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January 3, 2018

Pipkins breaks UMass single game scoring record in comeback win over La Salle

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

Wednesday night, Luwane Pipkins had a game that will live on amongst the UMass basketball community for years to come.

Trailing by 21 in the second half to La Salle, and with the Mullins Center lifeless, Pipkins single-handedly willed his team back in the game. He scored 23 of the teams final 27 points in regulation to ultimately send the game into overtime tied at 74.

The overtime period was one filled with runs. The Minutemen (9-8, 2-2 Atlantic 10) opened on a 5-0 run, all points scored by freshman Carl Pierre. Pookie Powell would later answer with a jumper of his own for the Explorers to bring it to a three-point game with 2:14 left on the clock.

That was the closest Pipkins would let it get. The sophomore came down and drilled a three of his own to give him 41 points, tying him with Bill Tindall for the UMass single-game scoring record.

After a La Salle miss on the following possession, Pipkins got the ball and drained another three to put the Minutemen up by nine with 1:01 left, all but icing the game and breaking Tindall’s scoring record that had stood strong since Feb. 10, 1968, with 44 points on the night.

La Salle (7-10, 1-3 A-10) would make one more basket, but it wouldn’t prove to be enough, as UMass came away with a thrilling 86-79 overtime victory.

What makes Pipkins’ performance all the more impressive was that he was playing through a sore knee and back.

“Like I said in the beginning of the year, shooters gonna shoot, scorers gonna score,” Pipkins said. “I just kept being aggressive. My teammates told me to keep going, coaches told me to keep going and just fight through the pain and that’s what I did and I made shots.”

This isn’t the first time Pipkins has entered the UMass record book, as he tied the school’s single game steal record with eight last year against UMass Lowell. Still, breaking the scoring record felt pretty good.

“It means a lot,” Pipkins said. “Knowing that I came into a program and set a record at this school that probably won’t be broken for a minute, like I did with the steals last year, it feels good to be apart of something big in a big program and with all the great players that have played here.”

Pipkins was scoring at such a rapid pace that UMass coach Matt McCall was unable to process just how many points he had as it happened.

“I didn’t realize he had 44 until after the game,” McCall. “Sometimes when you’re in the course of the game you’re worried about what to run next. I don’t know if I’ve ever been apart of a game where someone’s gone for that many points in college.”

Pipkins performance left his teammates impressed.

“It’s unreal watching that,” Pierre said. “When you see a guy who’s just cooking, there’s nothing anyone on the floor can do about it. Whenever he chooses to shoot, it’s going down. It’s super fun watching that.”

Pierre had a big game himself, scoring 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Powell went toe-to-toe with Pipkins for the majority of the game, scoring 30 points for the Explorers. La Salle was playing without leading scorer B.J. Johnson.

The Explorers threw a variety of defenses at Pipkins, but nothing seemed to slow him down. They tried hard-hedging the ball screens, they tried switching, they tried keeping the big guy back to prevent drives to the rim, but Pipkins was in a zone that couldn’t be interrupted.

“We did everything,” Explorer coach John Giannini said. “We tried. He was great. We tried. We tried. But there was nothing we could do.”

The win comes on the heels of a win over Dayton, another game that the Minutemen were able to fight their way out of a deficit to come away with a victory.

McCall is impressed with the way his team doesn’t give up, no matter the deficit.

“I said this after the Dayton game, that I was so proud of our team for the fight, for the resilience that they showed in that game,” McCall said. “And tonight same thing, to be down 16 points at the half and to fight your way back.”

UMass is back on the court Sunday, taking on Saint Joseph’s at the Mullins Center. Tip-off is at 5 p.m.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at tjohnston@umass.edu and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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