Minutemen top Lowell, 74-69

For The Recorder
Friday, November 10, 2017

AMHERST — With 17 seconds left and UMass defending a three-point lead, C.J. Anderson saw an opening and poked the ball away from UMass-Lowell’s Josh Gantz. He grabbed the loose ball and launched an outlet pass to Unique McLean racing up the floor.

McLean effortlessly threw down a reverse dunk with 13 seconds left sealing the victory as the Minutemen opened the Matt McCall era with a 74-69 win Friday at the Mullins Center.

The Minutemen appeared ready to pull away late. After a Rayshawn Miller 3-pointer, Rashawn Holloway blocked Connor Bennett at the other end, starting a fast break that Luwane Pipkins finished with a layup that made it 66-58 with 2 minutes, 31 seconds remaining.

But Lowell answered with a 9-2 run that cut UMass’ edge to 68-67 with 31 seconds left. Lowell then fouled Anderson, who made both free throws, setting up the final sequence.

“You have to play the game possession by possession,” McCall said. “In the second half when we went up eight, there were some silly plays. ... Mental mistakes you can’t have. But I told them ‘We celebrate wins.’ I’m proud of them that they found some resilience to find a way to win the game.”

Foul trouble had Anderson and Holloway on the bench for big stretches in the second half, but both played critical roles down the stretch. Holloway had 10 of his 12 points in the second half and three big blocked shots. Anderson had 9 points and five assists, and made key free throws.

UMass (1-0) is at Harvard, Sunday at 2 p.m.

The Minutemen trailed 34-32 at intermission after a first half that featured poor shooting (11-for-30, 2-for-12 from 3-point range) and ball handling (nine turnovers) by UMass.

Lowell led by five when Matt Harris hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. The Minutemen hustled the ball up the floor and Pipkins launched a long 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. It was off the mark, but Malik Hines tipped the offensive rebound to C.J. Anderson, who quickly hit Miller (10 points) in the corner. The walk-on, who played more minutes Friday than all of last year, swished the buzzer-beating 3 to give UMass halftime momentum.

“I was frustrated in the first half with the overall effort — loose balls, hustle plays, long rebounds, diving on the floor” McCall said. “I thought we almost had a mindset of we’re just going to show up and win this game. It doesn’t work that way. We have a long way to go. These guys have to learn how to win.”

After missing most of the preseason with a thumb injury, Holloway didn’t start and didn’t play much in the first half as two fouls limited him to five minutes before intermission.

Hines carried UMass in his absence and finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds.