Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball’s ride ends in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament

C.J. Anderson’s UMass career comes to a close

By Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Showing resiliency and heart, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team played its second-round Atlantic 10 Tournament game vs. George Mason much like how it played every game of the 2017-18 season.

The heart the Minutemen showed, though, wasn’t enough to propel them over the Patriots, leaving them to a season-ending 80-75 defeat.

At many points in the season, it seemed that just when the Minutemen’s tank ran empty, they found a little bit of life to keep going.

With roughly 5:46 left in the game, that life ran out. Luwane Pipkins hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to give UMass a 67-64 lead. The Minutemen would not score another field goal until Malik Hines tipped one in with six seconds left.

Hines’ shot got UMass within one, but the Minutemen failed to score any more than that.

In between Pipkins’ triple and Hines’ tip-in the Minutemen did score six points, all of which came from the line.

In that same time, GMU scored 12 points–just enough to edge the Minutemen.

The loss marked the end of senior C.J. Anderson’s career with UMass. After a 21-point performance vs. La Salle Wednesday evening, the guard put up 11 points and five rebounds.

The ever-vibrant Anderson sat on the bench sobbing as his teammates lined up to shake hands with the George Mason players.

“I told our team after the game that the first piece to winning in March is caring, and the guys in that locker room care,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “They’re hurting that this chapter has come to an end but the encouraging piece as a coach is that you can see care. I see a group that has been through an enormous amount from a year ago to now, who has grown up and the adversity will make these guys stronger.”

As the players departed the court and made their way to the locker room. Freshmen Carl Pierre and Khalea Turner-Morris put an arm around Anderson, their lone senior teammate.

After the game, McCall thanked Anderson.

“There was obviously an enormous amount going on back in March and C.J. was always forefront with me,” McCall said. “I thanked him. I think as a coach, you always get concerned because they’re seniors and the ‘what’s next for them’ point. I don’t worry at all about him, he’s going to be successful because of the way he carries himself and the way he’s carried himself throughout all this stuff.”

Part III of the UMass/George Mason 2018 saga shaped up similarly to the previous two. After jumping out to a lead of as much as 14 points in the first half, GMU crawled back, making the second half a back-and-forth contest destined for overtime.

Pipkins, leading the UMass scoring, had a chance to tie the game with a second remaining when he was called for a push off foul, turning the ball over to George Mason.

Pipkins had little to say about the potentially game altering call.

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

The Minutemen excelled shooting the ball finishing with 53.2 shooting percentage and a 56.3 3-point shooting percentage. George Mason shot less than 40 percent in both categories.

“When you look down at the stats sheet, you saw we shot 53 percent and 56 percent from the three-point line,” McCall said. “You would think that we were in good shape. But the difference in the game, was the offensive rebounding.”

On the offensive glass, the Patriots out rebounded UMass 20 to six and finished with 26 second-chance points. UMass finished with only six such points.

After a season where Pipkins became the UMass single-season 3-point leader with 106 threes, he’s excited for where the team is heading.

“Even though we had our struggles this year, players going down, we still was a sneak team to beat,” Pipkins said. “But next year we’ve got to regroup, stay healthy and just come back.”

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

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