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C.J. Anderson leads UMass’ senior day win over Duquesne

  • UMass guard Luwane Pipkins launches a 3-pointer from the top of the key against Duquesne, Saturday at the Mullins Center. J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass coach Matt McCall sits down with his players during a timeout in the final minutes of the second half against Duquesne, Saturday at the Mullins Center. J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass guard Carl Pierre launches a 3-pointer against Duquesne in the second half, Saturday at the Mullins Center. J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass guard C.J. Anderson pulls up for a jumper against Duquesne’s Tarin Smith in the second half, Saturday at the Mullins Center. J. Anthony Roberts



@MattVautourDHG
Sunday, March 04, 2018

AMHERST — UMass avoided last place, gave C.J. Anderson a happy sendoff and grabbed a little momentum heading into to the postseason all in one shot.

In a game that went back and forth most of the way, the Minutemen were better down the stretch and pulled away late for an 85-75 win over Duquesne, Saturday at the Mullins Center.

UMass (12-19, 5-13 Atlantic 10) will be the No. 13 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and will face No. 12 La Salle in the first round at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Anderson, the only senior of the roster, seemed set on setting up his teammates in his farewell date at the Mullins Center. Anderson finished with 12 points and a career-high 12 assists. Malik Hines was his favorite target as Anderson had assists on five of Hines’ field goals. The junior center was 8-for-8 (four dunks, four layups) from the floor and had a career-high 20 points.

Rayshawn Miller also had his career high with 16 points, while Luwane Pipkins also had 16.

“C.J. has been playing his best ball the last two weeks,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “I wasn’t here the past two years, but I would say he’s playing the best ball of his career. That’s a tribute to him. C.J. is one of the hardest workers I’ve been around. I don’t worry about what’s next for C.J. He’s going to be successful in whatever he decides to do.”

Anderson’s passing fulfilled a pregame directive from McCall.

“Before the game we said let’s make this our highest assist number on the year. We had 24 assists (on 32 baskets) and nine turnovers. Offensively I thought we were terrific,” McCall said. “We had balanced scoring across the board.”

UMass opened a 58-47 lead with 12 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second half, but the Dukes scored 11 straight causing McCall to use a timeout with 8:25 left. Out of the break, Pipkins hit a floater to start a 9-2 surge that made it 67-60 with 6:01 left.

The Minutemen led the rest of the way. Duquesne got within 68-67, but another UMass run, this time 15-3, put the game out of reach allowing McCall to give Anderson a curtain call with 25 seconds left.

Anderson enjoyed the experience.

“It was great. The atmosphere was great, I loved it,” Anderson said. “The fan love is great. I’m just really thankful. ... There were moments in the game where I was trying to soak it all in.”

The teams went back and forth throughout the first half, exchanging the lead seven times, but when they headed to the locker room it was even thanks to Miller. After Tarin Smith missed his second free throw, UMass hustled the ball up to Miller, who drained a long two at the buzzer from the right corner to tie the game 33-33 at halftime.

Hines hoped the win would be a jumping off point.

“It was a good night,” he said. “We needed this win going into Washington next week.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage