Despite a 30-point performance from redshirt sophomore Jordan Price, La Salle fell 66-59 at UMass on Sunday evening, dropping to 13-10 on the year and 5-5 in league play, eighth in the conference standings.
While Price was red-hot from the floor, the Explorers were colder than the frigid New England weather, shooting just 36.4 percent from the field, hitting just eight of 25 shots in the second half.
La Salle, which trailed by seven at half, did not score second half point until the 15:21 mark on two free throws by Price. The Georgia native scored the next 12 points for the Explorers, singlehandedly cutting UMass’ lead to four with eight minutes, 37 seconds left in the game.
Explorers head coach Dr. John Giannini thought his team put up a good fight against UMass in the second period, despite the poor shooting performance.
“I thought we really played hard in the second half,” Giannini said. “Their big guys are really good and made it hard on Jerrell (Wright). I think if we could’ve made a couple more free throws and if Jerrell had a little more success, we played good enough defense to win in the second half.
“We started the game as bad as we probably could.”
Despite taking an early 5-4 lead, La Salle gave up a 13-1 run to the Minutemen, thanks mainly to three three-point buckets from UMass freshman Donte Clark. Clark finished the game with 23 points, finishing just short of his career-high 25 points that came in an early game this season versus Florida Gulf Coast University.
In the opening 20 minutes, La Salle put up 30 shots, including nine threes, but was only able to connect on 12 attempts. It didn’t get much better for the Explorers in the next half, shooting an abysmal 32 percent.
Price, who came into this contest averaging 16.0 points per game, went 10-of-20 from the field, outscoring the rest of the team by one point. After him, the next highest point scorer was redshirt junior Khalid Lewis, who finished with eight points.
Giannini said a lot of issues in this one were mental, and stemmed from the tremendous work ethic of the Minutemen.
“They run so hard, and had so much success in transition, at their place and at our place,” he said. “It’s all our guys heard about for the past 3-4 days. We worked on it, we’ve played other running teams, but for some reason UMass is able to just really push the ball down the court against us.
“For two straight games now we don’t seem to have an answer.”
On the defensive side of the ball, there were many times when UMass had run down the shot clock, only to get fouled by La Salle.
“Those are daggers,” Giannini said when referring to the late fouls. “We tell our guys fouling is not good defense, but a lot of those instances they (UMass) deserve credit. They were patient, kept attacking, and were smart. Part of that is our fault, but they also deserve a lot of credit for that.”
The Explorers will look to bounce back this Wednesday when they travel to Virginia Commonwealth University for another major Atlantic 10 matchup.