The Massachusetts men’s basketball team came into Wednesday’s game riding high on a three-game win streak but were unable to extend it, falling to Georgia State 71-63.
D’Marcus Simonds led the Panthers with 24 points and nine rebounds. Devin Mitchell added 14 points, all coming in the second half. Luwane Pipkins and Carl Pierre each had 14 points for the Minutemen (6-6).
After a sloppy first half that went into halftime with each team scoring just 28 points and both teams combining for 20 turnovers, Georgia State got red hot from outside in the final 20 minutes of play. The Panthers (8-4) shot 11-15 from behind the arc, putting them at 64 percent from three on the game.
Seven of the second half threes came in the final eight minutes of action. The Panthers fed off each other, as they went four straight possessions knocking down outside shots, with Mitchell knocking down three in a row.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been part of a game where you give up 11 threes in a half,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “If you take the 3-point line out of the game and you look down at the stat sheet, you’d have thought we won the game. To give up 11 threes in a half you’re not going to win too many games doing that.”
Georgia State lacks size, thus leading to them playing with four guards at all times of the game. While UMass was able to use its size advantage to win the rebounding margin, it ended up being the speed and outside shooting of the Panthers that would prevail in the end.
The Minutemen were unable to get any of their big men going despite a size mismatch with neither Rashaan Holloway, Malik Hines nor Chris Baldwin hitting double figures in scoring.
“They went five guards there and really spaced us out,” McCall said. “In those situations, we’ve never played five guards on the court at one time together. We’re still trying to make them adjust to us. We did a great job at getting to the backboard and we wanted to get some size out there on the court. We have to get better and know where those threes came from.”
While Pipkins, UMass’ leading scorer heading into the game, had 14 points, he shot just 4-15 from the field.
He was playing through back spasms that flared up before the game.
“It was just some muscle spasms that was killing me,” Pipkins said. “I wasn’t supposed to play but I played. It’s not an excuse but that was the main problem.”
While the spasms may have limited Pipkins, the Panthers made an all out effort to assure that he wouldn’t be the guy to beat them.
“Our whole deal was to take Pipkins out of the game,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. “We actually did something I’ve never done, and this is my 30th year coaching, we opened the game in a box and one. I have a lot of respect for that guy.”
Pipkins wasn’t the only Minutemen to struggle as CJ Anderson finished with just four points on 1-for-7 shooting.
While UMass may be able to overcome an off night from either Pipkins or Anderson, a victory is very hard to come by when both of them are not putting the ball in the basket at their usual rates.
“CJ struggled finishing around the rim and making some jump shots. I thought all the threes CJ took were good, wide open looks. He goes 1-7 and Luwane’s 4-15. If you look at the games we lost those are probably pretty consistent with those two guys numbers. We need both of them to play well, especially offensively, for us to win.”
The Minutemen are back in action Friday, as they complete their non-conference schedule with a game against Maine. Tipoff is at 3 at the Mullins Center.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.