Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball limps into game against Fordham

Minutemen have lost nine of 10

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UMass men’s basketball limps into game against Fordham

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

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Coming off a two-game losing streak and possibly without its best player, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team is limping into Wednesday night’s game against Atlantic 10 bottom-feeder Fordham.

Luwane Pipkins came out of the game against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday early in the second half and remains day-to-day with a hamstring injury for UMass (8-14, 1-8 A-10). The Minutemen remain without backup point guard Tre Wood, who has been dealing with a concussion for several weeks.

“I wish we had a guy that could run our team and get guys shots and get in the lane and do that, but that’s not the case right now,” coach Matt McCall said. “We’ve still put ourselves in position to win a lot of games, but we just haven’t been able to get over the hump.”

Pipkins had been struggling with his shot since the start of conference play, shooting just 26 percent from the field in A-10 games, but his ability to drive the ball and kick out has opened up a lot of shots for the rest of the team. Without him, the Minutemen will likely rely on redshirt sophomore Keon Clergeot, who took over on the ball for the end of the game against St. Joe’s.

“Keon did a good job in the second half, although it’s not quote-unquote his ‘natural position,’” McCall said. “I thought he did a good job of running our team and trying to get us into offense and do some good things for us. He brought some good energy, he’s trying really hard out there, and we need to find a way to put him into positions where he’ll be successful. But who’s that secondary ball-handler? That’s going to be one of the challenges for us tomorrow night.”

UMass was already foundering in the last month, losing nine of the last 10 en route to a 1-8 record in the conference. Since a win against Rhode Island on Jan. 27, the Minutemen have lost two straight; a loss to La Salle in a game where UMass missed 55 field goals, and a loss to St. Joe’s where the Minutemen shot 46 percent but turned the ball over 18 times.

“I feel like it wasn’t St. Joe’s, it was more on us,” sophomore Carl Pierre said of the turnovers. “We just need to slow down, read the floor and make the best possible decision at all times.”

Fordham (9-12, 0-8 A-10), currently the only team below UMass in the A-10, would seem to be an ideal bounce back opponent, but the Minutemen have already lost to St. Bonaventure, La Salle (twice) and St. Joe’s, three teams they were expected to beat.

The Rams have three players averaging double-digit points – Nick Honor, Antwon Portley and Jalen Cobb – but their calling card is defense.

“They want you shooting 17-foot jump shots, and it’s easy to take the bait, because they’re wide open,” McCall said. “But there’s a reason that you’re wide open. You can’t take the bait. But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for that style and how they play, and it’s very tricky to play against.”

The one bright spot for the UMass offense in the last two games has been fifth-year senior Rashaan Holloway, who recorded a double-double both nights. His 23 points against St. Joe’s marked a season- and career-high.

“The end is near,” McCall said of Holloway. “Reality starts to set in, the real world is right around the corner. Bills, job, all of that is coming, and I’m proud of him that he’s put himself in position to get a degree. But sometimes you get a gut check there when you see that there’s only 19 or 18 practices left and 30-odd days. Time is ticking.”

For Holloway, the impending end of his college career was less of a motivation than UMass’ struggles as a team.

“I’m just worried about trying to win as many games as possible, trying to do the best I can and the best we can to make something successful out of our season,” Holloway said. “The individual stuff, it really don’t matter to me until we win. I could score 100 and we lose, it really would mean nothing to me. I just want to win.”

Tip-off against Fordham is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Mullins Center.

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

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