UMass men’s basketball stumbles late, loses to Holy Cross

Big nights from Laurent, Pipkins go to waste

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UMass men’s basketball stumbles late, loses to Holy Cross

(Thom Kendall Photography)

(Thom Kendall Photography)

(Thom Kendall Photography)

(Thom Kendall Photography)

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

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A defensive meltdown down the stretch cost the Massachusetts men’s basketball team a winnable game Wednesday night, as the Minutemen fell 82-78 to Holy Cross.

After leading by 10 points late in the first half, UMass (5-4) lost its edge, succumbing to fouls and poor transition defense as Holy Cross (6-3) took control. The Crusaders took their first lead since the opening seconds with 12:18 left in the second half, and UMass never led again.

“I got to do a much better job of holding our guys accountable to being disciplined on the defensive end of the floor, to getting our guys understanding everything that goes into and impacting winning,” coach Matt McCall said. “We’re a young, inexperienced basketball team that needs to get a lot better.”

Both Rashaan Holloway and Sy Chatman struggled down low on defense, with no answers for the speed of Holy Cross. Crusaders center Jeyhve Floyd dominated late, with 10 of his 12 points coming in the second half.

“It’s not hockey, can’t run a line change when Rashaan’s in there,” McCall said. “Especially when they’re small and we’re taking advantage of them being small on offense, and they’re setting pick-and-rolls and popping guys back and it’s almost like target practice.”

A strong start from Jonathan Laurent helped the Minutemen open up a lead late in the first half, as Laurent scored 13 points in the first half to go with five rebounds. Coming out of halftime, Laurent hit a three to open the scoring, then was charged with two fouls and came out. In the final 19 minutes of the game, Laurent took just one shot and was held scoreless.

Part of UMass’ success early came from the free-throw line, where the Minutemen went 12-14 in the first half. Holy Cross never went to the line in the first half.

“It’s the second game in a row where a team has gotten back into the game strictly because of the free throw line,” McCall said. “They shoot 16 free throws in the second half. Lack of discipline, reaching, putting our hands on guys. We have to get it a whole lot better there.”

Although the Minutemen couldn’t complete the improbable comeback after falling behind by eight with less than a minute to play, UMass managed to find its way back into the game thanks to some timely threes from Luwane Pipkins, who once again scored over 20 points. Six of his 22 points came in the final minute of the game, as Holy Cross limited him to just eight points in the first half.

“I think it had to do with us trusting one another,” Holy Cross sophomore Jacob Grandison said of defending Pipkins. “We play our 1-2-2, it’s not man, so it’s not one guy’s responsibility to stop him, it’s all of our responsibilities. Help each other out. If he gets by, fake at him, make him pick it up, make him give it to someone else, but I don’t think it was too much of us keying on him, I think it was more of us keying on ourselves and doing what we do on defense.”

While the offense mostly played well, sophomore guard Carl Pierre struggled again, going 0-5 from three-point range. Holloway and Laurent each finished with 16 points, while Curtis Cobb scored 11 points off the bench.

UMass will look to bounce back on the road against Providence Friday night.

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