Davidson dispatches shorthanded Minutemen

  • UMass’ gunner Luwane Pipkins doesn’t have enough help these days due to a diminishing Minuteman roster. For The Recorder/SARAH CROSBY

For The Recorder
Sunday, February 18, 2018

DAVIDSON, N.C. — When Randall West checks into a game eight times, it’s a not a good sign as to where UMass’ roster is at this point in the season.

The 6-foot-4 junior football player who joined the Minutemen Wednesday, played 12 minutes in Saturday’s 83-78 loss at Davidson.

“The guy’s practiced three times,” said UMass coach Matt McCall, whose team had only five scholarship players available. McCall had to play check-in-table traffic cop as the Minutemen quickly found foul trouble.

C.J. Anderson and Rayshawn Miller each picked up three fouls in the first half. Starting center Malik Hines picked up his third less than two minutes into the second half and his fourth with 16:28 remaining.

West was called upon early and often. During a crucial moment in the second half, McCall even inserted walk-on Jaylen Franklin, who had played 20 minutes all season. Despite all of this, UMass hung with one of the Atlantic 10’s top teams.

“It’s hard,” McCall said. “But our guys didn’t quit, man. They kept playing.”

The Minutemen came out of the locker room with the intensity they lacked in Wednesday’s loss to George Washington, working an 11-4 lead to start the game.

“We just had to match their intensity on the offensive side,” guard Luwane Pipkins said.

Pipkins was the spark plug UMass needed to start, and stay in the game. His 3-pointer from the top of the arc gave the Minutemen a 29-21 lead with 6:31 remaining in the first half.

The sophomore finished with 31 points, nine assists and two steals in 39 minutes.

“I don’t look to do anything special,” Pipkins said. “I just look to lead my team the way I’m supposed to and try to get the job done.”

But Davidson went on a 11-0 run, taking a lead it did not relinquish on a three-point play by senior Peyton Aldridge and led 41-36 at halftime.

Aldridge, who played all 40 minutes, finished with a career-high 38 points.

The 6-foot-8 forward showed a considerable array of skills: posting up, sinking jump hooks, and hitting 3-of-7 3-point attempts.

“He causes you so many different problems out there on the floor,” McCall said. “He was terrific tonight.”

The 6-foot-8 Aldridge also pulled down 14 rebounds on a night when Davidson took advantage, not just of UMass’ lack of depth but also its lack of size.

With Hines (17 points, six rebounds) in foul trouble and 6-foot-9 center Khalea Turner-Morris (concussion protocol) missing his second-straight game, the Minutemen, forced to play small lineups throughout, and were outrebounded 35-25.

Davidson went on an 18-5 run to open a 65-52 lead with 8:07 left in the second half.

“I thought that run in the second half kind of broke our backs a little bit,” McCall said.

Three of UMass’ five starters logged more than 35 minutes.

“I think it was the fatigue,” Pipkins said. “All fatigue.”

Still UMass found itself within reach of a victory toward the end.

A running lay-in by Pipkins cut Davidson’s lead to seven with 51 seconds remaining.

Later, a 3-pointer by Carl Pierre (15 points) cut the deficit to four at 82-78 with five seconds remaining. Aldridge then hit a free throw to seal the Minutemen’s eighth loss in nine games, and third-straight.

“Our guys didn’t quit,” McCall said. “You like to see that, especially with how the season has gone for us thus far.”

UMass (11-16, 4-10 A-10) hosts VCU on Wednesday at 7 p.m.