by Kevin McCaskill Jr.
1/12/24 * 12:48 PM
(AMHERST, MA) - The La Salle Explorers traversed through inclement weather to play the UMass Minutemen, on Wednesday night, at The Mullins Center in Amherst, MA. The Minutemen were back at home after a 4-point loss @ Dayton. The Explorers won both matchups against the Minutemen last season.
The Minutemen got off to a slow start which isn’t rare at home. The Explorers kept the game close the entire half. The Minutemen had a one-point lead at halftime, 32-31.
In the first half, La Salle Guard Jhamir Brickus controlled the pace of the game. He posted up UMass Guards Keon Thompson and Rahsool Diggins. He slowed the game down when the Explorers had the ball.
In the second half, the game was still at a stalemate. Neither team was gaining ground.
In the middle of the second half, the Minutemen finally flipped the “offensive switch”. Josh Cohen led the way and started getting shots in the paint and getting fouled. Diggins and Thompson both hit important 3s down the stretch.
Matt Cross suffered a lower leg injury in the second half. He was fouled [not called] on a layup attempt and he landed awkwardly. He hobbled off the court, in the area between the playing floor and the stands.
The Minutemen maintained their lead with one of their leaders out. They also turned up their intensity on defense.
The Explorers’ mission in Hampshire County was thwarted by the Minutemen.
The Minutemen won 81-65 and earned their 2nd A10 conference victory.
Josh Cohen scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Rahsool Diggins scored 15 points. Daniel Hankins-Sanford had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
La Salle Forward Tunde Vahlberg Fasasi scored 14 points and also registered 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
After the game, La Salle HC Fran Dunphy, UMass players Josh Cohen and Daniel Hankins-Sanford, and UMass HC Frank Martin spoke with the media.
HC Dunphy: “I give great credit to UMass and how they played, in particular in the second half. Grateful for the relationship and the opportunity”.
Hankins-Sanford: “I kinda just put it in my head like, ‘If you don’t do anything, just go rebound’…”.
Cohen: “We got guys that can score…so I gotta be able to do other things than just score. I gotta defend and rebound…”.
HC Martin: “There’s two programs in the ‘80s and ‘90s, in south Florida…in our little pocket where we grew up in, that piqued our interest: Georgetown — UMass…It’s one of the reason I enjoy having this job…”.
The Minutemen travel east to take on Rhode Island, this Saturday. The game starts @ 2 PM and can be seen on ESPN+.