Carl Pierre, TJ Weeks torch Rider, combine for 44 in UMass win

Duo hit 10 threes Wednesday


Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Amin Touri, Editor in Chief

TJ Weeks and Carl Pierre have each had a hot shooting night or two this season. On Wednesday night, the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s two best sharpshooters torched Rider together, combining for 44 points on 16-of-25 shooting as UMass (5-0) rolled to an 82-72 win at home.

Weeks and Pierre, who played AAU ball together for Metro Boston, were a combined 10-of-15 from three — Weeks was a perfect 6-for-6, while Pierre went 4-for-9 as the two put on a 3-point shooting clinic.

“We’ve got to ride them,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “When [TJ] and Carl are firing them in like that, we’ve got to continue. When you’re coming down on the break in transition — where are they? Are they sprinting to the corners, can I slice the floor and try and get one off that way? We’ve got to be better there.”

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

The first half was one long Weeks heat check; the freshman was a flawless 5-for-5 from three, pouring in 17 in the first half and tearing the Broncs apart.

Entering the game five minutes in, Weeks hit a floater after a minute on the floor to get things rolling. On the following possession, Tre Mitchell found Weeks in transition, and once the first three went down, the barrage never stopped.

Two possessions later, Sean East grabbed a rebound in transition and Weeks found another pocket of space. East found him, and Weeks had eight points in just over two minutes on the floor. Just 90 seconds later, Weeks hit one from the corner, then hit another two possessions later. In less than five minutes on the floor, Weeks had 14 points without a miss. He hit one more late in the half, bringing the Mullins Center to its loudest volume of the season.

“It’s super exciting,” Pierre said of Weeks’ eruption. “At the same time, not super surprised. I’ve played with TJ before, so I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that countless times. Everybody else is excited, but I’ve seen it before.”

With five minutes to play, Pierre started to heat up himself — he hit back-to-back threes of his own with just over five minutes left in the first half to put UMass up by 15.

By halftime, Weeks had 17, Pierre had 13, and they were a combined 8-of-10 from deep.

“We were just trying to find our spots early,” Weeks said. “If we find our spots early, then everybody else will be wide open because the defense will play us more. Everybody else gets involved, and now it’s a team game. We win as a team.”

If Weeks got the ball rolling in the first half, Pierre was the closer.

Weeks did hit another three in the second half — plus a free throw to bring his total to 21 — but the freshman was in foul trouble and had to sit. Pierre took over, adding another 10 points in the final 12 minutes to help UMass put the game away.

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

With Rider trying to run him off the 3-point line, Pierre started to work inside. He laid one in with 11 minutes to play, and finished another layup plus a foul two possessions later, flexing on his way back to the free throw line.

Once the Broncs started to respect his ability to drive, Pierre found a bit of space at the top of the key and hit another three — his fourth of the game — to conclude a two-minute outburst that re-established UMass’ control of the game. The Minutemen led by six when Pierre started to take over; he scored eight straight points for UMass, and the lead ballooned to 13.

“I had a comfort level just running actions at Carl every single time down the floor, especially with TJ on the bench with foul trouble, and Tre, and [Pierre] just took over the game,” McCall said. “I got pretty fired up in a timeout there where I was tapping him on the chest, and [I’m] just excited for him.

“And [I] said ‘that’s why you’re our captain.'”

Pierre wasn’t quite done. With just under seven minutes to play, Pierre blew past his man and threw down a huge dunk to put UMass up 17. The junior finished with a season-high 23, with equal parts shooting and slashing in his best performance of the year.

“I try to stay aggressive throughout the entire game and not try to settle, and I think in that stretch it really worked out for me,” Pierre said. “I was able to get myself going [driving] to the basket, my teammates were looking for me — really big shout out to them — they were looking for me, kept feeding me, kept getting the ball to me in my spots and I was just able to hit the shots.”

With Pierre returning as one of the conference’s best 3-point shooters, and Weeks continuing to hit at a ridiculous clip — he’s shooting an absurd 63 percent from three, though it’s still very early — McCall has a special pair of snipers on the wing, as lethal as any he’s coached over the years.

“Those two guys right there, they’re up there,” McCall said. “Especially when they’re hot like that. And to think that one of them’s a freshman… he’s had over 20 points in two games out of five, as a freshman. That’s hard to do.”

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