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UMass men’s basketball pulls out win despite near second-half collapse

(Katherine Mayo/Collegian)

Seeded at No.12, UMass (15-17) matched up against No.13 Saint Joseph’s in the tournament’s first round. The Hawks (11-20) were the only team that UMass had beaten twice this season.

With less than eight minutes remaining in the game, UMass had a commanding 19-point lead and appeared to be cruising to the second round where it would once again face the Bonnies. The Minutemen would ultimately move on following their 70-63 win over the Hawks, but not without coming close to disaster yet again.

“To come away with a win, after a couple of those things that happened, there’s some relief. But also, I think these guys deserved it,” Kellogg said.

“We talked about, you know, once you kind of felt like we definitely weren’t in the race to win the league or whatever, we felt like, let’s get ready for the end of the year and also tournament play where we’re playing at a better clip and playing together and everybody seems pretty energized and still with it.”

After a back-and-forth first half, UMass entered the second with a 31-24 lead. The Minutemen had not been shooting particularly well, only hitting 3-of-12 from 3-point range in the first.

However, things started to heat up in the second. In a span between 16:03 and 7:49 C.J. Anderson and Luwane Pipkins combined for five 3-pointers. Pipkins’ third and final trey of the game came at the 7:49 mark to put UMass up 58-39.

A turning of the tide

“You could say that. I felt like we got a little complacent,” Anderson said. “We saw the lead and we were trying to slow the ball down. [We] felt like we could have kept attacking them but that’s pretty much it.”

In the four minutes and 28 seconds that followed Pipkins third 3-pointer, the Hawks went on a 14-0 run to cut the UMass’ lead down to 58-53. During the run the Hawks were 6-of-7 from the floor, two of which came from 3-point range.

While St. Joe’s was heating up, the Minutemen went cold. They missed all seven shots they took in that span.

“That’s the toughest part of a game when you have a big lead and we’re looking at the game, so we’re waiting for the time to go down but be aggressive and score,” Lewis said. “That’s just a tough part for any team really.”

The closest St. Joe’s would come to stealing this one from UMass was with 14 seconds left in the game, when DeJon Jarreau botched a defensive rebound, accidentally tipping James Dembry’s missed shot into the basket. The blunder put the Hawks within three.

“I was just trying to hurry up and yank it down and it just so happened it was too high and it bounced off my hand. In my head I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’” Jarreau said.

“It’s just something funny. We joke around about it but we still won and if it was the other way around it wouldn’t be a joke.”

The Minutemen were able to avoid an epic collapse due in part to their free throw shooting in the final minute where they hit 9-of-12 from the charity stripe.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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