Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Pipkins drops 38 points but UMass men’s basketball falls 82-78 to VCU

Minutemen drop fourth straight Wednesday night

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(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts men’s basketball team has had its problems throughout the season, but sophomore Luwane Pipkins isn’t one.

Down to five healthy scholarship players, the Minutemen need Pipkins, the leading scorer in the Atlantic 10 conference, to score at an accelerated rate.

Wednesday against Virginia Commonwealth, Pipkins did just that, scoring 38 points on eight threes, which ties him with the program record for most three pointers made in a game. Despite his performance, UMass (11-17, 4-11 A-10) was not able to come away with a victory, falling 82-78.

With the game tied at 65 and 6:21 remaining, senior C.J. Anderson beat his defender and got to the rim where he put the ball up to the hoop. VCU senior Justin Tillman came flying in from the weak side and blocked the ball in what looked like goaltending, but the referees let the game play on.

“It was definitely a game changer,” Anderson said. “I know I got the ball up. Once I had seen that he blocked it I knew it was goaltending. It was an easy call. I guess the ref didn’t see it. It is what it is.”

From there, the momentum flipped in what was a back-and-forth game. The Rams went on an 8-0 run that would ultimately be the difference in the game.

“We didn’t handle adversity great there on C.J.’s layup,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I thought that kind of deflated us and they went on a run there. So you can talk about the play, you can talk about whether or not it was goaltending, that’s a different discussion. The bottom line is if it is or if it isn’t we have to go get a stop and we didn’t do that.”

Trailing by five with 46 seconds left, Pipkins drove to the basket and scooped it up and in to make it a one score game.

VCU would take the shot clock down on the next possession, and guard Jonathan Williams got past his man, drew the attention of UMass big man Malik Hines and dished it to a cutting Tillman for the layup to once again give the Rams a five-point lead with 21 seconds left.

Needing a miracle, Pipkins drove down court but was stripped by Williams who lobbed the ball down court to a streaking Tillman who slammed it home to hand the Minutemen their fourth straight loss.

“It’s another game that we gave up over 80 points,” McCall said. “We have to be so much better defensively. There’s a thousand excuses we can make but the bottom line is to win games you have to guard and we’re not doing nearly a good enough job on that end of the floor.”

Joining Pipkins in double-figures was Anderson (15) and Pierre (10). Tillman led VCU with 26 points and 13 rebounds. De’Riante Jenkins added 17 and Williams scored 11.

With UMass so low on bodies, walk-on Randall West played 18 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing six rebounds. McCall was impressed with his effort on the floor.

“That’s one of the most impressive things when I look down at the stat sheet,” McCall said of West. “What he’s doing, he’s out of position, he struggles calling out pick and roll coverages, he makes a thousand mistakes but he plays so hard and he’s impacting the game. Here we are in a two possession game again and he’s impacting the game.”

While the Minutemen are on a losing skid, the last three losses have all been by 10 points or less. UMass feels like it’s on the cusp of a win, and that these close games will soon turn into victories.

“It’s frustrating,” Pipkins said. “I’d rather get blown out than lose a close game to teams we know we can beat. At the end of the day, it’s basketball and sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”

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

 

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