Opponent: La Salle Explorers
League: Atlantic 10 Conference
Similar to the first matchup, La Salle was without one of their best players. This time, Pookie Powell, who led the Explorers with thirty points in the previous meeting was sidelined with an injury.
The Minutemen started off strong and grabbed a 7-4 lead just three minutes in after a Carl Pierre fast break layup. La Salle responded quickly, paced by Amar Stukes who scored seven of their team’s first nine points as they regained the advantage (9-7). With just under thirteen minutes remaining B.J Johnson nailed a pull up jumper to cap a 15-4 run and give the Explorers a 19-11 lead. Matt McCall went to the bench and got great production from Rays Miller who nailed an array of mid range jump shots and finally looked comfortable on the offensive end for the first time in a while. After the last Miller jumper, UMass found themselves down just five (30-25), but then seemed to lose all rhythm. Stukes, who paced the Explorers with thirteen pointers, was a menace penetrating the lane and distributing as he hit Tony Washington for a two handed dunk stretching the lead back to double digits (35-25). At this point, things really began to spiral out of control as B.J Johnson (15 points) and Isaiah Deas catalyzed a 17-2 run to end the half and go into the break with a 47-27 lead.
The second half was more of the same as the Minutemen continued to struggle from the field and failed to reduce the lead under twenty points until finally finding some flow about halfway through the second. The closest the minutemen would get would be eighteen (70-52) thanks to a much better second half from Luwane Pipkins who finished with twenty-five points. The largest advantage for the Explorers was thirty (68-38) and the game finally concluded with a final score of 87-72. The Minutemen got solid performances from Ray Miller who scored a season high in conference play of nine points as well Malik Hines who had eleven points and seven rebounds. Pipkins was eventually able to get it going but him and Pierre still struggled thanks to a very stingy inverse triangle and two zone defense. On the other hand, La Salle was paced by an extremely equal scoring output as Stukes recorded twenty-two, and Deas as well as Tony Washington added ten apiece B.J Johnson led La Salle with twenty six points and showed why he is an NBA caliber talent through his scoring arsenal of mid range jumpers over contesting defenders and aggressive drives.
Overall, the talent difference was very evident and is starting to become a major issue for UMass at the point in the season. They exceeded expectations early, but now the harsh reality is setting in. The next contest is Saturday, January 27th, at the Fordham Rams
Final Score: 87-72
Record: 10-11 (3-5)
Team Stats: UMass La Salle
Field Goals: 25-52 (48.1%) 33-60 (55.0%)
3 Point Field Goals: 10-23 (43.5%) 7-20 (35.0%)
Free Throws: 12-20 (60.0%) 14-20 (70%)
Rebounds: 23 (6) 35 (8)
Assists: 12 17
Turnovers: 14 8