UMass men's basketball solidifies defense in win over Holy Cross

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AMHERST — If a basketball team is looking to bust a losing streak, it is more likely to do it with defense.

That's how the University of Massachusetts ended its four-game skid Wednesday night. The Minutemen held visiting Holy Cross to 19 points in the second half, breaking open a close game and beating the Crusaders 64-50.

"When we want to be, we're a good defensive team," UMass center Malik Hines said. "In the second half, we just came out and the game was too close in our opinion."

Hines helped take care of that by scoring six of his eight second-half points to open the period. He finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, one of four Minutemen to score in double figures. Luwane Pipkins had a game-high 13 points for UMass (4-5).

"We only had two days to prepare for them with the Princeton style. It was a complicated offense," UMass coach Matt McCall said. "I thought it was, by far, our best defensive performance of the year."

How good was the UMass defense in the second half? The Minutemen held Holy Cross without a basket for almost seven minutes of the second half. Jehyne Floyd, who led Holy Cross with 12 points, scored over Hines with 11:00 left. The Crusaders did not score again from the floor until Floyd drove to the basket with 3:20 remaining in the game. By then the Minutemen had built a solid double-figure lead, and when Unique McLean dunked just inside of 2 minutes to play, the 2,395 inside the Mullins Center could start heading for the exits. The Minutemen led by 17 points with 5:49 left in the game.

The Crusaders (2-6) have now lost six straight games.

"In the second half, we couldn't score. At one point we were 2 for 17," Holy Cross coach Bill Carmody said. "We had a lot of open shots early in the half, in the first eight minutes, and just missed them. After that, it just snowballed and we lost confidence."

UMass took the lead for keeps in the final minute of the first half when Chris Baldwin made 1 of 2 from the foul line to break a 31-all tie. It was Baldwin's only point. UMass then got a pair of foul shots from C.J. Anderson (10 points, nine rebounds) for the 34-31 halftime score.

Hines got UMass rolling offensively in the second half, scoring his team's first six points. Once, Anderson threw him an alley-oop pass that Hines could not catch. The ball did, however, deflect off his hands and into the goal. That caused Carmody to call a time out.

Caleb Green missed a 3-point shot out of the time out, Hines pulled down the defensive board. He got two offensive rebounds at the other end, finally scoring on a put-back to make it 40-31.

"I pulled Malik Hines aside after the game. I thought he was terrific in the second half," McCall said. "I thought he dominated the game, and not just from scoring, but from rebounding and defense."

Hines not only had eight of his 10 points in the second half, but pulled down all nine of his rebounds in the final 20 minutes. That included five offensive boards.

The Minutemen were also efficient offensively. They made 18 baskets and the stat sheet had them with 17 assists. Anderson and Rayshawn Miller both had five assists each, and Pipkins had four.

UMass had been away from home since beating Western Carolina on Nov. 21. Now, the Minutemen will be home for four more games until the Christmas break. That includes a game against a tough Providence squad Saturday afternoon.

"This was a game we should have won," said Pipkins. "We knew we were going to win this game, and that's what we came here to do."

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


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