Amherst, MA – The UMass Minutemen (8-12, 1-6) defeated the Rhode Island Rams (11-8, 4-3) 77-70 on Sunday afternoon at the Mullins Center in the Atlantic 10 matchup. Following a relatively strong start by the Rams, who led by as many as eight points in the first 10 minutes, UMass blew the game open on a 17-0 run en route to a 31-18 lead. The Rams got as close as two points late in the second half but once UMass took a five-point lead on the aforementioned run, URI never had possession with an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead. UMass succeeded in staving off every comeback effort by making clutch shots on good defensive possessions by the visitors. Sophomore guard Carl Pierre led the way for the hosts with 22 points, while junior guard Luwane Pipkins added 12 points and nine assists. Tyrese Martin led the Rams with 23 points.
Pierre provided a big offensive display making six shots from behind the arc. The 6-4 Boston native played a huge role in helping the Minutemen hang on to the lead scoring 16 of his 22 points in the second half. Five of his six triples came from the corners following patient offensive possessions with good ball movement and player-pace off the ball by the hosts. Pierre’s other triple was made after he curled nicely off a screen. He showed good handles and the ability to finish through contact on a spin-move in the middle of the lane. For the most part, Pierre spent the game maneuvering around baseline screens, attempting to get open in the corners or the wings. Defensively, he was tasked with guarding URI’s leading scorer, Jeff Dowtin, and did a good job keeping him out of the paint while limiting him to 13 points.
Pipkins was another major reason the Minutemen were able to hold off the Rams. Despite being held to three points without a field goal for the first 34:23 of the game, Pipkins’ impact and competitive mindset were easily noticed. Having watched Pipkins over the past three seasons, it has been noticeable that he always plays tough and physical and never shies away from making a key defensive play or a pass to an open teammate even when things do not go his way. In today’s game he made just 2-of-14 shot attempts and understood that he had to sacrifice something to help his team win. That sacrifice was giving the ball to his teammates in terrific position to score at least nine times. This was done instead of forcing himself into the lane for a shot or taking a highly contested three. His work on the defensive end of the floor is of note as well. He held URI’s Fatts Russell to just five shot attempts (all were missed) and held him out on the perimeter for the majority of the night. He forced a 15-point scorer to become a distributor. These ‘little things’ speak volumes about his leadership abilities.
The Rams were led by the 6-6 freshman Martin, who had the best offensive game of his short collegiate career. He entered the game averaging 11.8 points per game over his last six contests and shot very well from behind the arc, making 5-of-7 attempts. He displayed a nice midrange game and consistently showed the ability to get to his spot on the floor. He also cut hard and succeeded in using screens from his teammates to generate open looks. Beyond his offensive prowess in this game, his defense was notable, especially when assigned to defend Pipkins. Like most A-10 teams so far this season, URI tasked a longer guard with guarding Pipkins, often switching between Dowtin and Martin. Martin did a nice job using his length to make Pipkins a distributor by constantly having his hands up on defense beyond his 7-inch height advantage. He also moved his feet well and anticipated how Pipkins would attack him and recorded two steals on the former’s dribble. It is clear that Martin is more comfortable now than he was at the beginning of his college career.
Cyril Langevine, the Rams’ 6-8 junior forward, had a nice game as well. He knows how to use his length and athletic ability to make a significant impact on the court. He scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds on this day and was never afraid of attacking the basket and being aggressive on the glass. This is especially noteworthy because he was met above the rim on his dunk attempt by UMass Center Rashaan Holloway, who has a much bigger frame than he does. That could have made him more passive, as could his loose ball-handling (he had seven turnovers), but instead he kept attacking. He came into the game almost averaging a double-double, and it was never hard to see why. He is a hard-nosed player with a short memory. His next-play mindset is impressive. In this game he used his athleticism well to draw contact, and at times finish through contact, to get to the foul line. Around the rim he always looked to finish strong and create second chance opportunities for his team. Defensively, he took advantage of his length to alter shots and force drive-and-kicks on the Minutemen players.
Noteworthy Stat: UMass outscored URI 36-26 in the paint, proving that the game plan to keep the URI guards out of the paint and to a perimeter-oriented game was a sound strategy in getting the win.
Next Up: UMass will visit La Salle (4-14, 2-4) and URI will visit Duquesne (14-6, 5-2). Both games will be held on January 30th.