UMass survives scare from Fairleigh Dickinson

  • Rashaan Holloway, right, of UMass, and his brother, Mike Holloway, Jr., of Fairleigh Dickinson, head downcourt during their game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Khalea Turner-Morris, right, shoots against Elyjah Williams, of Farleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tre Wood, left, of UMass, shoots beside Elyjah Williams, of Farleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tre Wood, right, of UMass, has his shot blocked by Elyjah Williams, of Farleigh Dickinson, Friday at the Mullins Center. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Luwane Pipkins, left, of UMass, passes against Mike Holloway, Jr., of Farleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Rashaan Holloway, second from left, of UMass, watches as his brother, Mike Holloway, Jr., of Farleigh Dickinson, shoots a free throw Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Luwane Pipkins, center, of UMass, shoots between Farleigh Dickinson defenders Mike Holloway, Jr., left, and Jahlil Jenkins, Friday at the Mullins Center. UMas won 85-84. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Samba Diallo, center, of UMass, splits Farleigh Dickinson defenders Mike Holloway, Jr., left, and Kaleb Bishop, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Rashaan Holloway, of UMass, dunks against Fairleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Randall West, of UMass, drives past Oscar Okeke, of Farleigh Dickinson, Friday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Rashaan Holloway, right, of UMass, and his brother, Mike Holloway, Jr., of Fairleigh Dickinson, watch for an incoming pass during their game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jonathan Laurent, of UMass, shoots against Farleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carl Pierre, of UMass, celebrates a three-point shot in the second half against Farleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Matt McCall applauds his team during their win against Farleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Matt McCall shouts instructions during his team's win against Farleigh Dickinson, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 at the Mullins Center. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2018 12:43:58 AM

AMHERST — Matt McCall took a timeout to set up his defense and turned to Rasheen Davis for advice on who to send back onto the court.

Davis, who was the UMass assistant responsible for scouting Fairleigh Dickinson, suggested McCall bring in Randall West for the first time since the opening minutes of the second half. The second-year coach wasn’t sure about bringing in the converted quarterback, but trusted his assistant with the game on the line.

West rewarded that faith with a critical steal that set up a Luwane Pipkins layup to give UMass a one-point lead over the Knights. He then sealed the game with a defensive rebound with four seconds left as the Minutemen escaped with the 85-84 victory, Friday at the Mullins Center.

“I said, ‘Who do you want on the floor right now? Who do you like defensively,’” McCall said. “Rasheen said Randall, and I said, ‘Ra, he hasn’t played in a while,’ and he said Randall. He was exactly right. We went seven or eight possessions where it was either a foul or they scored. We kept giving up offensive rebounds, well, Unique (McLean)’s a terrific rebounder, let’s get Unique in there, too. ... That lineup won us the game at the end defensively.”

West, who made his season debut with eight minutes left in the first half, gave UMass (7-5) a much-needed lift on defense. The Minutemen were trailing 27-19 when he entered the game as the Knights (5-6) had made nine of their first 13 shots. Fairleigh Dickinson was just 3 of 9 with West on the floor the rest of the half, helping keep the deficit at eight heading into the locker room.

“He got his number called and he did his job,” McCall said. “And he did it as hard as he could. That’s the stuff that goes into winning.”

In the second half, the Minutemen found their rhythm on offense and picked apart the Fairleigh Dickinson defense with ease. On three consecutive possessions, UMass found Rashaan Holloway open for dunks to cut the lead down to four at the first timeout of the second half. Holloway scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, converting on all seven of his attempts from the field. He didn’t have to do much either on those attempts because of how crisply UMass was running its offense.

The Minutemen shot 75 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes by taking advantage of those easier looks around the basket. Holloway, Pipkins (13) and Carl Pierre (10) scored in double figures in the second half, and Jonathan Laurent, who tied Pipkins for the team high at 20 points, scored nine.

“When we run our offense and we execute it perfectly, it can end in dunks for everybody,” Holloway said. “Keon (Clergeot) came down and he dunked one. Jon came down in transition and he dunks a couple. All of our offense creates easy layups, so if we run it to perfection, we should get dunks every time.”

Holloway’s offensive boost was sorely missed in the first half as he was saddled by foul trouble. He was limited to just four minutes and picked up three fouls in that span. Holloway was able to stay eligible in the game with some crafty coaching from McCall, who took a page out of hockey coach Greg Carvel’s playbook and inserted Khalea Turner-Morris into the game as a defensive replacement if UMass could make a “line change” before heading on defense.

The offense-defense substitutions might have created a nuisance for the referees with how tight McCall made the turn at times, but it kept Holloway safe from trouble. Holloway said he knew he couldn’t be nearly as aggressive in the second half on defense and applauded his coach for the adjustments he made to give him some assistance on defense.

“They called a lot of touchy fouls on me off defensive breakdowns,” Holloway said. “I knew in the second half, I only had two fouls left, I knew I had to be careful. I couldn’t really contest. Coach McCall knew that and we had to come up with a different strategy. They went small, so we had to come up with a strategy to have me play on offense but help me out on defense at the same time.”

Laurent came off the bench for the second straight game after missing the win over Providence two weeks ago with a knee injury. He made an offensive impact in the first half by making three 3-pointers and an emphatic dunk for a team-high 11 points. He finished the game 6 of 8 from the field, including 4 of 5 from long range, to bump his season shooting average to 60.5 percent, including 53 percent on 3-pointers.

He said his teammates have encouraged him to shoot more since returning from injury, and he has become a more confident shooter. His 20 points Friday were a career best for him.

“I don’t really think I have a different mindset,” Laurent said. “Just because of my field goal percentage and the fact I’ve been making a majority of my shots, they’ve been telling me to shoot the ball. It’s only going to help us in the end and it’s working right now, so I’ll keep shooting it, keep putting it up and see what happens.”




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