Pipkins’ 30 points leads UMass past Providence

  • UMass’ Luwane Pipkins, right, drives past Providence’s Drew Edwards on Saturday during the Minutemen’s 72-63 upset victory at the Mullins Center in Amherst. Pipkins scored 30 points to pace the UMass offense. For The Recorder/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Unique McLean, center, passes the ball off under pressure from Providence's Nate Watson and Drew Edwards Dec. 9, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. For The Recorder/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Malik Hines goes in for a shot against Providence Dec. 9, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. For The Recorder/SARAH CROSBY

  • Above, UMass' Unique McLean, right, goes between the legs with the dribble as Providence defender Rodney Bullock looks on. McLean, also pictured below dishing off a pass, and the Minutemen upset the Friars, 72-63, at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Saturday. Recorder PHOTOS/SARAH CROSBY

For The Recorder
Sunday, December 10, 2017

AMHERST — With 10 minutes, 51 seconds left, UMass’ fast start and early lead seemed like a distant memory. Providence had figured out how to slow Luwane Pipkins and appeared to be taking over the game.

Down by five, Minuteman coach Matt McCall called timeout and liked what he saw in the huddle. Providence went 8:48 without a field goal and UMass went on a 19-2 run that flipped the game as the Minutemen rolled to a 72-63 win Saturday at the Mullins Center.

“I could feel those guys in the timeout. They were OK. They weren’t panicked. They kept talking to each other,” McCall said. “I’m proud of all of our guys. I thought they fought and showed some great resilience down the stretch and got ourselves a great win.”

Pipkins notched his second 30-point effort of the season. He had just eight of his 30 points in the second half, but all eight came in the 19-2 run.

“One thing I loved about watching him play was he played with a swagger. He played with a purpose,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “He’s a very good player. ... He scored very late in the shot clock on all the points he scored in the second half.”

The Minutemen outscored the Friars in both halves, but took different routes to the same destination. UMass led 38-33 after a scorching 22-point first half by Pipkins. The sophomore guard made 3-pointers early (4-for-6). When the Friars guarded him tighter, he went to the basket making scoops and floaters, including an off-balance leaner right before intermission.

“It’s a rivalry game. These are the type of games I like. I just tried to go at them from the start, not holding back. I wasn’t trying to force anything,” Pipkins said. “Once I started driving I got two layups so they still couldn’t guard me. I was looking to drive when they started to close out hard.”

UMass (5-5), which was 7-for-13 in the first half from 3-point range, didn’t make a single 3 in the second half (0-for-6), but the Minutemen were more effective in the paint, navigating foul trouble to all four big men. On top of that, they were much more effectively defensively holding the Friars to 31.4 percent (11-for-25) from the field.

Rashaan Holloway returned to the starting lineup and had 11 points and four rebounds. Malik Hines had all nine of his points and seven of his eight rebounds in the second half. Chris Baldwin had just three points and six rebounds, but his defense in the second half helped contribute to the Friars’ woes. C.J. Anderson added 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

“In order to beat a team like Providence we have to have everybody on the same page. Everybody has to be connected and committed to doing their job on the next possession,” McCall said. “I felt like we had that tonight, more so tonight than in any game this year. Those guys wanted to win that game. You could feel that today.”

Rodney Bullock had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead Providence (7-3), which could be in for a tough stretch of practice according to Cooley.

“This loss is on me. I’ve done a couple things wrong coaching this team. First and foremost is being too nice,” Cooley said. “We’ve coddled our players to a point where we’re coaching a soft team. That’s the one thing I hate is to be known as a soft group. ... We have to play with a lot more spirit, toughness and enthusiasm. Credit UMass with a good win, but at the same time Providence College didn’t show up to play today. The team that deserved to win, won. We didn’t earn a damn thing today. … Right now I would characterize us as the softest team in the country.”

UMass is off this week for finals and returns to action against Georgia, Saturday at 3 p.m.