Minutemen hold off Dayton, reward coach with his first A-10 victory

  • UMass sophomore big man Chris Baldwin puts up a hook shot in the Minutemen’s 62-60 win over Dayton, Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. for the recorder/DAVID JABLONSKI

  • UMass sophomore guard Luwane Pipkins drives to the basket for two of his 25 points in the Minutemen’s 62-60 win over Dayton, Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. for the recorder/DAVID JABLONSKI

  • Luwane Pipkins surveys the defense in the Minutemen’s 62-60 win over Dayton, Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. for the recorder/DAVID JABLONSKI

  • UMass coach Matt McCall shouts instructions in the Minutemen’s 62-60 win over Dayton, Saturday in Dayton Ohio. for the recorder/DAVID JABLONSKI

  • Luwane Pipkins drives to the basket in the Minutemen’s 62-60 win over Dayton, Saturday in Dayton, Ohio. for the recorder/DAVID JABLONSKI

For The Recorder
Sunday, January 07, 2018

DAYTON, Ohio — Matt McCall told his UMass men’s basketball team three things in a speech Friday night, one day before a game against Dayton at UD Arena.

McCall urged his team to believe in itself, even though he and all the players knew they would play the Flyers without two suspended starters, Rashaan Holloway and C.J. Anderson. He told the players who did make the trip, “Our want has got to be great.” Finally, McCall emphasized the need for a competitive spirit.

“We need those three things to give ourselves a chance,” McCall said.

That’s what the UMass coach got in a 62-60 victory Saturday. The Minutemen overcame an 11-point first-half deficit, led by as many as eight points in the second half and held off the Flyers in the final minutes.

Dayton’s leading scorer, Darrell Davis, missed a contested layup at the buzzer as UMass (8-8, 1-2) picked up the first Atlantic 10 victory of the McCall era.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a team after a game,” McCall said. “Just the resiliency and the fight they showed to keep competing. Offensively, we struggled down the stretch. We completely relied on our defense. We were undermanned. You’ve got a freshman in Carl Pierre who plays 35 minutes. Luwane Pipkins plays 37. They found a way to win.”

Pipkins led the Minutemen with 25 points. He made 9 of 22 shots from the field. He added four assists and two steals.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to play hard,” Pipkins said. “We’ve got to play tough. We’ve got to play to our identity. We stayed together and just got the job done.”

Pierre finished with 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting. Chris Baldwin added 10 points and made 4 of 6 shots.

“I thought our group was extremely connected,” McCall said. “When we’ve shown that this year, we’ve shown we can win some big games. When we haven’t shown that out there on the floor or in practice, we’ve struggled. It’s a great lesson for out team going forward.”

UMass won at UD Arena for the first time since 2008. The home team had won the previous six games in the series. Dayton and UMass play again on Feb. 3 in Amherst.

Dayton (7-8, 1-2) was coming off its biggest victory of the season. The Flyers beat St. Bonaventure 82-72 Wednesday at UD Arena and were trying to win back-to-back games for the first time in Anthony Grant’s first season.

“We weren’t able to duplicate the effort, the energy, the focus tonight,” Grant said. “UMass came in and obviously played very hungry, very passionate. I thought their energy for the most part was better than ours.”

UMass seized control of the game with a 16-4 run that began with 3 minutes, 48 seconds left in the first half. By the time that surge ended, the Minutemen led 36-34 less than four minutes into the second half.

“The end of the first half, the beginning of the second half kind of told the tale,” Grant said. “The last 12 minutes, I thought our guys really fought and gave us an opportunity to win the game, but it takes a lot longer than that with the team we have to beat anybody in this league.”

UMass held Davis to 10 points on 2 of 9 shooting. Dayton’s other top player, Josh Cunningham, scored six of his 12 points in a three-minute span late in the second half, cutting a 58-50 UMass lead to 58-56.

Unique McLean and Pipkins had big baskets in the final three minutes to keep UMass on top. Malik Hines turned the ball over with 19 seconds left, providing Dayton one last chance to tie the game. McCall told the players to stay at home and stick to whoever they were guarding on the final possession.

“We couldn’t get sucked in on drives and give up a 3,” McCall said. “Davis is such a good player. I didn’t want to put so much focus on him, and all of a sudden we suck in on a drive and they kick it out and we give up a wide-open rhythm 3.”​