Notebook: Small lineup, Carl Pierre spark UMass past 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’ Unique McLean runs the ball against Holy Cross Dec. 6, 2017 during a basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

AMHERST — As he thought he might, UMass coach Matt McCall did shake up his starting lineup in hopes of both stemming the Minutemen’s recurring slow starts and better matching up with Holy Cross.

The Minutemen did get off to a slow start, missing their first five shots and falling behind 8-2. But the small lineup of Malik Hines, C.J. Anderson, Luwane Pipkins, Rayshawn Miller and Carl Pierre was effective against the Crusaders at both ends of the floor.

In the second half, McCall played the starters and Unique McLean off the bench for almost the entirety of the half.

“It was our most effectively lineup. We played big a little in the first half and had some good possessions, but in the second half I thought we needed to stay with those six guys,” McCall said. “In a game like this, playing small was our best defensive lineup. Those six guys were defensively terrific.”

Pierre made his first career start and impressed McCall. He had a 3-pointer, a three-point play and a blocked shot in succession in the 12-0 run that put the game away in the second half. He finished with nine points.

“Carl Pierre continues to grow up in front of our eyes. He missed some shots early and didn’t let it faze him,” McCall said. “When we recruited him we could see he was fearless. You can see his growth right in front of our eyes. He’s going to have nights where he struggles, but we have to continue to develop him and continue to coach him.”

Pierre found out he was starting Tuesday night.

“There was no change in my mindset. I wanted to come in and play with an edge,” he said. “I missed some shots in the first little stretch. They looked good, they felt good. It wasn’t an issue. I got comfortable and shots started to fall. I wanted to put my best foot forward every day in practice. I felt like I was prepared.”

McLEAN STANDS OUT — Redshirt freshman Unique McLean had his most complete game with 11 points, four rebounds and solid defense in 24 minutes.

“It was all about his approach. He had the right attitude. He was coachable,” McCall said. “I thought he was great and I told him that.”

HOLLOWAY STRUGGLES — The lineup switch sent Holloway to the bench to start the game and the junior big man never got in rhythm. He had two points, two rebounds and three fouls in 10 minutes. He played just two minutes in the second half.

The Minutemen played just one big man most of the game. Chris Baldwin played just nine minutes with one point and a rebound, while Khalea Turner-Morris didn’t see any action.

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