Massachusetts (13-5) at La Salle (14-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 30, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tom Gola Arena (3,400) -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Television: None. Home Record: UMass 6-2. La Salle 9-1. Away Record: UMass 5-1, La Salle 5-4. Neutral Record: UMass 2-2, La Salle 0-0. Conference Record: UMass 3-2, La Salle 4-2. Series Record: Series is tied, 14-14.
GAMES NOTES: The giant killing La Salle Explorers will return to Tom Gola Arena on Wednesday night to face off with the Massachusetts Minutemen in an Atlantic-10 Conference battle.
A 70-65 win over Richmond on Sunday helped UMass bounce back from a humbling loss at home to George Washington. The victory was the third in the last four games for the Minutemen who are 13-5 overall, wile managing to fight to 3-2 in league play. That is tied for just seventh in the conference currently. UMass has been excellent on the road where it has five wins in six trips. The Minutemen will also play an away contest against Charlotte next.
After stunning then No. 9 Butler (54-53), La Salle went into Richmond and knocked off a second top 25 opponent on Saturday with a 69-61 win over then No. 19 VCU. The Explorers have won four of their last five games overall and are now 14-5 on the season including a 4-2 mark against league foes. That conference record has the Explorers a half game ahead of UMass and in a five- way tie for second place. Next up La Salle will venture out to play George Washington.
The Explorers have won seven of the last eight meetings between these squads, including a series sweep a year ago. The recent string of wins has allowed the Explorers to even the all-time series at 14 wins a piece.
There were four ties and just as many lead changes in the second half of UMass' battle with Richmond. The Minutemen took the lead for good with 2:11 left when they pulled ahead by one on a pair of Sampson Carter free throws after Carter was fouled after collecting an offensive rebound. UMass then turned up the heat on defense and forced the Spiders to miss their last nine field goal attempts.
Relying on defensive strength has not been a luxury that UMass has had this season. The Minutemen are allowing 71.8 points per game on the campaign in large part because of the torrid offensive pace they run themselves. UMass is the third highest scoring team in the A-10 (72.8 ppg) despite shooting just 41.7 percent from the field. Ball movement is key for the Minutemen who hand out the third most assists in the conference (14.6 pg). Chaz Williams (16.4 ppg, 7.2 apg) has been the driving force for the Minutemen both as a scorer and distributor. The 5-foot-9 guard leads the A-10 in assists and is fifth in scoring. With Jesse Morgan (13.4 ppg) out for the year with a torn ligament in his knee Terrell Vinson (11.5 ppg) is now the second best option.
La Salle went into halftime leading 34-25 against VCU. The Explorers then allowed the Rams to rip off a 17-0 run to open the second half. The Explorers weren't ready to quit though, as a 22-7 run pushed La Salle back up by seven and an 8-of-8 effort from the free-throw line allowed the Explorers to hold on.
On the offensive end La Salle has been right in line with UMass as the Explorers score at a 71.6 points per game rate while shooting a superior 44.1 percent from the floor. La Salle has been rather weak on the boards (32.9 pg) ranking among the bottom four teams in the league. La Salle does have more success than the Minutemen on defense as the Explorers let up 65.1 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting. Ramon Galloway (17.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Tyreek Duren (14.5 ppg, 3.4 apg) have been tremendous in the backcourt for La Salle with their ability to score and find open teammates. The duo are also disruptive on the defensive end as each collects more than two steals a game. Jerrell Wright (10.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the best interior threat, while Tyrone Garland (13.1 ppg) provides a spark off the bench.
With Galloway and Duren in the backcourt the Explorers will have no trouble handling Williams and keeping the Minutemen at bay. Expect La Salle to keep on rolling.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: La Salle 72, Massachusetts 65
01/30 10:39:21 ET