AMHERST, Mass. -
University of Massachusetts men's basketball trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half before the squad rallied for a 65-59 victory over North Carolina A&T in a Gotham Classic game at the Mullins Center on Tuesday. Donte Clark
led the Minutemen to their comeback with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go with six assists, four rebounds and a pair of blocks.
joined Clark in double-figures with 11 points, which he complemented with five assists and a pair of steals. C.J. Anderson
added nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals in 25 minutes.
It was the second-largest deficit overcome in the Derek Kellogg
era to only the 77-67 victory over Rider on Nov. 12, 2010, during which the Minutemen trailed by 22 points.
Sam Hunt led North Carolina A&T with 16 points, Raymon Pratt scored 12 and Eliel Gonzalez chipped in 10 with a team-best six assists.
"That was an offensive display, not being able to make anything happen, as we were down 18 at one point," Kellogg said. "Our guys did a pretty good job at fighting back and clawing their way to a victory. The team had nine days off and I think they did a good job at changing up game plans. We around the ball screens on offense for a majority of the game then we made some good stops and got some good transition baskets. I was hoping we would be able to do that earlier and get some of our younger guys some minutes because I think they deserve it."
Precision shooting guided the Aggies to a 29-11 advantage with exactly five minutes to go on the first half scoreboard. However, Clark found his shooting groove from outside and the team defense clamped down on North Carolina A&T as the Minutemen put together a 19-2 run and entered the break down only one point, 31-30.
The Aggies kept hold of a slim lead - never more than seven points - until the Minutemen broke through for their first advantage with 6:02 to go in the game. Trailing by four points following a pair of Hunt free throws, Zach Lewis
drained a 3-pointer ahead of a Malik Hines
-to-Lewis steal and fastbreak layup for the 52-51 lead.
North Carolina A&T briefly led after a Davaris McGowens layup on the next possession before the Maroon and White scored seven consecutive points on a Clark jumper sandwiched around a 3-pointer and layup by Pipkins.
The Minutemen continue the Gotham Classic with a Sat., Dec. 17 contest against Kennesaw State at the Mullins Center at 1 p.m. Ticket information is available through 866-UMASS-TIX, in person at the Mullins Center Box Office (8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.) or online through the UMass Ticket Central
page. Follow the team on Twitter and Instagram (@UMassBasketball).