Holy Cross comes back to beat UMass men's basketball at Mullins Center
AMHERST — It doesn't get any easier from here for the University of Massachusetts basketball team. Maybe that was why head coach Matt McCall seemed so disappointed after Wednesday's loss to Holy Cross.
"We have to figure out who exactly we're going to be as a basketball team," McCall said to reporters after the visiting Crusaders rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat the Minutemen 82-78. A 9-0 run in the second half proved to be the back breaker for the Minutemen.
UMass will play three of its next four games on the road. That includes tough road contests at Providence, Temple and Georgia. Providence, overtime winners at Boston College Wednesday, and Temple are a combined 14-3 this year.
"I said this before, I think this team does have a chance to be really, really good," he said. "We've shown what we're capable of, but we don't do it on a consistent enough basis."
Luwane Pipkins had a game-high 22 points for UMass (5-4), scoring 10 of them in the final five minutes when the Minutemen tried to come back from a nine-point deficit. He was one of four UMass players to score in double figures in the game.
Holy Cross (6-3) was paced by Jacob Grandison's 20 points. Four Crusaders scored in double figures.
"It's really good to get a quality win on the road," Holy Cross coach Bill Carmody said. "If I scripted it, I wouldn't say we'd score  or whatever it was, maybe the high 60s or low 70s."
The victory by the Crusaders ended a five-game winning streak for UMass over their neighbors in Worcester. It was also the first time in three games that Carmody had been able to beat the Minutemen.
UMass was a pretty good 10 for 23 from three-point range, outrebounded Holy Cross 35-27 and 12-6 on the offensive glass, and had 18 assists to 24 baskets.
The Minutemen also allowed Holy Cross to shoot 61 percent from the floor in the second half and 12 of 17 from the free throw line. All of those free throws were in the final 20 minutes, and the Crusaders were 10 for 12 from the line in the final 2 minutes, 17 seconds. Holy Cross also had 24 assists on 31 made baskets.
"It's the second game in a row where a team has gotten back into the game strictly because of the free throw line," the UMass coach said. "They shoot  in the second half. It's a lack of discipline, reaching, putting our hands on guys. We have to get a whole lot better than that."
Jonathan Laurent scored a UMass career-high 16 points, but only three in the second half. Rashaan Holloway also had 16 points, while Curtis Cobb came off the bench to score 11 points. In addition to Pipkins' 22 points, he had eight assists, but also had four turnovers.
"Our offensive numbers continue to be in the top half of the country. It's defensively, where we've got to figure some things out and get a whole lot better," said McCall.
A three-point basket by Cobb with 14 minutes left in the first half put UMass ahead 13-10. The Minutemen led by 10 after a Keon Clergeot three-point play, but Holy Cross countered and when Matt Faw dunked with 30 seconds to play in the half, the 10-point UMass lead was down to 41-39 when the horn sounded.
Laurent drained a trey 15 seconds into the second half, starting a 7-0 UMass run that ended when Holloway dunked.
Holy Cross came roaring back, thanks to an 18-5 run over the next seven minutes. That gave the visitors a 57-53 lead. Their first lead of the game came on a pair of Grandison free throws during that run.
Twice UMass tied the score, the second time on a Pipkins bucket with 7:29 left. But Holy Cross responded, holding UMass without a point over the next two minutes, while scoring nine to build up a 71-62 advantage. Jehyve Floyd, who had 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds, hit back-to-back hoops for the Crusaders, followed by a big triple from Faw and Austin Butler closed out the run when Caleb Green rebounded a Sy Chatman miss and ignited a fast break that led to Butler's layup.
Every time UMass got close in the final couple of minutes, the Minutemen fouled and the Crusaders made their free throws.
Now, UMass has only two days to get ready for a tough Providence squad on the road.
"I've got to do a much better job of holding our guys accountable to being disciplined on the defensive end of the floor," McCall said, "to getting our guys understanding everything that goes into and impacting winning. We're a young, inexperienced basketball team that needs to get a lot better."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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