Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Carl Pierre’s heat check leads UMass basketball’s comeback over Providence

Pierre’s 15 lift Minutemen

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Carl Pierre’s heat check leads UMass basketball’s comeback over Providence

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

By Amin Touri, Sports Editor

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Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

With the Massachusetts men’s basketball team down 14 and a big zero next to his number on the scoreboard high above the court at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Carl Pierre decided it was time to break out of his slump.

Having not even attempted a 3-pointer all night, Pierre took matters into his own hands, drilling back-to-back-to-back triples in the span of 65 seconds to bring the Minutemen — down as much as 20 at one point — roaring back into the game.

With 10:51 left in the second half, Luwane Pipkins came down in transition and found Pierre wide open on the left side, and the sophomore drilled the three to open his account for the evening — from that moment on, he looked like a character out of NBA Jam in the midst of a heat check.

“As a shooter, you’ve got to keep shooting no matter if it’s going down, and that’s my job, that’s what I have to do,” Pierre said. “When it went in, it felt good, but I wouldn’t say it was a weight lifted. I think it was a good time for that shot to go down, but it was just me doing my job.”

Nate Watson hit a free throw on the end to push the lead back up to 12, but seconds later, Curtis Cobb fired a cross-court pass to Pierre, who caught it five feet behind the arc and let fly anyways to bring the Minutemen back within single-digits.

UMass got another stop, and Pipkins came down in transition again and found Pierre on the right wing. He was several feet behind the line, and Isaiah Jackson was contesting.

It didn’t matter. Pierre drilled another, and Providence coach Ed Cooley had to call timeout to stop a 9-1 UMass run — or, more accurately, a 9-1 Carl Pierre run.

Pierre was fired up coming back down the court, Cobb let out a yell, and Pipkins came flying in for a shoulder bump. Just like that, it was a six-point game.

“It was super important,” Pierre said of those 65 seconds. “I think the whole second half, we had a higher level of energy and intensity than we did in the first half. But that stretch really took us over the top. In our minds, once we hit that stretch, there was not a chance we were going to lose that game.”

Two minutes later, Pierre caught it at the top of the key, and let it go fading hard to his right — it was a heat-check three if there ever was one, and it cut Providence’s lead to two.

“Yeah, to be honest, it was [a heat check],” Pierre said. “Thankfully it went down.”

“I told him to shoot it,” McCall said with a laugh in the post-game press conference.

Pierre wasn’t quite finished. The Friars managed to extend their lead back to 76-70 with four minutes to play, but after Pierre hit Cobb in the lane for a floater to bring it back to four, the Pipkins-Pierre connection bore fruit once more.

Like déjà vu, the Minutemen got a stop, and Pipkins slashed into the lane before kicking out to — who else — a wide-open Pierre, who calmly buried his fifth 3-pointer of the half to cut a once-insurmountable Friar lead to a single point.

“I thought the guards did a good job in the second half of slicing the floor and finding Carl,” McCall said, “because he’s as good a shooter as there is in the country, and people kept asking me after the last game, Carl, Carl, Carl — and I told everyone that Carl’s going to be fine. Because of his character, and because of how hard he works.”

Pierre made one final contribution in the dying seconds, smothering Providence guard Alpha Diallo on the last shot, as Diallo’s floater missed long and the Minutemen completed an incredible comeback on the road, a 79-78 thriller.

The adjustment was fairly clear — the Friars were running Pierre off the 3-point line in halfcourt sets, but once Pipkins pushed the ball in transition, forced his way into the lane and drew defenders, Pierre got open. And once Pierre got open, the combustion was inevitable.

“We’ve got to continue offensively to slice the floor and play fast and play in transition,” McCall said. “You know, I’m trying to run actions in the first half for Carl to get him shots, but sometimes teams are sitting on him, and the best way for him to get shots off is in transition.”

Just three days removed from being held to just two points on 0-of-5 from three against Holy Cross, few people needed a breakout game more than Carl Pierre.

And when the Minutemen needed him most, break out he did.

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

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