Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Pipkins drops 31 but can’t save UMass in loss to George Mason

Sophomore reaches 1,000-point milestone

By Amin Touri, Assistant Sports Editor

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—In the end, another heroic Pipkins performance wasn’t enough.

With the season hanging in the balance, sophomore Luwane Pipkins put up 31 points in Thursday’s 80-75 loss to George Mason, unable to keep the Massachusetts men’s basketball team from a second-round exit from the Atlantic 10 tournament.

After a frustrating evening against La Salle on Wednesday, Pipkins came back with a vengeance against the Patriots, letting it fly early and often. Pipkins was 5-8 from 3-point land on Thursday, flashing his range with a pair of deep threes early in the first half.

Without the foul trouble he faced in the first round, Pipkins was also able to establish himself going to the basket, and he was rewarded, finishing 8-of-8 from the free throw line.

“I’m going to be aggressive regardless,” Pipkins said, “foul trouble or no foul trouble. It definitely helped me be a lot more aggressive because I wasn’t in foul trouble.”

He contributed elsewhere, grabbing five rebounds and throwing five dimes, including a lob to Unique McLean for an alley-oop slam.

With the Minutemen down three with four seconds to play, the ball was in Pipkins’ hands where they wanted it, but an offensive foul call at half-court in the final seconds dashed any hopes of one final Pipkins miracle.

UMass coach Matt McCall was irate after the foul call, but Pipkins himself was unfazed in the aftermath.

“It is what it is,” said Pipkins. “It wasn’t frustrating at all—the ref made the call, game was over.”

Pipkins final afternoon of brilliance couldn’t overcome a Mason team that grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and finished with 26 second-chance points. Pipkins shot an extremely efficient 60 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from three, but the Patriots just had too many opportunities to get buckets.

“(Pipkins) had a big game, he’s a great player,” said freshman Carl Pierre. “Shooters shoot just like he says, he really stepped up and made plays when we needed him.”

It’s the last act of an unforgettable breakout year for Pipkins, who finished as the conference’s second-leading scorer at 20.9 points per game, shooting 42 percent from deep.

“We’ve talked about this a lot since I’ve been here, the change and the growth that he’s experienced this last year is astronomical,” McCall said. “It’s never been about his competitiveness, it’s never been about his love for the game, but you’ve seen him really, really grow up with how he works, how he approaches practice, how he approaches the classroom, how he approaches his teammates. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Pipkins spun home a layup in the second half that pushed him over the 1,000-point threshold for his career, just the third Minuteman to cross the millennium mark in two collegiate seasons and the second to do it by the end of his sophomore campaign.

“For him to be doing what he’s doing every night, opponents honing in on the scouting report and trying to take him out and be physical with him—in two years he’s scored over 1000 points,” said McCall. “There’s two players in school history that have done that, one of them is named Julius Erving. One of only four players in the history of the program to average 20 points in a season, another guy in that group is Marcus Camby, he’s putting himself in that category.”

He added another milestone in the second half, knocking down his 105th triple of the season to break the program’s record for made 3-pointers in a single-season. The stats are eye-popping and the milestones are aplenty, but Pipkins was far more concerned with the end result, one that didn’t fall UMass’ way on Thursday.

“The numbers, the points… He wants to win, more than anything,” McCall said. “I think if we came into this game and scored zero points and we won, he’d be one of the guys in the locker room celebrating more than anyone, and that’s growth, that’s care.

“I’m really excited about this program—and obviously him—going forward.”

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.

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