Carl Pierre’s 23 points lead UMass upset over Davidson

Sophomore goes 5-for-7 from three

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Carl Pierre’s 23 points lead UMass upset over Davidson

Photo by Joe Frank

Photo by Joe Frank

Photo by Joe Frank

Photo by Joe Frank

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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With Luwane Pipkins, the leading scorer for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, missing his second straight game for the Minutemen with injury, the remainder of the UMass roster knew it had to step up to fill his void on the offensive end.

Wednesday against Fordham, the Minutemen looked stagnant and lackadaisical on offense, failing to get any momentum leading to a blowout loss.

Saturday against Davidson, however, saw sophomore Carl Pierre step into the go-to scorer role, finishing the game with season-high 23 points to lead UMass to a 54-51 upset over the Atlantic 10’s top team.

“Just playing confident,” Pierre said. “Trying to attack on every possession. That’s really about it. Big thanks to my teammates for giving me confidence and looking for me, it showed today.”

An early three got Pierre on the board, but after two made free throws, the sophomore remained quiet until later in the half, where he hit two more three pointers to keep the game tight at the halftime break.

In the second half, with the game knotted at 30, Pierre beat his man off the dribble, got into the lane and slammed it home with two hands, bringing the crowd to its feet. On the next possession, Pierre got open for a three, and the ball went through the bottom of the net to extend the Minutemen lead.

It was one of those games where Pierre knew he had it going, and made sure to continue to look at the rim every time he touched the ball.

“I still try to pick and choose what’s a good shot and try to get it in the flow of the offense and not try to force things,” Pierre said. “But it feels like everything you put up has a chance.”

With the shot clock dwindling down at the 13:25 mark of the second half, Pierre had maybe his most impressive shot of the afternoon. The Wildcats had him smothered, but a quick step back shot on the baseline swished through the rim to give the Minutemen a five-point lead.

Pierre would knock down two more threes in the game, both of which tied the score. On the final play of the game, with the score knotted at 51, UMass coach Matt McCall tried to get Pierre open on the left side, but Davidson played it well and didn’t let the ball into his hands.

It didn’t matter, though, as Keon Clergeot drained the three to put the Minutemen ahead, ultimately sealing the victory.

Pierre finished the game 8-for-12 from the floor, going 5-for-7 from behind the arc. After going through a shooting slump, Pierre appears to have found his rhythm, crediting it to the work he puts in in practice.

“Maybe a little bit but I feel like even before the Fordham game, sticking to my routine, talking to my coaches, watching film, seeing the mistakes that I made, bad shots I might have taken or shots I might have rushed,” Pierre said. “I think that helped me out in the end.”

It’s something about playing at the Mullins Center that gives Pierre the hot hand offensively. In his last three home games, Pierre has averaged 21.3 points per game, going 16-for-24 from three-point range in the stretch.

While Pierre’s play has been strong, it’s his leadership that has made McCall the most impressed.

“He’s been a tremendous leader too,” McCall said. “Because he does all the right things. Not only is he a really, really good player, but he is never late for a class. He never misses a class. He is always early, always in the gym, always working, always shooting. He’s what UMass basketball and the culture is about.

“He’s earned the right to speak up when guys aren’t doing the same things or living the culture each and every day. I’ve seen him really bust out of his shell recently and being a lot more vocal than he has been in the past and I think that’s almost kind of liberating for him. I was never worried that he was going to break out of the slump.”

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