “To me, that was what the last 11 minutes of the game were.

“It was cruise control, Christmas break, milk and cookies, presents, going home, can’t-wait-to-see-my-family and we let that 11 minutes slip by,” McCall continued, gathering volume and momentum as he spoke. “Thank God the clock ran out. I’m glad we won. In the second half Maine scored 48. That’s a lack of focus. … We have to learn from that. ”

UMass led by 34, 62-28 with 12 minutes, 48 seconds remaining and seemed to lose focus after that, getting sloppy down the stretch. McCall uncharacteristically went to walk-on Jaylen Franklin with 7:16 left trying to shake up his team, which did enough to keep Maine from really threatening.

After watching Georgia State hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer in Wednesday’s loss, UMass unleashed a similar barrage late in the first half and early in the second. The Minutemen made 11 of their first 15 from outside, before missing seven of their final nine. Freshman Carl Pierre led UMass with a career-high 25, making seven of his team’s nine 3’s. He said it was as confident as he’d felt shooting all season.

“I felt like everything I put up was going to go down” he said. “It was like throwing a golf ball into the ocean. It felt good.”

Like the rest of the team, McCall said there was good and bad with Pierre.

“I was not impressed with his defense in the second half. I was impressed that he made shots,” McCall said. “He played with a lot of confidence. I don’t know how many freshmen drop 25 points and make seven 3s.”

Luwane Pipkins, who was hampered by back spasms, had 16 points in 16 minutes, while big men Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hines scored 10 apiece.

For the briefest of moments there was cause of concern in the first. Pipkins hadn’t started the game with back spasms and UMass was out of synch. Maine controlled the glass early and led 7-5, 5:16 into the game.

Pipkins checked in and quickly scored five straight points to start an 8-0 run that ballooned into a 23-5 surge, and eventually a 35-8, half-ending, tidal wave.

C.J. Anderson was in the seasonally appropriate spirit of giving with 12 assists, including a no-look behind the back dish to a trailing Chris Baldwin on the break for an and-one. Anderson added seven rebounds and didn’t score a point.

“My role changes every day. It depends on the game. I love my role,” said Anderson, who was hoping for SportsCenter. “I saw him cutting. Hopefully top 10 (plays). I was hoping he’d dunk it. That definitely would have put it over the top.”

UMass opens Atlantic 10 play at St. Bonaventure on Dec. 30.

“They need to go home and enjoy their families and when they get back there on the 26th we need to get back to work,” McCall said. “We have a lot of work to do and a lot to improve. This team has shown signs of how good they can be, and they’ve shown signs of how bad they can be.”

DOZEN ASSISTS, NO POINTS – Senior C.J. Anderson finished the game with 12 assists, three shy of UMass’ school record (15 by Carl Smith in 1986) and one shy of Chaz Williams’ Mullins Center record.

Anderson said he didn’t know he was as close as he was to Williams until John Sinnett, UMass’ associate athletic director for media relations, told him afterward.

“Mr. John told me I was close to getting Chaz,” Anderson said smiling. “Now that I know what he has, I’m coming for him.”

Anderson didn’t score a point in the game. According to SportsReference.com, only six Division I players have had more assists in a game without a point since 2010-11. Two had 14 and four had 13.