Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Clergeot’s late heroics lead UMass to upset over Davidson

Minutemen shock Wildcats

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Clergeot’s late heroics lead UMass to upset over Davidson

Photo by Joe Frank

Photo by Joe Frank

Photo by Joe Frank

Photo by Joe Frank

By Amin Touri, Sports Editor

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It had to happen this way, right?

Four days removed from a blowout home loss to Atlantic 10 bottom-dwellers Fordham, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team responded with a huge upset win over A-10 leaders Davidson thanks to a huge day from Carl Pierre and some late-game heroics from Keon Clergeot.

With Luwane Pipkins out with a hamstring injury, the final shot fell to Clergeot, who pulled up from 25 feet fading to his right and hit a huge 3-pointer to put UMass up 54-51 with five seconds to go, before diving on a loose ball at the buzzer to seal a massive win for the Minutemen.

“That was a gutty performance,” said UMass coach Matt McCall. “Hasn’t been the easiest of weeks, especially for our guys, practicing at odd hours over in the [Curry Hicks] Cage and away from the comfort of their own building, it hasn’t been the easiest of weeks. And to come in here against the best team in the league and show that kind of resilience, I was really, really proud. Really, really proud.”

UMass (9-15, 2-9 A-10) came out and smothered the Wildcats (17-6, 8-2 A-10) defensively, holding the conference’s third-best scoring offense to just 51 points and the conference’s second-leading scorer, Kellan Grady, to just four points on Saturday.

Samba Diallo drew the assignment on Grady for much of the afternoon and the freshman used his exceptional length to disrupt Davidson’s star sophomore’s rhythm and hold him to just 1-of-10 shooting.

“I thought our switching caused [Grady] some problems, especially Samba, I thought Samba was terrific,” McCall said. “You can see sometimes I’m screaming at him on where to go on offense, but defensively he changes the game.

“I thought those guys did a great job — Kellan Grady’s really, really good. He’s terrific. He’s an NBA player. But what makes him so good too is when he gets into a rhythm, when he’s up there and he’s got a live dribble and he’s not uncomfortable. We wanted to smother every ballhandler, we call it smother the passer, we wanted to make those guys have to put the ball on the ground and make them uncomfortable the whole game.”

Without their leading scorer and offense-initiator in Pipkins, UMass was a bit sluggish offensively throughout, but held a 27-25 lead going into the half thanks largely to its defense.

The Minutemen also owed plenty to Pierre, who turned in another excellent performance at home, dropping a season-high 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including a scorching 5-of-7 from three.

It was back-and-forth throughout, but Davidson managed to hold a steady — if small — lead through most of the second half. Unique McLean, in his first start of the season, hit a big jumper to cut Davidson’s lead to a point with just under three minutes to go.

With the Minutemen down one with 1:36 to play, and big man Rashaan Holloway pumping up the crowd from the bench, Diallo heard the noise and raised with a corner 3-ball to put UMass up 51-49, and the Mullins crowd was as loud as it’s been all season.

Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who finished with 17 for the Wildcats, was fouled on the other end and made both free throws to tie it, one of several frustrating calls for the Minutemen in the second half. Even still, UMass stayed in it, and an unusual starting lineup kept coming up big down the stretch.

“Especially even in the second half, being down, to continue to fight, and some things aren’t going our way, a couple calls didn’t go our way,” McCall said. “For our guys to continue to battle and continue to fight the way they did… at the end of the game you’ve got a freshman in Diallo, you’ve got a guy in Unique McLean that hasn’t played all year, Carl was terrific, and Keon, playing out of position for him — I thought that group was really, really connected.”

Gudmundsson brought the ball up in a tie game with under a minute to play, and from the sidelines, McCall himself was waving his arms wildly and bringing the crowd to its feet, and the building responded — with the crowd getting louder, Gudmundsson pushed a layup long, and UMass had a chance in a tie game.

“I think it’s the first time in my career I’ve ever tried to get the crowd going,” McCall said. “I’ve never done that before.”

With the clock winding down, the play was designed for Pierre, but when Clergeot saw an inch of space, he took it.

“I just seen Grady, he didn’t see the screen coming,” Clergeot said. “So the hedge wasn’t there, so I just shot it.”

Clergeot buried the biggest shot of his UMass career, and in peak Clergeot fashion, dove on a loose ball in the dying seconds to seal a huge upset win for the Minutemen.

UMass pulled off the biggest shock win in the A-10 so far this season, at the end of what’s been a very difficult stretch for Matt McCall in his team. The Minutemen have practiced outside of their usual facility, not having “earned” the right to practice in the Champions Center.

With a huge win under their belts, where will they practice this week?

McCall’s answer was pretty simple: “Cage.”

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

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