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UMass basketball can’t overcome No. 14 Minnesota in 69-51 loss

Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

BROOKLYN – On the 24th anniversary of the Massachusetts basketball team’s win over No. 1 North Carolina, the Minutemen could not find that same luck against No. 14 Minnesota. In fact, it was quite the opposite, the Golden Gophers beat the Minutemen handily 69-51.

A 6-6 tie in the beginning of the first half was the closest the Minutemen (3-2) came to shocking the top 25 Gophers (6-0). Often rushed and careless, UMass’ approach on offense ended up yielding points for the Gophers.

“In order to beat a team that is talented like that, the first thing you have to do is take care of the ball,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I talked to our team about that last night and this morning, I said ‘if you want an opportunity to beat a team as talented as them, you have to run a good offense, take good shots and take care of the ball’ and we did not do that at all in the first half.”

UMass, finished with 15 turnovers but committed 10 of them in the first half. Those 10 turnovers resulted in 19 points for the Golden Gophers.

The Minutemen had overcome a 6-0 deficit to start the game and kept it as close as four points with the Golden Gophers halfway through the first half. But with UMass trailing 18-14 with 8:01 remaining in the first half, Minnesota went on a run.

UMass went without a basket for over four straight minutes while the Gophers converted 14 points. Luwane Pipkins, who has hit nearly every shot he has took for the last three games, was 0-2 from beyond-the-arc in that stretch.

Pipkins’ 3-point struggles continued for the duration of the game as the sophomore hit only one of his seven attempted 3-pointers. However, he still managed to record 18 points, 10 more than the second highest point scorer on the team, Chris Baldwin (8).

“They’re a top 25 team in the country,” Pipkins said. “It’s definitely a (gut) check game. You have to come in and set the tone in games like that. We didn’t today and that’s the result.”

Baldwin put up arguably the Minutemen’s most well-rounded performance. In 21 minutes the sophomore forward notched eight points and seven rebounds. He was also the only Minuteman to sink two three pointers, one at the buzzer to end the game.

McCall praised Baldwin and Pipkins for their effort.

“I thought some guys laid it on the line, I was really proud of Chris Baldwin and the effort that he had, I thought Luwane laid it on the line, but you can’t be two guys that do that. I thought we were timid, I thought we were scared at times. Rashaan Holloway is every bit as big as those guys, he’s gotta understand that and make aggressive moves and be down in the post and do those type of things and we didn’t do enough of that tonight.”

UMass battled poor shooting up and down its lineup. Not only were the Minutemen 5-23 from 3-point range, their overall shooting percentage was an underwhelming 31.8 percent. While many of the missed shots were due to a strong Minnesota defense, the Minutemen were missing layups often.

“I thought it was kind of self-inflicted,” McCall said of his team’s poor offensive performance. “I thought we took some quick shots early in the clock, when you shoot quick, when you turn the ball over, that ignites them, that gets them on the break and you’re not stopping Nate Mason, Amir Coffey, [Jordan] Murphy, you’re not stopping them on the break. There is no defense for that.”

Minnesota, now 6-0, was the clear favorite over a UMass team learning everything as they go under a new coach. Playing No. 14 Minnesota is arguably the Minutemen’s toughest opponent all year and knowing that may have unnerved them.
“We’re missing layups, Rashaan is making post moves, missing jump hooks,” McCall said. “I think C.J. [Anderson] was 1-7 in the game. You can’t miss layups, when you get down the lane you have to be able to finish to give yourself a chance. There was one point in the first half with 12-13 minutes left where we got four stops in a row. That’s the type of things you have to do to beat a team like that.”

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

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