WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Four players posted double-figures in the scoring column as the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team held on to a thrilling 69-67 win over La Salle in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Championship on Wednesday evening at the Capital One Arena. C.J. Anderson
led the way for UMass (13-19 Overall) with his fifth 20-point game of the season, leading all scorers with 21 while Luwane Pipkins
pitched in 15 points and Malik Hines
Anderson and Pipkins led the UMass offense in the first half with 23 combined points as the Minutemen owned a 30-28 lead after the first 20 minutes. The duo helped the Minutemen go ahead 14-6 by connecting on four shots from behind the arc, scoring 13 combined points early for a team that made their first four field goals from deep and five of their first six from range. Anderson added seven rebounds and four assists while shooting 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from three.
The Minutemen started 5-of-8 from the field before connecting on just two of their next 12 attempts but remained ahead of the Explorers by four with a 21-17 advantage heading into the under eight media timeout. UMass finished the half shooting 33-percent from the field with six of their 10 made field goals coming from 3-point land.
La Salle (13-19 Overall) used a 14-of-16 effort from the line in the first to keep things close despite being held without a field goal by the UMass defense for nearly seven minutes down the stretch of the half before connecting on an attempt after an Anderson triple put UMass ahead by four with under two minutes remaining. The Explorers shot just 29-percent in the opening half with a 0-of-9 mark from range on their way to finishing 1-of-16 from behind the arc.
UMass never trailed in the first half, leading since the opening tip until the Explorers grabbed their first lead of the night at 36-34 after a pair of free throws and three early Minuteman turnovers. Eight ties in the second half and five lead changes highlighted the second half as both teams scored 39 points over the final 20 minutes.
knocked in his first 3-pointer of the night to tie it up at 40-40 with 13:58 left on his way to finishing the night with 11 points and six rebounds. The freshman helped spark a 10-0 UMass run that put the Minutemen ahead 52-45 with just under 10 minutes remaining, connecting on a jumper off his own miss before five straight Anderson points capped off the run.
Both teams heated up from the field down the stretch, each going 6-of-8 as the score was knotted at 61-61 with just over four minutes left. Rayshawn Miller
put home a pair of free throws with under a minute left to push the UMass lead to three points prior to a banked in jumper that cut the lead down to one.
The Minutemen extended a key possession late after a 3-point miss, grabbing one of their nine offensive boards to call a timeout with 14-seconds remaining with one-second left on the shot clock. UMass could not get a shot off after calling a second consecutive timeout before La Salle's attempt to take the lead with eight seconds left was corralled by Unique McLean
and dished to Pipkins, who connected on one of two at the stripe to extend the lead to two. McLean led UMass with nine rebounds as the Minutemen finished with a 37-to-29 advantage on the glass.
UMass continues play at the A-10 Championship tomorrow against No. 5-seed George Mason in a 2:30 p.m. matchup to be aired on NBC Sports Network.
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