Courtesy of GoExplorers.com
AMHERST, Mass. – The La Salle University men’s basketball team held Massachusetts, the top-scoring team in the Atlantic 10, nearly 18 points below its season average en route to a 69-60 victory in the league opener for both schools on Saturday. The win at Mullins Center was the first for La Salle at the venue in nearly a decade (Jan. 24, 2009) and marked the second straight season that the Explorers have began A-10 play with a win.
“I”m really proud of our guys,” head coach Ashley Howard said. “I felt like our time off and our preparation going into this game really helped us play against a tough UMass team. I’m just proud of the way our guys came out and fought and didn’t quit. It was a back and forth game. We got down, our guys didn’t hold their heads, they continued to get stops and rebounds. All their hard work paid off for them. I’m proud of them.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- A three-pointer from junior Saul Phiri, who led the Explorers with 20 points, bumped the team’s lead to 11-6 with just over 16 minutes remaining in the opening period.
- La Salle remained in front over the next nine minutes, with a jumper from junior Traci Carter putting the score at 17-12 with 9:30 on the clock.
- Nine straight points, including five from Carl Pierre, gave the home team a 21-17 lead at the 6:25 mark.
- The Explorers entered the locker room trailing by a two-point margin despite leading scorer Pookie Powellnot scoring a single point.
- Powell broke the dry spell early in the second stanza, converting on a hoop as he was fouled to tie the game at 29-29.
- The basket gave the Orlando, Fla. native 1,000 for his La Salle career.
- Sophomore David Beatty and Carter capped a 6-0 spurt to begin the period and opened up a 33-29 lead for the visitors with 15:48 to go.
- The game was nip-and-tuck throughout the second half, with neither team establishing more than a five-point cushion until the final minute.
- A dunk from freshman Jack Clark closed a run of five straight points for the Explorers just past the midway point of the second half.
- UMass responded with five consecutive points of its own to knot the game at 44-44 with 6:40 showing on the clock.
- Luwane Pipkins, the second-leading scorer in the A-10 who was held to 3-for-16 shooting on the game, connected on a three-pointer and hit two free throws to give the Minutemen a 49-46 advantage just past the five-minute mark.
- Powell answered with an old-fashioned three-point play and, after a layup by Pipkins at the other end, a big three-pointer from Beatty established a one-point lead for the Explorers.
- It was a lead La Salle would not relinquish, as the team converted 15 of its 17 free throws over the final 1:39 to seal the win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Phiri was matched up primarily on Pipkins throughout the contest and held him to 15 points, nearly five points below his season average.
- Clark closed with nine points and six rebounds off the bench.
- La Salle forced UMass into 18 turnovers and did not allow the Minutemen to establish a rhythm offensively.
- Phiri, in addition to his 20 points, had six rebounds and four steals, a new career high.
- Powell closed with 17 points, all of which came in the second half, and now has 1,015 in his two-plus seasons at La Salle.
- The Explorers continue their two-game road swing to start A-10 play with a trip to Richmond, Va. to take on VCU.
- The contest is set for Wednesday, Jan. 9 beginning at 7:00 p.m., and will be shown live on ESPN+.