Hot outside shooting leads UMass over Georgia

By Thomas Johnston

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

While the final score shows that the Massachusetts men’s basketball team defeated Georgia by 10 on Saturday, the game was never actually that close.

Much of that is due to the blistering start the Minutemen got out to, opening the game on a 16-2 run. UMass (6-5) had the hot hand from three-point range early, and that carried throughout the game as the Minutemen shot 54.5 percent from downtown on the game, going 12-of-22 from deep.

Strong starts to offensively are something UMass is becoming accustomed to. In last week’s win over Providence, the Minutemen made seven threes in the first half alone. Today, UMass hit eight threes in the first half, including three in the first five minutes of action.

UMass coach Matt McCall was pleased with his team’s shot selection against Georgia (7-2).

“Take all the open ones we get,” McCall said. “As long as the ball hits the paint first and we’re kicking it out and we’re playing fast in transition and we’re pushing the ball, the three-point line is the greatest equalizer in college basketball. As long as the ball’s getting to the paint first, we’re fine. We’re taking 20 if 20 are there.”

While the 22 attempted threes may seem like a lot, McCall feels that the shots are there due to the system and the way their offense is played.

“Within our offense you get open looks,” McCall said. “How we play, floor space, spread pick and rolls, playing fast, playing in transition; threes are there.”

UMass got offensive production from a bevy of players. Leading scorer Luwane Pipkins had 17 points with a trio of triples, but the Minutemen got great production from role players Chris Baldwin and Carl Pierre.

Baldwin had 11 points while going 3-of-5 from downtown, and Pierre had 15 points with five three-pointers.

“I think it brings a lot of versatility to the whole team,” Baldwin said about his perimeter shooting. “We have four guys that are back to the basket, myself and CJ (Anderson) can play on the perimeter. So it’s definitely doing a lot spacing the floor out.”

The emergence of Pierre has given a giant boost to the UMass offense. He is shooting 46.4 percent from deep on the year, and his outside shooting has taken the pressure off of guys like Pipkins and center Rashaan Holloway.

The strong shooting performance helped open things up for Holloway in the post. Listed at 6-foot-11 and weighing 310 pounds, Holloway tends to draw the attention of the opposition when he goes to work in the post. When the Minutemen are hitting from outside like they were Saturday, it opens things up for Holloway in the post, as the paint is a lot less crowded for him to operate in.

Holloway would finish the game with 12 points.

“It opened up a lot,” Holloway said. “When I’m in the game if I post up hard, everybody’s going to try to suck in and try to stop me from posting up. A lot of teams kick out and it’s good to have my teammates ready to shoot three and ready to score. Instead of people packing the paint on me, once people start hitting shots they have to play us even. They can throw it down to me and I can do my job.”

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.