Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball overcomes errors to defeat Quinnipiac

Defense carries the day for the Minutemen

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UMass men’s basketball overcomes errors to defeat Quinnipiac

Photo by Katherine Mayo

Photo by Katherine Mayo

Photo by Katherine Mayo

Photo by Katherine Mayo

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

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Despite 19 turnovers and 21 fouls, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team rode a strong defensive performance to a 69-62 win over Quinnipiac Wednesday night.

In a game that was sloppy from the start, UMass (5-3) turned in one of its finest defensive showings of the season, limiting Quinnipiac (2-3) to just 21 points in the first half and forcing 15 turnovers.

“[It gives us] a lot of confidence,” guard Curtis Cobb said. “Especially nights that the ball isn’t going through the hoop, and to be able to still win those types of games, it means a lot to us, just to see that we can be consistently a good defensive team. It gives us a lot of confidence.”

Quinnipiac shot just 18-60 from the field and 10-37 from three, and the Bobcats’ top player, Cameron Young, went 0-8 from the field.

“A lot of times in those situations with young basketball teams, when the ball’s not going in the net, it’s hard to get stops, and we saw that early on this year with Howard,” coach Matt McCall said. “[Tonight,] the ball wasn’t going in the net for us, and we still found a way to get stops, so for that I was proud.”

Maxwell Zaleski

After the two teams combined for just 20 points in the first 10 minutes, UMass gained the edge late in the first half and never surrendered it. Luwane Pipkins, who finished with 20 points, hit a buzzer-beater three at the end of the first half to give the Minutemen a double-digit lead, which they maintained until the final minutes.

“He bailed us out a couple times in the first half,” McCall said. “The three he hit at the end of the first half, he kind of bailed us out. He’s done that a lot since I’ve been here. But he’s still trying to find guys, he’s getting in the lane, he’s getting assists. A couple turnovers that I’m sure he’d want to get back.”

The Minutemen led by as much as 21 midway through the second half, but turnovers and fouls allowed Quinnipiac to climb back into the game. The Bobcats outscored the Minutemen 19-9 in the final eight minutes.

“That’s the first time we’ve had a 10 or 15-point lead when the game’s in the balance,” McCall said. “We’ve been up really, really big, or we’ve been down trying to find our way back. So there’s a lot we can take from this, and a lot we can learn from it.”

After slow starts from Carl Pierre and Curtis Cobb, the two guards hit their stride shortly after halftime in the finest stretch for the Minutemen. Pierre, who took an elbow at the end of the first half and briefly left the court, scored eight points when he returned.

UMass entered the game after strong showings against Southern Illinois and No. 6 Nevada in Las Vegas last week.

“I saw Brad Stevens one time when he was at Butler talked about traveling across the country for some of these tournaments, and the game coming back is always a concern,” McCall said. “You have long days of travel, you play two games in two days, and you’ve got to turn around and play. You’ve got to make sure you get your guys with an edge and a focus because a lot of times the ball’s not going to go in the basket, and you’re going to have to rely heavily on your defense. I thought that was completely the case in the game.”

Coming off the win, the Minutemen have six days before returning to action against Holy Cross next Tuesday.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.

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