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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 5, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mullins Center (10,500) -- Amherst, Massachusetts. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: La Salle 8-2. UMass 9-0. Away Record: La Salle 2-5. UMass 4-3. Neutral Record: La Salle 2-2. UMass 4-1. Conference Record: La Salle 4-3. UMass 4-3. Series Record: Massachusetts leads, 15-14.
GAME NOTES: Having recently been bounced from the national rankings, the Massachusetts Minutemen will try to put the brakes on a two-game slide when they host the La Salle Explorers in Atlantic 10 Conference action on Wednesday night.
La Salle recently stopped a losing streak of its own, as a 71-63 triumph over visiting Duquesne last Saturday ended a three-game slide. Prior to their recent struggles, the Explorers had won five in a row. As it stands, La Salle is 12-9 overall and is tied with UMass and Richmond for fifth place in the conference standings, each with a 4-3 record. The Explorers have lost their two road games, and are just 2-5 in true road tilts this season.
The Minutemen had been cruising along, wining game after game, but a recent downturn in production has cost them dearly. As mentioned, UMass has lost two in a row and three of its last four to fall to 17-4 overall. The team's most recent setback occurred this past Saturday at Saint Joseph's, 73-68, and its previous loss a few days earlier at St. Bonaventure (78-65). The Minutemen are obviously happy to be home where they've gone 9-0 this season.
UMass leads the all-time series with La Salle by the slimmest of margins, 15-14, but the Explorers have won seven of the last nine meetings.
Despite being three games over .500 at the moment, the Explorers are putting up nearly the same number of points as their enemies (69.8 to 68.6 ppg). They are shooting just 41.3 percent from the field, and boast three double-digit scorers in the form of Tyreek Duren (14.6 ppg, 3.6 apg), Tyrone Garland (14.1 ppg, 2.5 apg) and Jerrell Wright (12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Steve Zack (9.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg) is actually close to averaging a double-double for La Salle, which beat Duquesne the last time out despite hitting a mere 38.1 percent of its total shots, which included a 7-of-27 effort from 3-point range. All five starters reached double figures in the win, led by Zack with 16 points, and he pulled down 16 boards as well. Garland finished with a line of 11 points, six assists and five caroms, the Explorers logging a 47-38 rebounding advantage, as well as a 16-9 edge in points from the foul line.
UMass has been highly efficient through the first few months of the season, averaging 77.4 ppg in dropping 47.1 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 36.9 percent showing from beyond the arc. Defensively, the squad allows 69.8 ppg, with foes hitting only 41.0 percent of their total shots, with just 29.3 percent of their long-range launches finding the bottom of the net. Turnovers have hurt the team at times, as it commits 14 miscues per outing, and that was the case in the recent loss to Saint Joseph's, as 15 giveaways led to 18 points for the home team. Derrick Gordon led the way for the Minutemen with 21 points on a a stellar 10-of-13 shooting effort, while Chaz Williams finished with a double-double consisting of 16 points and 10 assists. A 25-12 deficit in points from the foul line hurt the squad's chances. Williams continues to shine for UMass, as he is now averaging 15.7 points and 7.4 assists per game, and three others join him in double digits.
The Explorers aren't about to hand this one to the home team, but the Minutemen are better than they've shown recently, and with a perfect 9-0 mark at the Mullins Center, they should be able to get back on track this evening.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 72, La Salle 65
02/05 10:33:16 ET