Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hangs tight, falls late at Saint Louis

Minutemen drop to 0-2 in A-10 play

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UMass hangs tight, falls late at Saint Louis

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

By Amin Touri, Collegian Staff

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The first outing was rough, but the second was promising.

Four days removed from a home loss to La Salle to open Atlantic 10 play, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team went on the road and put up a far better fight against a good Saint Louis team, but chances to win the game passed the Minutemen by as they fell 65-62 on Wednesday night.

Luwane Pipkins had 18 points to lead the Minutemen in scoring and had two great opportunities in the final seconds, but a step-back jumper to take the lead rimmed out with 11 seconds to play, and a potential game-tying pull-up triple missed long at the buzzer.

After falling behind 32-25 at the half, UMass chipped away at the Billiken lead throughout the second half and closed the gap to a single point on multiple occasions. A 25-point first half gave way to a 37-point second, as the Minutemen got things rolling out of the break.

“I thought they did a great job taking us out of our pick-and-roll motion and what we were trying to do and putting two guys on Pip,” said UMass coach Matt McCall. “So we ended up going to some screening actions there, and it was effective. It got us back in the game, and we battled, we battled right down to the end.”

Rashaan Holloway had one of his better nights in the post, with 12 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field along with six rebounds on Wednesday. It was an all-around strong offensive evening inside for UMass, which finished with 34 points in the paint.

“I thought our big guys did a great job of sealing and getting us position where we could get down the lane,” McCall said. “We were able to get down the lane a bunch, we had 34 points in the paint, and that tells me we were trying to play the game the right way.”

The interior was a problem on the other end, as Holloway’s opposite number, SLU’s Hasahn French, was unstoppable throughout. French had 25 points on 9-of-14 from the floor, and repeatedly used his quickness to slip past Holloway and finish inside.

“Hasahn French, that’s the second game in a row that he’s dominated us,” McCall said. “We couldn’t guard him off the bounce, he just kept wheeling and dealing around us and we just had no answer for him.”

It was a long evening with ticky-tack whistles blowing left and right, and foul trouble forced McCall to go to a zone in the second half.

The zone was fairly effective, holding the Billikens without a field goal over the final seven minutes — Wednesday marked one of UMass’ better defensive performances this season — and the combination of Holloway and Djery Baptiste minimized a rebounding advantage for SLU that had put UMass in a hole early.

“I thought the zone was good for us, any time you’re in foul trouble you’ve got to be able to play some kind of secondary defense, and Rashaan was in foul trouble, Samba [Diallo] was in foul trouble,” McCall said. “We played Djery and Rashaan a lot together in the second half which I thought really, really helped keep them from getting offensive rebounds, I thought that was a big key for us.”

The Minutemen erased the deficit in the second half but could never retake the lead. A Pipkins turnover with just under a minute left and a one-point deficit helped SLU regain a bit of momentum, and when the late step-back didn’t fall and the final-second 3-pointer didn’t either, UMass came up just short.

“Pip had a clean look there,” McCall said, “and the ball sometimes just doesn’t go in the basket.”

It was a much better effort from the Minutemen than the one on display at the Mullins Center on Saturday, but mistakes throughout the night kept UMass from its first conference win.

“I think we had a little too many turnovers,” said McCall. “18 turnovers in the game, back-to-back games with 18 turnovers, we’ve got to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball, but you’ve got to give them credit, how they defended, how they got after us just with pick-and-rolls.”

The Minutemen will try and crack the conference win column as they continue their road trip with a stop in Dayton on Sunday.

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

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