Multiple players step up for UMass men’s basketball in loss

Carl Pierre, CJ Anderson and Malik Hines all score in double figures

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Multiple players step up for UMass men’s basketball in loss

By Tommy Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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While the Massachusetts men’s basketball team wasn’t able to come away with what would have been in contention for their best victory this season, falling to No. 22 Rhode Island 85-83, the effort they showed is something they can build off of moving forward.

Down the stretch, the Rams made it a point of emphasis to keep the ball out of UMass leading scorer Luwane Pipkins’ hands, forcing other guys to step up and make a play to win the game.

Typically, that has not happened. If the Minutemen pull off a second half comeback, it is usually due to Pipkins getting red hot and carrying the team back into the game.Against a talented URI squad, that would not be easy; the Rams are an experienced team with the talent to make sure Pipkins would not be the guy to give them their first loss in conference play.

Tuesday, other UMass players stepped up and almost completed the comeback. Trailing 80-66 with 3:14 remaining, Malik Hines drew a foul and hit both free throws. Freshman Carl Pierre came down and hit a three on the next possession to bring the URI lead to single digits.

The Minutemen were then forced a steal where senior C.J. Anderson found Hines for an easy bucket and suddenly UMass was within seven.

With other guys contributing down the stretch, it allowed the defense to lose focus of Pipkins for just a second, who was able to drain a three with 10 seconds left to bring the Ram lead to two.

These kinds of contributions from other guys have come and gone throughout the year, but the combo of Hines, Anderson and Pierre stepped their game up tonight.

Hines finished with a season high 18 points on 6-10 shooting while also snagging five key offensive rebounds. Pierre added 16 points himself;Anderson had 15.

With the Minutemen down to just seven players on scholarship, it is on other guys besides Pipkins to step up and play to their true potential if UMass wants to end its five game losing streak.

“I don’t think it’s just us,” Hines said. “The whole team, we all have to give a little more from our offensive side and defensive side. We’re playing seven players right now. We all have to pitch in in every way possible to contribute to winning at this point.”

The Minutemen played tough early, not allowing the Rams to get out to an early lead that demoralized UMass a few weeks ago when they faced URI. Pipkins feels that this is the effort level they need on a night-to-night basis if they want to turn their season around.

“Got to keep doing it,” Pipkins said. “I’m not trying to knock my teammates but we can’t just play to the level of our competition when big games come around. We have to do it every game. Those three doing that relieving a lot of pressure off me, you have to bring that every night.”

Anderson is the lone senior on the Minutemen roster and has been a contributor on the team since his freshman year. This season has been up-and-down for the guard, but Tuesday performance should give him confidence heading towards the closing stretch of his UMass career.

“We need that from C.J.,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I thought he was aggressive. He made some great plays, got down the lane. I’ve talked to him about how he has eight games left. You need to enjoy it. You need to enjoy playing the game in college. A lot in his college career –  probably when he goes back through his mind –  probably didn’t go the way he wanted it to go.

“He’s been through a lot in here,” McCall continued. “I want him to enjoy playing the game and enjoy the next eight games. When he’s being aggressive and playing the game like that it helps our team.”

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