After holding a five-point lead at the half, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team found itself trailing Providence 51-46 with 10:51 left with the Friars threatening to take command of the game.
That’s when Minutemen coach Matt McCall called a timeout, leading to the defense locking in and holding Providence to just two points over the next seven minutes as UMass went on a 19-2 run to pave the way for a 72-63 upset victory.
The timeout served as a time for McCall’s team to regroup and gather themselves for the final stretch.
“I said guys, we have to keep playing the game,” McCall said. “We’re fine right now. There’s a lot of time left, we’re down five. They kept talking to each other like this is our game. We’re going to win this game. We have to go take this game. They were great and they did.”
Luwane Pipkins was the game’s high scorer with 30 points, 22 of them coming in the first half. While the scoring numbers were high, Pipkins was extremely efficient on the offensive end, shooting 12-of-16 from the floor. He also added three steals on the defensive end.
Rashaan Holloway chipped in 11 points and C.J. Anderson had 10. Rodney Bullock led Providence with 15 points.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Pipkins said. “There’s going to be a lot of people there. These are the kind of games I like. I tried to go at it from the start, not holding back just going at them. That’s what I did and we got the win.”
The first half saw the Minutemen get red hot from 3-point range, shooting 53 percent after making seven shots from downtown.
The strong start to the game was a positive sign for UMass, as it has struggled throughout the early portion of the season with starting games on the right foot.
“I told our team before the game we have to stop with the ‘I wish I would have’ or the ‘I wish we’d done this’ and go out and compete for a full 40 minutes,” McCall said. “I thought when we got down five in the second half, I could feel those guys in the timeout, they were OK, they weren’t panicked, they felt good about where they were at and they kept talking to each other.”
Trailing 38-33 at the halftime break, the Friars came into the second half looking to take control of the game. Bullock, Providence’s leading scorer, began to assert himself on the offensive end, scoring 11 points in the first nine minutes of the half.
While the stat sheet doesn’t show it, sophomore Chris Baldwin played a huge role in the big second half run for the Minutemen. He scored just three points, but had six rebounds and made a great pass on the break to an open Malik Hines who slammed it home to help spark the run.
“I thought Baldwin’s energy in the second half was really, really good for us,” McCall said. “Got into some foul trouble and didn’t play him much, haven’t played him much the past couple games for whatever reason. He brought it tonight. He had some unbelievable energy, he had the touch pass to Malik that got our crowd back in the game.”
Much like the second half against Holy Cross, UMass started to clamp down and play its best defense during the later part of the game, holding the Friars to just 30 second half points.
“I thought our guys were really locked in, especially defensively late in the game,” McCall said. “We started switching, we didn’t give up too many threes and you held Providence, a terrific team, to 30 points in the second half. I’m anxious to see what our defensive efficiency rating is in the second half, but it has to be through the roof.”
The Minutemen are back in action next Saturday, as they take on Georgia at the Mullins Center.
Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @TJ__Johnston.