Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass men’s basketball pulls off comeback victory over Saint Joseph’s

Minutemen win 80-79
(Joe Frank/Daily Collegian)

After 20 minutes of basketball, it looked like more of the same for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

The Minutemen (10-17, 3-11 Atlantic 10) were making shots on the offensive end, but defensively could not get a stop, with Saint Joseph’s shooting 66.7 percent from the field at the midway point and holding a 17-point lead.

The final 20 minutes of action saw a different UMass team, one that competed on both ends of the floor to slowly chip into the Hawks (11-16, 4-10 A-10) lead.

The Minutemen eventually got the Saint Joseph’s lead down to four with a minute to go, when Jonathan Laurent pulled down a defensive rebound and took it coast-to-coast and finished the layup to then make it a two-point game.

Lamarr Kimble missed a three on the following Hawk possession, but corralled his own rebound and got fouled, where he would make both free throws.

With 17 seconds left, and the game looking close to over, Carl Pierre got an open look at the top of the key and sunk it, bringing life back into the Mullins Center and narrowing the Saint Joseph’s lead to one.

Instead of fouling right away on the inbound, UMass coach Matt McCall opted to go for a turnover, and his wish was received, as Taylor Funk sailed a ball into the stands, giving the Minutemen the ball with 12 seconds on the clock.

With one chance to make a basket, and Luwane Pipkins missing the game after reinjuring his hamstring at practice yesterday, everyone in the Mullins Center knew the ball was going to Pierre, who had the hot hand the entire second half.

Keon Clergeot dribbled the ball at the top of the key before going to his right, using a dribble hand-off to get Pierre the ball going to his left.

The sophomore took two dribbles and pulled up, hitting nothing but the bottom of the net for his 21st point in the game, 19 of which came in the second half, to put UMass up 80-79 with 3 seconds left.

Kimble would miss a three at the buzzer, clinching the Minutemen’s comeback victory.

“After what was probably the most uninspiring half of basketball we played all year, to follow it up with the most inspired half of basketball we’ve probably played, I was really, really proud of my team,” McCall said. “That was a great win for us. I was really proud of our guys and their fight and their ability to not quit. They just kept playing and playing and playing and were able to find a way to win the game.”

After an atrocious first half on the defensive end, UMass clamped down in the second half, holding the Hawks to a mere 6-for-21 from the floor and only allowing 25 points.

McCall felt he had to abandon going to his big men, as Saint Joseph’s was spreading the floor with five perimeter players, making for tough matchups for the Minutemen centers.

The second year coach, who was coaching with the flu and a 102-degree fever, went with a 1-3-1 zone defense that he felt got the Hawks out of their rhythm offensively, not allowing them to spread the court and find open lanes and shooters.

While the scheme worked, UMass knows that its effort on the defensive end in the second half was the turning point in the game.

“We just have to want to do it,” Laurent said. “There’s no magic formula for winning, you just got to go out there and want to win. You have to want to play defense, you have to want to stop the man in front of you, you have to want to grab the rebound.”

Laurent finished with a game high 24 points, going 9-for-13 from the field and knocking down four threes. The redshirt junior knew he had the hot hand, and was one of the main reasons the Minutemen were able to get back in the game.

“Jonathan’s performance was through the roof,” McCall said. “He’s had an up-and-down year at times and tonight his focus level, his effort—not just his scoring—everything was outstanding. I was proud of him.”

UMass will look to keep its two game winning streak at the Mullins Center going Tuesday, taking on Dayton.

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

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