By Kevin McCaskill Jr.
1/27/22 * 1:55 PM
(PHILADELPHIA via FOREST PARK) - Last night the Minutemen from UMass-Amherst took on the Explorers from LaSalle. This matchup was an Atlantic-10 conference game. Both teams came into the game 1-5 in the A-10.
UMass was missing starter Noah Fernandes. Without Fernandes in the lineup, the Minutemen needed a big performance from graduate transfer Rich Kelly.
Rick Kelly started off slow but hit multiple big shots in the second half to propel UMass to victory. Kelly scored 21 points and dished out six assists.
Trent Buttrick scored 16 points for the Minutemen; TJ Weeks had a double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Josh Nickelberry scored 18 points for LaSalle.
UMass was down 42-32 at halftime. In the first half, the Minutemen weren’t contesting shooters or closing out on shooters properly. On offense, the Minutemen relied on isolation baskets. When they ran offensive sets, they got no production.
Early in the second half, UMass went on a 13-0 run to get back in the game.
Rich Kelly finally got going in the second. He hit a deep three to narrow the lead 59-56. The next three he hit put UMass ahead 64-62.
Kelly was also the recipient of a favorable call on a loose-ball foul. He split the FTs.
Kelly hit a floater to put UMass up 69-64. He also made a nice pass to Jahvon Garcia for a layup that untied the game and put UMass ahead 73-71.
Garcia played very good defense on Wednesday. He played well on the ball and in help defense. He scored 11 points. He was under control, on offense, most of the game.
LaSalle led by as many as 16 points on Wednesday. UMass has had trouble on the road under HC Matt McCall. Wednesday night’s win was a good statement for the rest of the season. The Minutemen were without their best player and down almost 20 points, on the road, and came back to win. Even though LaSalle is under .500 (6-11), a road win is a road win.
I still don’t understand McCall’s rotation and substitution patterns. Dyondre Dominguez and Kolton Mitchell have fallen out of the rotation again; they both didn’t play on Wednesday. Preston Santos played one minute. [I still don’t know why Santos missed the whole season last year].
UMass is now 9-10 overall and 2-5 in the A-10. They play George Mason on Sunday in Amherst. The game will be televised on USA Network. I’ll have a preview of the game on Twitter - @fps_413.