Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Slow start sinks Minutemen against URI

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

Slow starts have hampered the Massachusetts men’s basketball team all season, and Wednesday’s loss to Rhode Island was no different.

The Minutemen (10-9, 3-3 Atlantic 10) were coming off back-to-back double-digit comebacks against La Salle and Saint Joseph’s, but there would be no late-game redemption in Kingston, as the Rams (14-3, 6-0 A-10) jumped out to an early lead that it would never relinquish.

UMass coach Matt McCall spoke after the Saint Joseph’s win about his team’s need to “get out to better starts,” and they did just the opposite on Wednesday; the Minutemen quickly found themselves staring down the barrel of a 24-8 deficit, as turnover after turnover—and missed layup after missed layup—handed opportunities to a URI team that is far too good to hand free chances and expect to survive.

“That’s a lot of what we talked about before the game, we got to go out there and play,” said UMass coach Matt McCall. “You see some of the offensive possessions to start the game, we were doing things we haven’t done all year. They’re a great team, but I thought we played the beginning of the game completely scared and back on our heels.”

The Minutemen entered the half down 40-20, logging their lowest first-half point total of the season, coming out of the gates falling head-over-heels.

“I thought we had a good shootaround,” McCall said. “I thought we had a good couple of days of practice, I just thought when the ball got thrown up in the air we got put back on our heels, and didn’t cut it loose. And when a couple things didn’t go well, we didn’t respond the right way.

Sophomore guard Luwane Pipkins, who was averaging 32 points per game in a scintillating three-game stretch heading into Wednesday, had just two points in the first half on 1-9 shooting. Senior C.J. Anderson and freshman Carl Pierre were similarly silent from the floor, and the result was a 20-point deficit heading into the locker room.

“I think [Pipkins] was 1-9, [Anderson] was 1-7, and [Pierre] was 0-3, and it’s hard when those three guys have those types of percentages in a half,” McCall said. “They were physical with them, they picked them up, but I thought we missed some layups, I thought we had some open looks we didn’t make, and it kind of drained us a little bit.”

The second half was far more competitive, with the Rams outscoring UMass 33-31 in the final 20 minutes, but the game was never in doubt—14 points was as close as the Minutemen would get, as URI took the lead after 93 seconds of basketball and led for the final 38:27 without so much as a tie game finding its way back onto the scoreboard.

The Minutemen shot a paltry 22 percent from the field in the first half, as well as 20 percent from three to put themselves behind the eight ball, and respectable second-half shooting—44.4 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from deep—produced far too little and came far too late.

“We just come out slacking,” said Pipkins, “thinking it’s going to be easy, thinking a team’s going to take it easy on us, but it’s not. Come out like that against anybody, we’re going to get our heads knocked off.”

UMass never looked comfortable against the Ram man-to-man, committing turnovers left and right and falling victim to shot clock violations without ever seeing a clean look.

“When guys are pressuring you like that,” said McCall, “you got to go down the floor and space the floor and just play, and I thought we did a much better job of that in the second half, but we were completely back on our heels to start.”

The Minutemen will have a chance at redemption in two weeks, when the Rams come to town for the return matchup, where a far better showing from the jump will be needed to keep another blowout off the books.

“At the end of the day, it’s basketball.” Pipkins said. “Their blood is the same color as yours. They’re not superhuman. They just played better ball. We’ll see them again, and we just have to have a better gameplan.”


Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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