Unique McLean leaves his mark vs. Dayton

Overtime featured a couple of tremendous plays by McLean

By Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor

Unique McLean didn’t lead the Massachusetts men’s basketball team in scoring during the Minutemen’s 86-82 victory over Dayton.

He wasn’t even in the top four. McLean recorded seven points over the course of regulation plus two overtimes, but his final four were among the biggest of the game and his young career.

The Minutemen (11-13, 4-7 Atlantic 10) were 40 seconds away from a second overtime when UMass coach Matt McCall called timeout to draw up a play. After a look at his play card he figured out how he wanted the next possession to play out. Theoretically it worked.

“You try to keep a couple things in your back pocket in certain situations, where you haven’t shown them all year, but you still have them,” McCall said. “I got a play card that has special situations on it that I can go to. In certain situations, like that, I ran that play at Chattanooga one time late in a game vs. Wofford for a guy that we had named Duke Ethridge, he got a dunk on that.

“With Unique’s athleticism I knew that if he was open, C.J. was going to be able to get it up there and Unique would be able to flush it home.”

C.J. Anderson stood at the baseline searching for the perfect receiver for his inbound pass. What he found was Unique McLean beginning his ascent toward the basket. Anderson gingerly lofted the pass above the rim and McLean slammed down.

The alley-oop dunk gave the Minutemen a 77-75 lead but a second overtime would ultimately still be needed.

Again McLean found himself with an opportunity to be great. As double overtime drew closer and closer to expiring, McLean found himself with the ball with less than five seconds on the shot clock.

“We always want Unique to drive,” McCall said. “In fact, there was a play in the second half where he was wide open and you kind of see me behind him go like this [McCall pumps his fist] after he missed a three. Late in the clock after his feet are set, yeah, but when he has an opportunity to get his athleticism into a play and drive and close out, that’s what he needs to do.”

McLean’s leaping ability makes driving to the basket appear to be the most affective option. However, with the shot clock now under five seconds, McLean decided to pull up just shy of the free throw line. Hanging in the air as he released, McLean watched the shot splash through the net.

The Minutemen now lead 86-82 and that’s how it would stay.

Not much could have followed Luwane Pipkins’ one-handed, last-ditch 3-pointer that gave the Minutemen a lead with less than a minute left in double overtime, but McLean’s final shot put a bow on a game that the Minutemen needed to win.

“I just got the ball on the wing and drove it,” McLean said of his shot. “That was the shot that was open for me, I just took it. There really wasn’t much thinking to it, it was just motion.”

While only scoring seven points, McLean played 39 minutes and finished with 11 rebounds.

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