AMHERST — The Division I college basketball season officially opened on Friday with UMass picking apart in-state opponent UMass-Lowell, 90-76.
The Minutemen showcased some new, highly-touted talent as they pulled away in the second half to earn the first win of the season. The River Hawks started off their final year transitioning to Division I with a thud.
“We had more good basketball than maybe we did in our two scrimmages,” head coach Derek Kellogg said. “But still a long way from where I think we need to be to compete in the top of our conference.”
Here are three thoughts from the game.
Luwane Pipkins was a necessary addition
Pipkins was supposed to play his freshman season in 2015-2016, but was ruled academically ineligible on the eve of the season. He made his Minutemen debut against UMass-Lowell and started at point guard, filling up the stat sheet.
He finished with 14 points, eight steals, four rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. Pipkins was also effective in the press when UMass employed it. The guard was everywhere the ball was, not shy to shoot if an opportunity presented itself.
He was the most prevalent player on the court, staying in even as Kellogg subbed in 10 players, with nine playing at least 14 minutes.
“I would credit their freshman guard, he was very disruptive,” UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette said. “He switched on to just about every guy. I thought he changed the nature of the game and stole our guys’ confidence a little bit. That was tough to get back.”
It’s cold outside
Actually, it was a nice crisp New England fall afternoon. Inside the gym, though, the outside shooting was frigid. Neither team was shy to shoot from the outside, but neither found a rhythm. The River Hawks finished 5-24 from behind the arc, while UMass made just five of its 25 attempts.
UMass Lowell committed 28 turnovers, and the River Hawks were quick to hoist up opportunities. But many of the 3-point attempts weren’t of the high-percentage variety. The Minutemen were better at scoring in transition off of those UMass-Lowell turnovers than they were hitting long-range shots in the half-court set.
Last year UMass Lowell played the 11th-fastest tempo in college basketball and turned the ball over 21.3% of the time, good for 333rd-worst in college basketball. Nearly a third of their points came from 3. When the fast-paced, quick-shooting nature failed them in the first game of the season, there was no way they could compete.
Rahsaan Holloway will be unstoppable against smaller teams
UMass-Lowell is a small team, that much was evident. While the Minutemen were practicing their windmill dunks during the pregame warmups, it looked as though most of the River Hawks players would be lucky to touch the rim.
So the presence of the 6-foot-11, 320-pound Holloway for UMass was unmistakable. He scored the very first points of the game on an and-one feed from the high post just nine seconds into the game. He finished with 21 points in 17 minutes.
“That’s exactly the kind of player I want to be,” Holloway said. “Except I make all my free throws.”
In his short time in the game, he went to the line 14 times, making nine, part of a ridiculous number of fouls called. The two teams combined to take 72 free throws, split basically down the middle.
Even though UMass-Lowell was an exceptionally small team, it’s clear that even against bigger teams, Holloway’s size will be consistently difficult to match up against.