Notebook: Carl Pierre finds shooting stroke for Minutemen

  • UMass senior guard Carl Pierre finished with 14 points in an 85-66 win over La Salle, Wednesday in Philadelphia. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/16/2020 5:25:23 PM

Carl Pierre splashed his first three 3-pointers Wednesday at La Salle. That’s more triples than he made in the previous two games against Northeastern.

UMass’ senior captain was shooting 28.6 percent from 3 before Wednesday and 31.8 percent overall, but Pierre found the range early as he scored 14 points and made four 3s in the 85-66 win over the Explorers.

He made his first 3 just 1 minute, 51 seconds into the game. He splashed his second 1:25 later. Pierre hit his third with 9:32 left before halftime to give UMass a 23-17 lead.

“The shots, the 3s that went in the basket, I was happy for him,” UMass coach Matt McCall said. “But the loose ball hustle plays that he made, Carl’s all about the right things.”

His accuracy dipped after that opening spurt. Pierre missed his next five 3s, but the captain buoyed UMass’ game-sealing run with his fourth triple with 6:35 left.

He also added three assists, two rebounds and a steal.

“I was so happy to see him put it all together, but it wasn’t just the ball going through the net,” McCall said. “We know he can do that. He’s put his heart and soul into this program for the last four years, and those plays epitomized that.”

Pierre’s resurgence was part of a strong shooting performance for UMass. The Minutemen made 11 3s. Noah Fernandez had three, while Tre Mitchell hit two. They shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc.

MITCHELL and DR. J — Mitchell scored a career-high 37 points, which tied for the eighth most in UMass history. Two of those 37-point outings were by Julius Erving in the 1969-70 season.

Luwane Pipkins set the single-game record with 44 in overtime against La Salle in 2018.

Billy Tindall (41, 1968), Trey Davis (40 in OT, 2015), Billy Prevey (39, 1952), Lorenzo Sutton (39, 1988), Pipkins (38, 2018) and Marcus Camby (38, 1996) are ahead of Mitchell.

Wednesday was Mitchell’s fourth 30-point game of his career, which spans just 34 games. He made 12 of 17 shots from the field and hit two 3s. Mitchell also grabbed five rebounds with two assists, two blocks and a steal. He shot 9 of 14 from the free-throws line.

HERE COMES THE GENERAL — Fernandes dished out nine assists with one late turnover. He now has 15 assists and five turnovers for the season, rebounding after turning the ball over four times Sunday against Northeastern.

Fernandes, a transfer from Wichita State, also scored 11 points and swiped five steals.

“The floor general game that Noah played (Wednesday) was tremendous,” McCall said.

UMass led by double digits late in the game and broke La Salle’s pressure. Instead of forcing the issue, Fernandes backed the ball out and set UMass up on offense to work more clock and put the game completely out of reach.

“That shows a level of maturity,” McCall said. “Noah’s a winner. He wants to be coached, he wants to be pushed. He impacts the game in so many ways.”

EVERYBODY EATS — Eleven players saw the floor for UMass, and eight of them played at least 15 minutes. McCall was critical of how he deployed the Minutemen against Northeastern, leaning too much on a few players.

“Because of our depth, because of our talent, it can be a different guy’s night on every single night,” he said.

Freshman Cairo McCrory took advantage of receiving the most playing time of his young career. He grabbed nine rebounds, four on the offensive glass, and scored seven points. He also converted a late alley-oop pass from Mitchell that was far from on line, but he made it work.

McCrory missed practices series with a non-COVID illness leading into the Northeastern, but he showed he had his spring back against the Explorers.

“He’s an energy guy, he’s an athlete and his ability to go up and get rebounds like he does, we need to utilize him,” McCall said.

LIVING AT THE LINE — UMass shot 23 free throws compared to just seven for La Salle.

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