UMass men’s basketball comes up short in fight with No. 22 URI

Minutemen can’t complete late game comeback

By Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor

Some teams require near perfection in order to be beaten. No. 22 Rhode Island has been one of those teams in 2018; while the Massachusetts men’s basketball team was good, it wasn’t perfect.

Tuesday night’s game ended like so many for the Rams, with another win; this time URI defeated UMass 85-83.

This wasn’t the same UMass team that lost to Fordham though, or the team that put up only 47 points against St. Louis. Outmatched in terms of talent and bodies, UMass held its own. But all season, Minutemen coach Matt McCall has preached no moral victories, and the Minutemen’s loss to URI was no different.

“We’re the same team as 3-7 in the Atlantic 10, so if anybody is congratulating us right now, thanks but we have to get back to work,” McCall said. “If anybody feeds into that, that’s the wrong mindset. We’ve talked a lot coming out of the Fordham game that we have to be committed and I felt that from these guys.”

Luwane Pipkins continued to shine, hitting a buzzer beating 3-pointer to close out the first half and then another 3-pointer late in the second to put UMass within two, 84-82.

However, a no call on an attempted charge followed by a lane violation on an intentionally missed free throw in final second left Pipkins without that chance to shock the Rams and their fans in attendance.

Pipkins thought he drew the charge down 84-82 with 10 seconds remaining, but no-call didn’t surprise him.

“A loss is a loss and I’m tired of losing,” Pipkins said. “All of us are tired of losing, something has to change.

“When we play to our full potential, everyone saw what we can do: Dayton, Providence, Georgia. But when we play down we’re terrible. Like tonight we played to our full potential, we almost won the game, but just weren’t good enough.”

When the two teams faced each other earlier in the year, the Rams routed UMass in Kingston, Rhode Island. The Minutemen tried desperately to change that tone early on, jumping on URI to gain a 23-10 lead six and a half minutes into the game.

A couple of Carl Pierre 3-pointers, combined with Pipkins’ typical offensive prowess, kept UMass afloat, but URI didn’t remain asleep for long. URI went on a 22-4 run that put them up 33-27, a lead it kept for the duration of the game.

Pipkins, who carried the Minutemen in the final 10 minutes of the first half, was limited to only nine points in the second.

“Pipkins is one of the better guards we’ve faced all year and in the conference, he had a great game,” URI coach Dan Hurley said. “I didn’t think we guarded well early, they kind of came limping in and our lack of defensive focus early kind of got them going.”

With Pipkins neutralized, UMass lost its firepower. But C.J. Anderson and Malik Hines did their best to fill the void. In the second half, Anderson recorded 10 points and Hines recorded 12.

In the second half, Rhode Island shot 13-of-16 from the field, and 4-of-5 from beyond-the-arc. Led by Jeff Dowtin’s double-double (19 points and 10 assists) and Jared Terrell’s 21 points, the Rams were able to build a lead that was just out of the Minutemen’s reach.

Despite UMass’ loss to Fordham, a bottom of the conference team, McCall thought his team had good practices leading up to URI. He praised those on his team who are sitting out and could not make the trip for their effort in practice.

“I said to the four guys sitting out in the locker room, I said ‘your energy level on Sunday in practice, we could have came in hanging our heads’ and those guys lifted us with their energy to go back to work,” McCall said.

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.