Questionable call helps VCU edge UMass, 82-78

For The Recorder
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

AMHERST — With 6 minutes, 21 seconds left in a tie game, UMass senior C.J. Anderson drove past a defender and put the ball up. Virginia Commonwealth’s Justin Tillman recovered, leapt and swatted it away.

Anderson was incredulous, thinking it was goaltending and gesturing to the official as he ran downcourt. Minuteman coach Matt McCall and the 3,322 amateur official evaluators in the Mullins Center crowd vocally agreed with him.

In game where the momentum and lead changed hands often the play seemed to push the pendulum to VCU at a critical time.

Jonathan Williams grabbed the rebound and raced upcourt for a lay-in that started a decisive 8-0 run that helped the Rams pull away for a 82-78 win.

“It was definitely a game-changer. When I saw that he had blocked it, I knew it was goaltending,” Anderson said. “I thought it was an easy call. I guess the ref didn’t see it. It is what it is. It drains energy from you, but that happens in a game. We have to bounce back and find a way to win.”

McCall thought his team reacted poorly.

“We didn’t handle adversity well on C.J.’s layup. I thought that kind of deflated us,” McCall said. “They went on a run. You can talk about whether it’s goaltending, but if it is or it isn’t, we still have to go get a stop. We didn’t do that.”

The Minutemen got back within three on a Luwane Pipkins 3-pointer with 46 seconds left, but they couldn’t get a stop. Williams held until deep in the shot clock, then fed Tillman, who slipped his defender underneath for an open layup that made it 80-75 with 21 seconds left.

UMass tried to hurry and Williams picked off a Pipkins pass. He fed Tillman for a breakaway dunk with 9 seconds left to clinch the result.

The loss dulled another big scoring game for Pipkins, who had 38 points and six assists. The Minutemen (11-17, 4-11 Atlantic 10) dropped their fourth straight game and ninth in their last 10 games. Anderson added 15 points and six assists.

Tillman had 26 points and 13 rebounds for the Rams (16-12, 8-7 A-10). VCU shot 62.1 from the floor and turned five UMass turnovers into 13 second-half points.

“To win games you have to guard. We’re not doing nearly a good enough job at that end of the floor,” McCall said. “One of the hardest things to teach is transition defense. We’ve done a poor job these last couple weeks, especially in transition.”

UMass shot the ball well from outside, but its missed shots in the paint contributed to a 39-38 intermission deficit. The Minutemen made 8 of 18 3-pointers, but were 7-for-19 inside the arc, including several misses at point-blank range. They had 10 assists on 15 field goals.

Anderson picked up his third foul before intermission, but McCall was effective playing Malik Hines in short spurts after picking up his second 2:45 into the game.

UMass is at George Mason, Saturday at 6 p.m.