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December 28, 2016

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center

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(Jong Man Kim/Daily Collegian)

Coming into Wednesday night’s matchup against Dayton, the dominant narrative for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team was the disparity between its non-conference and Atlantic 10 conference play.

After finishing non-conference play with a 10-3 record, UMass (11-6, 1-3 A-10) couldn’t find the same success once it began A-10 play dropping games to St. Bonaventure, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, respectively.

Wednesday night’s game certainly wasn’t perfect for the Minutemen, but it was enough for UMass to make a statement as it topped a Flyers 67-55 at Mullins Center. Dayton entered the matchup tied for the top spot in the A-10.

The win snaps UMass’ three-game losing streak, and is its first conference win of the season.

Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg was impressed with the effort his team showed against Dayton (12-4, 3-1 A-10).

“I’m pretty happy our guys came out and fought and played as close to 40 minutes as we have all season,” Kellogg said. “We practiced really hard the past couple days and went after each other and I thought that was key to us playing a little bit better. We had a better vision of what UMass basketball is all about in what I told our guys is one of the best, if not the best, team in our conference.”

UMass was well aware of the importance of picking up a win in this crucial A-10 game against a top-tier team in the conference.

“We practiced two and a half days in a row and we knew we had to get a win against Dayton, the number one team in our conference supposedly,” guard Luwane Pipkins said. “But on this day we beat them, so in my eyes, we’re the number one team in our conference.”

The Minutemen were paced offensively by strong play from a trio of players. Pipkins led the team with a game-high 17 points, followed by Rashaan Holloway with 14 and DeJon Jarreau with 13.

The play of Pipkins and Jarreau has been a positive sign for UMass early in the season and both contributed in more than just the point column Wednesday night. The 5-foot-11 Pipkins racked up four rebounds and remained strong on the defensive end with a pair of steals. Jarreau was arguably even more impactful for the Minutemen with seven rebounds, six assists and a career-high three blocks.

Holloway knows having the young guys playing in stride will be critical for the long-term success of UMass, and was happy to see them bounce back from subpar performances against the Rams.

“I play with them every day, so I see how they play and I see how they have played,” Holloway said. “I knew they didn’t lose their game. They just had to find their rhythm again. When we play as a team, we win every game.”

Holloway posed a matchup problem for the Flyers throughout the contest as he finished tied for the team-high with seven rebounds. Dayton’s largest player who saw action, Xeyrius Williams, was just 6-foot-8, a full three inches shorter then Holloway.

Flyers coach Archie Miller recognized that his team struggled to slow down the 6-foot-11 Holloway Wednesday night.

“Since we’ve played this season, 16 games, we haven’t played a big guy that good. He commands a lot of attention,” Miller said. “He demands the ball almost every time down and they work to get him the ball almost every time down.”

The Minutemen used that advantage in the post to outrebound Dayton 44-37 and held the advantage in points in the paint 32-20.

The Flyers did get a strong performance from guard Kyle Davis, who scored 16 points and had five rebounds. Guard Scoochie Smith was held to nine points in 25 minutes of play. He played just eight minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.

Neither team was particularly strong from the free throw line Wednesday as UMass shot just 11-for-23 from the charity stripe and Dayton had a 13-for-22 mark.

The Minutemen will look to build upon this upset victory as they travel to take on Rhode Island (10-5, 2-1 A-10) Sunday afternoon in Kingston, Rhode Island.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.

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