PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/30/2019 – The La Salle Explorers were looking for a sweep of the Atlantic 10 series against the Massachusetts Minutemen, and got it with a 60 – 51 win.
The temperature outside of the Gola Arena was 12 degrees at game time. UMass was matching the air temperature in shooting percentage. At halftime their field goal percentage was 20.5% making 8 of 39 attempts. Similarly, the three-point shooting was 18.8%, 3 of 16. For the game the Minutemen were an icy 22.4% (15 of 67), and 4 of 23 from distance (17.4%), their lowest shooting percentage of the season.
Was the polar vortex the reason? La Salle coach Ashley Howard feels it was his team’s defense.
“We didn’t lose the defensive fire,” said La Salle Coach Ashley Howard.
“I think we have been getting better defensively. We haven’t had a forty minute effort. We had stretches where we have been unbelievable. Today, was the best forty minute effort. I was proud that our guys were able to battle it out until the end.”
The Minutemen 51 points tied their lowest output for the season. It also tied the Explorer lowest total points allowed this year as well.
By contrast in the first half the Explorers were a downright balmy 42% from the field and 53.8% from distance. For the game the hosts cooled off but finished shooting 34% from the floor and 35% from three-point land.
Forward Saul Phiri had a game-high 14, and 12 of his points came from beyond the arc where he was 4 of 8. Isiah Deas scored 12 points and all of his baskets were three-pointers.
“Being confident the whole game,” Phiri said as the reason for his offensive performance. “My coaches trust me, my teammates trust me, they said don’t worry about missing.”
Rashaan Holloway had a team-high 13 points for Massachusetts to go along with a career-best 13 rebounds. UMass outrebounded La Salle by a 51 – 43 margin, and 24 – 11 on the offensive glass. The Minutemen had a 17 – 2 advantage in second chance points which kept them in striking distance.
The Explorers led by 45 – 39 with just under 8 minutes to play, then extended the lead to 52 – 39 three minutes later behind a 7 – 0 run. UMass climbed back scoring the next six points. La Salle got the dagger three-pointer from Phiri that went through the hoop as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 2 minutes remaining.
David Beatty broke double-figures for the Blue and Gold getting 11 points. Forward Ed Croswell scored 9 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
La Salle improves to 5 – 14 and 3 – 4 in the conference. The team goes to Richmond before returning home to meet city rival Saint Joseph’s at the Gola Arena. The team hopes to continue the trend started in this game, playing 40 minutes of La Salle basketball.
“We talk about playing forty minutes,” Howard said. “Today was the first game where we played forty minutes of our basketball from start to finish, defending, rebounding and scrapping.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian