UMass men's basketball opens season with win over Duquette's River Hawks

Matt McCall earned his first win as UMass men's basketball coach in his first game. The Minutemen beat UMass Lowell.
Pat Duquette had 100 tickets for the season opener in Amherst. His UMass Lowell River Hawks lost to UMass Amherst.

AMHERST — The outcome was on the scoreboard, and it was there for all to see.

But if you asked University of Massachusetts coach Matt McCall and UMass Lowell coach Pat Duquette, one would give a much different answer than the other.

The Minutemen gave McCall his first win as the UMass coach, beating the River Hawks 74-69 Friday night at the Mullins Center. There were 12 ties and 12 lead changes in the game. Lowell never led by more than five points, while the Minutemen led by eight with 2 minutes, 31 seconds to go.

Duquette's team cut the lead to one point with 30 seconds left, but the visitors were outscored 6-2 in the final 30 seconds.

"You've got to play the game," was McCall's message to his team at halftime. "They're scouting, they're practicing. It looked like they wanted to win the game more than you guys do right now. It's an effort thing.

"I think we almost had a mindset that we were just going to show up."

The exclamation point came on a reverse dunk by redshirt freshman Unique McLean.

"We're not relieved at all," McLean said of the win. "We've got to get into the film room and get ready for Harvard on Sunday. It's a joy to win right now, but now we have to focus on the next game."

The River Hawks, who dropped a 90-76 decision to the Minutemen last year, played without their top player. Senior Jahad Thomas was sitting out a suspension for violation of team rules. He averaged 18.3 points and nine rebounds last year, scoring 15 in the loss to UMass.

"I thought both teams played hard. I was happy with the way our guys played and with the way they defended — especially on the perimeter," said Duquette, who is a Dalton native, and a graduate of Wahconah and Williams College. "A year ago, we were overmatched when we came here."

Five Minutemen scored in double figures. Rashaan Holloway came off the bench to score 12 points and block three shots in 16 minutes. McLean, making his collegiate debut after red shirting last year, had 12 points and was 6 of 8 from the foul line. Malik Hines had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

The River Hawks led 34-32 at halftime and by as many as five in the second half. But Hines scored on a layup with 4:12 left in the game, and the Minutemen never trailed again.

It was a three-point game with three minutes to play. Luwane Pipkins missed the second of two free throws, making it 61-58. After the miss, UMass got possession. Pipkins got the inbounds pass and set up Miller, who drained a trey, making it 64-58.

"You have some guys out on the who had never played college basketball before. Who hits the biggest shot of the game, besides Rashaan Holloway's jump hook was [Rayshawn] Miller," McCall said. "He got his feet set, top of the key, rhythm three. The guy's never really played in that moment in a college game before.

"I was proud of Ray."

The junior walk-on from Boston Latin had scored five points in two seasons at UMass. On Friday, he was 4 for 6 from the floor and 2 for 3 from three-point range, scoring a career-high 10 points.

Matt Harris led UMass Lowell with 19 points, and Josh Gantz chipped in with 13.

Both teams play Sunday. McCall takes his team to Harvard, while Duquette's team will host UMass Boston.

Howard Herman can be reached at, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.


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