UMass basketball rallies for 2nd straight second half comeback, beats Saint Joseph’s

  • UMass guard Luwane Pipkins powers the ball up strong to the rim past Saint Joseph’s Anthony Longpre in the second half Sunday at the Mullins Center. AP

  • UMass Mullins Center 1/14/18. The UMass Bench erupts as the UMass Minutemen beat Saint Josephs 72 to 69 at the UMass Mullins by J. Anthony Roberts J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass Mullins Center 1/14/18. UMass No.2 Luwane Pipkins, powers the ball in towards the hoop past Saint Josephs No.5 Nick Robinson in the 1st by J. Anthony Roberts J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass Mullins Center 1/14/18. UMass No.23 C.J. Anderson, takes the ball up strong in the lane to the rim over Saint Josephs No.1 Shavar Newkirk in the 2nd by J. Anthony Roberts J. Anthony Roberts

  • UMass Mullins Center 1/14/18. UMass No.2 Luwane Pipkins, takes it up strong in the lane to the hoop over Saint Josephs No.1 Shavar Newkirk in the 2nd by J. Anthony Roberts J. Anthony Roberts

Published: 1/14/2018 9:31:16 PM

AMHERST — The comeback started a little later, but the hole was a little smaller. Either way, the result was the same.

Behind more additions to Luwane Pipkins’ highlight reel, UMass climbed out of another double-digit hole and sent another Philadelphia team home disappointed, as the Minutemen beat Saint Joseph’s, 72-69, Sunday at the Mullins Center.

After wiping out a 21-point lead against La Salle to win in overtime, Wednesday, UMass came back from 16 down to beat the Hawks in regulation.

“I was really proud of the resilience they showed late in the game,” UMass coach Matt McCall said.

Pipkins, who had 44 against the Explorers, had 27 against the St. Joe’s. The Hawks took away outside shots, so he did it going to the basket. He had seven rebounds and six assists to go with it. Twenty of those points came in the second half.

“He was settling (for jump shots) too much in the first half,” McCall said. “Go by him.”

Against La Salle, McCall went to a five-guard lineup for defensive reasons. Against the Hawks, he went small for offensive reasons with 10 minutes, 35 secondd left and St. Joe’s leading 50-41, sending Unique McLean in for Malik Hines.

“I thought we had a quickness advantage,” McCall said. “I thought it was a great lineup for us. St. Joe’s doesn’t run a lot of post-up action, so I knew our guards would be O.K. playing on the perimeter defensively. That’s a lineup we need to work on and work on more.”

Senior C.J. Anderson echoed his coach.

“It really helped us,” Anderson said. “Playing a five-guard lineup, everybody is moving, everyone can knock down jumpers, everyone can drive. It worked tonight.”

James Demery (22 points) scored a layup on the first Hawk possession against it, but Carl Pierre answered with a 3-pointer, and the Minutemen were off and running. They strung together a 13-4 run to get within two at 56-54 with 6:43 left. Anderson (12 points, four assists, four rebounds), who’d been in a prolonged offensive slump, had five points and an assist in the surge while Pierre (17 points) made a pair of 3-pointers.

Anthony Longpre swished a 3 from the right wing to temporarily stem the Minuteman momentum, but Anderson scored again and after a Hawk turnover. Rayshawn Miller buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to tie the game at 59 with 5:34 left.

As the Mullins Center crowd of 2,476 grew louder, St. Joe’s appeared to crumble. After Miller tied it, UMass scored seven of the next nine to take control at 66-61 with 1:52 remaining.

The Hawks scored four straight get within one at 66-65 with 35 seconds left and sent Pipkins to the line. UMass traded made Pipkins free throws for St. Joe’s layups three times in the final 35 seconds and led 72-69 with 8 seconds left.

McCall opted not to foul up three, and Shavar Newkirk’s shot was off line with two seconds left and the Minutemen escaped with their third straight win.

Newkirk had 22 points, but was 4-for-13 in the second half.

“He was exhausted, and it affected his offense in the second half,” St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said. 

UMass won despite grabbing just two offensive rebounds in the game, a number that was helped by shooting 17-for-27 in the second half (5-for-7 from 3-point range), as there weren’t that many offensive rebounds available. 

Neither team was especially sharp for most of the first half, as the Hawks led 29-25 with 4:13 left, but St. Joe’s scored the last eight points of the half to stretch its edge to 37-25.

The Minutemen (10-8, 3-2 Atlantic 10) are at Rhode Island, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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