UMass falls to No. 6 Nevada in Las Vegas Holiday Invitational Championship

Minutemen allow 110 points in loss

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UMass falls to No. 6 Nevada in Las Vegas Holiday Invitational Championship

(Daily Collegian / Katherine Mayo)

(Daily Collegian / Katherine Mayo)

(Daily Collegian / Katherine Mayo)

(Daily Collegian / Katherine Mayo)

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts men’s basketball team faced arguably its toughest test of the season Friday against No. 6 Nevada, and while the Minutemen were able to keep it close for the majority of the game, the Wolf Pack were able to pull away late for a 110-87 victory.

Luwane Pipkins led UMass (4-3) with 30 points, while Keon Clergeot (12), Jonathan Laurent (11), Curtis Cobb (11) and Carl Pierre (10) joined him in double figures.

Caleb Martin was the leading scorer for Nevada (6-0) with 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field. Tre’Shawn Thurman had 22 points and Jordan Caroline had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wolf Pack offense had the hot hand throughout the game, shooting a scorching 61.5 percent from the field and going 11-22 from behind the three-point line.

“The talent level they have out there on the floor is impressive,” UMass coach Matt McCall said of Nevada. “Their coaching staff has done a terrific job. We just couldn’t get that stop in the second half to keep us right there. The shots Caleb Martin was making at the top of the key were outstanding. We’ll have to watch the film and see if there’s anything we could have done differently there.”

While the Minutemen struggled to stop an explosive Wolf Pack offense, they were able to put the ball in the basket themselves at a rapid rate. UMass trailed by just seven at the halftime break thanks to 14 points from Pipkins and three three-pointers from Clergeot.

The Minutemen kept it close in the second half, but Nevada was able to hold onto a consistent double-digit lead before ending the game on a 12-3 run to put the game well in hand.

With this game being the championship round of the Las Vegas Holiday Invitational, McCall was more upset that his team did not bring the level of effort they brought against the Wolf Pack in the earlier rounds of the tournament.

“I was proud of our effort,” McCall said. “The disappointing thing to me as a coach was that we should have been undefeated going into that game. If we had played that hard in all our games this year that would have been one we would have been right there.”

One area of the game UMass was dominated was in the paint. The Minutemen were beat up inside, scoring just 16 points inside while the Wolf Pack were able to get 54 points inside the paint.

While both teams were able to grab nearly the same amount of offensive rebounds, Nevada was able to capitalize on those second opportunities, scoring 28 second chance points to UMass’ 12.

The Minutemen finished the tournament 2-2, but the way they competed against a top 10 team in the country like Nevada gives McCall confidence in what his team can do the remainder of the season.

“I felt like we learned a lot about our team this week,” McCall said. “We grew during practice, we got better out here and we have to continue to do that. I think our league this year is wide open and anybody can win it. We’ve got to get better every day.

“We have a long way to go but I think we can get there as a group, as a team, as a program. I was proud of the step that we took forward today and this weekend and we just have to continue to get better.”

UMass is back in action Wednesday, taking on Quinnipiac at the Mullins Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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