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January 3, 2018

Pipkins’ scoring outburst leads UMass past Providence

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team notched its biggest win of the season with a 72-63 win over Providence on Saturday, thanks in large part to a stellar day from sophomore guard Luwane Pipkins.

Pipkins pumped in 30 points for UMass (5-5), leading all scorers and sparking the Minutemen to a statement win.

“It’s a rivalry game,” Pipkins said, “it’s going to be a big game, a lot of people there, these are the type of games I like, so I just try to go at it from the start. Not holding back, I don’t care, just try and go at them, that’s all I did. In the end, we got the win, that’s all that matters.”

It was a tale of two halves for Pipkins, who was forced to adapt his approach after the Friars shifted their look defensively.

Providence came out early in a matchup 2-3 zone, and Pipkins found himself up against guards Kyron Cartwright and Makai Ashton-Langford, and he repeatedly burned both of them in the first half.

Whether stepping back and hitting threes or driving into the lane and getting floaters to fall, Pipkins was stellar; he was lights-out from three-point range in the first half, dropping 22 points on 9-12 shooting and 4-6 from deep, as UMass took a 38-33 lead into the break.

“He got into a rhythm early,” McCall said. “He got some good looks early in the game, and as a scorer like that, when you can get yourself into that kind of rhythm early in the game you know you’re going to have a big night.”

In the second half, the Friars managed to better contain him—they stayed in their matchup 2-3, but it was the longer Jalen Lindsey switching onto Pipkins, and the change was a more successful approach.

“They started to try and face guard him a little bit there,” said McCall, “so we just came down and ran a simple drag pick-and-roll on the wing, they jump out there so hard the way they play defense and really hedge. We got some wide-open looks in the lane, and those guys kept taking on the hedge and getting down in the lane, Pip and C.J. [Anderson] did a great job attacking their bigs, and were able to get some buckets there.”

Pipkins, however, still managed another eight points in the second half, attacking hard closeouts and getting to the line and into the lane as Providence was forced to respect his range.

“I believed they were going to try and change up the game plan in the second half,” Pipkins said, “try and put a bigger guard on me. Once I started driving, I made two layups, so [Lindsey] still couldn’t guard me.”

Pipkins finished 12-16 from the field in 36 minutes on the floor, and his 30-point outing was the second-highest of his career, behind only his 34-point afternoon against Niagara on Nov. 19.

“We gave him all the confidence in the world,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “[He had a] career game, he played well. One thing I loved about watching him; he played with a swagger, played with a purpose. He’s a very good player.”

Pipkins has been the Minutemen’s best player this season, averaging nearly 19 points a game as he steps into a new role as the team’s primary scorer.

“He’s fearless, man,” said McCall. “He’s fearless and we continue to talk about him after every game. His approach, his mentality, from everything has completely changed since I’ve been here, and that’s why he’s having success.

“He’s doing all the right things, he’s early to shoot around, he’s early to practice, he’s constantly talking to his teammates. He deserves to play well, and he’s another guy we’re asking to do a lot.”

Amin Touri can be reached at atouri@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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