UMass storms past La Salle

Posted: February 07, 2014

AMHERST, Mass. - Facing the aftermath of a major New England winter storm and a Massachusetts basketball team that had lost three of its last four games, the La Salle Explorers entered the Mullins Center with a bit of trepidation.

The storm wasn't an issue. The Minutemen were a different story.

Five UMass players scored in double figures Wednesday night in a 79-67 Atlantic Ten victory over the Explorers.

"I thought UMass really frustrated us in the first half by beating us to a ton of loose balls and rebounds," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "We were trying. They were just quicker and giving greater effort going for the ball. It's really upsetting when another team does that to you.

"We couldn't stop them all night."

Jerrell Wright led the Explorers (12-10, 4-4) with 16 points, while Tyreek Duren had 13 on 5-for-16 shooting from the floor. Khalid Lewis came off the bench to score 10 points.

Guard Chaz Williams had 17 points and a game-high eight assists for the Minutemen (18-4, 5-3).

Before the game, Giannini thought his team might be in for a long night.

"I always expect the other team to play well and give a great effort. I could see it in warm-ups," the La Salle coach said. "Their warm-ups were focused, they were serious, they were together. They looked like a veteran team that knew they needed to win this game. They had that look, and they certainly gave that effort."

UMass, as has been its nasty habit all season, started somewhat slowly. A little less than five minutes in, the game was tied at 7.

Buoyed by a home crowd of 4,345 that came out on a night when upward of 10 inches of snow fell in Western Massachusetts, UMass went on an 11-4 run and never trailed again. Derrick Gordon, who scored 12 points, started the run on a drive to the basket and Trey Davis hit the first of his three three-point hoops to close it. Three minutes after the score was tied, UMass led, 18-11.

Massachusetts began to pull away in the later stages of the first half. Duren hit a pair of treys to stem the tide and the second three-pointer made it 41-27 with 42 seconds left. Davis scored the final two points at the buzzer, and the Explorers found themselves down by 43-27 at the break.

That's not, by any measure, an insurmountable margin. It is usually incumbent on the team trailing to come out of the gate fast. That was something the Explorers couldn't do.

UMass got the ball first and Steve Zack fouled Sampson Carter. Carter made both free throws. Then, after Duren missed a shot, Cady Lalanne got the defensive rebound and Gordon finished. So instead of cutting into UMass' lead, the Explorers found themselves down by 20 points.

"At that point, we were giving good effort on a couple of plays," Giannini said. "They're a good team. That was key, that was absolutely key."

After shooting 9 of 30 from the floor in the first half, La Salle was a much-improved 16 of 33 in the second. The Explorers were hurt by shooting 5 of 15 from behind the three-point arc compared with UMass' 7 of 13.

Things don't get easier for the Explorers, who have games against St. Louis and St. Joseph's in the next 10 days. Giannini said that's a tough road, but at least the games will be at home.

"What everyone in this league does is win at home," he said. "We've won at home for a long time. We've won 85 to 90 percent of our home games. That's what this league is coming down to right now."

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