La Salle 72, UMass 51

No-show job by UMass

La Salle makes easy work of Minutemen

By Jon Marks
Globe Correspondent / February 28, 2011

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PHILADELPHIA — The bus ride back to Amherst must have seemed like an eternity, after UMass dug a hole for itself that would only get deeper in a brutal 72-51 loss to La Salle yesterday at Tom Gola Arena.

Perhaps along the way, Derek Kellogg’s troops took stock of themselves the way the Explorers did after getting waxed, 100-62, at Xavier last week. Maybe they came up with an explanation for why they shot just 17 for 57 (29.8 percent) while getting crushed on the boards, 57-33. That way, at least some good could come from such a painful experience.

“We’ll find out,’’ said Kellogg, noting it’s not every day your opponent can shoot just 35 percent, as La Salle did, yet still blow you out. “I’m confident it’s just a bump in the road.

“I didn’t scream or yell at them. I just told them, ‘Get on the bus and let’s get out of here. You should not be very happy with this performance. You got outrebounded by 24, which means we just got out-toughed.’

“That’s not our identity.’’

The Explorers (13-16, 5-9 Atlantic 10) will be hard-pressed to avoid their second straight losing season and 16th in the last 18. No wonder the Minutemen (15-12, 7-7), who won this season’s first meeting, 74-71, in January, weren’t expecting anything like this.

“We beat them before and thought we could beat them again,’’ said Raphiael Putney, who led UMass with 9 points, while leading scorer Anthony Gurley managed just 4 — 14 below his season average. “We came out and underestimated them. They made shots [in] the first half. They came out strong and we weren’t prepared.’’

Indeed, the Explorers hit 12 of their first 19 shots, going 6 for 8 from 3-point range for a 48-25 halftime lead that had Kellogg seething. But when UMass started the second half with back-to-back-to-back treys in the first 2:10, there were visions of a comeback.

Not for long, as La Salle answered at both ends, outscoring UMass, 23-6, over the next 13:55 to settle the matter. “We thought we could make a run,’’ said Gary Correia, whose two 3-pointers, which made it 48-34, turned out to be UMass’s last of the day. “We had opportunities. We just didn’t capitalize.

“You can’t come back without putting the ball in the hole. But at the time we didn’t get any stops, which is one thing we’ve been doing lately.’’

While Kellogg was quick to credit La Salle, he made it clear the Minutemen made things a lot easier for the Explorers.

“It’s frustrating, because we didn’t do the things we’d done when we started playing better,’’ said Kellogg, whose team hosts No. 24 Temple Wednesday. “It was one of those days where not one thing we tried — zone, man, pressing — made a difference.

“But I think La Salle had something to do with it. They came out and played like it was Senior Day. They came out with great energy. They made us take tough, bad shots on the offensive end, owned the boards, made more threes, and controlled the game for 40 minutes.’’