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Defense, rebounding carry UMass in 64-50 win over Holy Cross

  • UMass' Rayshawn Miller, center, looks to break through Holy Cross defense Jehyve Floyd, left, and Karl Charles Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Luwane Pipkins, center, goes in for a shot under pressure from Holy Cross' Patrick Benzan, left, and Jehyve Floyd Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Rayshawn Miller, front, controls the ball under pressure from Holy Cross' Jehyve Floyd Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Rashaan Holloway, left, stretches to control the ball under pressure from Holy Cross' Jehyve Floyd and Connor Niego Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Rayshawn Miller, right, struggles to control the ball against Holy Cross' Connor Niego Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Unique McLean runs the ball against Holy Cross Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' Rayshawn Miller, left, keeps eyes on the ball controlled by Holy Cross' Caleb Green Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. Holy Cross' Matt Faw looks on, at back right. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass' C.J. Anderson, center, looks to pass the ball under pressure from Holy Cross' Connor Niego, left, and Caleb Green Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@MattVautourDHG
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

AMHERST — UMass never quite got the game to the pace it had hoped for against Holy Cross, but the Minutemen delivered their best defensive and rebounding effort of the season and rolled to a 64-50 win, snapping their four-game losing streak Wednesday at the Mullins Center.

The Crusaders didn’t hit a field goal until 12 minutes, 25 seconds into the second half. They shot 6-for-24 from the field out of the break and were 2-for-17 until the last 3:23. The Minutemen outrebounded Holy Cross 21-11 after intermission as the Crusaders had just two offensive rebounds and no second-chance points.

“We had only two days to prepare for the Princeton style. That’s a complicated offense. That was by far our best defensive performance of the year,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “In that second half we really really guarded. We had three shot-clock violations. Four times in the second half we had three stops in a row.”

UMass led 43-38 with 11 minutes left, when Carl Pierre scored the first six points of a 12-0 run that pushed the lead to 55-38 with 5:49 left. The Crusaders hit some hurried 3-pointers late to narrow the gap, but never really threatened.

Luwane Pipkins said the Minutemen (4-5) took care of business against the struggling Crusaders (2-6).

“I’m not trying to knock Holy Cross, but this is a game we should have won,” he said. “We knew we were going to win this game. That’s what we came here to do.”

With little else clicking in the first half, Pipkins carried UMass early using free throws and floaters. He had 13 points as the Minutemen erased an early six-point deficit to lead 34-31. He didn’t score in the second half as the rest of the offense found its rhythm.

The Minutemen, who had only attempted 10 free throws in the previous two games combined, made 20 of 22 from the line. Against Holy Cross’ 1-3-1 and matchup zones, UMass utilized a lob that had been absent all year, with Malik Hines converting two into aerial layups before finally finishing an alley-oop. He had eight of his 10 points and all nine rebounds in the second half. His communication from the back of the defense against Crusaders back-cutting was also critical.

“I pulled Malik Hines aside at the end of the game. I thought he was terrific in the second half. I thought he dominated the game, not just from scoring. From rebounding and defense,” McCall said. “We played him a lot of minutes in the second half (18). Boy was he good.”

Hines had just two fouls in the game, avoiding the whistles that have plagued UMass’ big men in recent games.

“If I’m not on the floor defensively, I’m not going to say we struggle, but it helps a lot when I’m out there,” he said. “In the last couple games I’ve picked up a lot of silly fouls.”

C.J. Anderson had 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Jehyve Floyd was led Holy Cross with 12 points.

UMass stays at home and will host Providence, Saturday at 3 p.m.

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