Win over La Salle gives UMass a spot in A-10 tourney

By David Brinch

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team needs to do one thing in order to make it into the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Win – sooner, rather than later.

The Minutemen (10-18, 4-10 A-10) take on La Salle in their final regular season road contest this Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Tom Gola Arena, in hopes of clinching the final spot in the conference tournament.

UMass can clinch a spot with a victory over the Explorers (11-17, 3-11 A-10) or with a win over Rhode Island on Saturday, two opponents the Minutemen have already faced this season but have had little success against.

If the team loses both games, it could get in if Saint Joseph’s loses either of its remaining games against George Washington or the Explorers. Both the Explorers and Hawks are tied for 12th place in the A-10, while the Minutemen sit in 11th place.

The two most active scorers in A-10 history will square off in UMass’ Ricky Harris and the Explorers’ Rodney Green, who have scored 1,858 and 1,872 points, respectively, throughout their collegiate careers.

Harris is second in the A-10 in scoring average with 18.9 points per game, while Green is third with 18.3.

The Minutemen saw their four-game winning streak against Dayton come to an end on Saturday in the way of a 96-68 defeat.

The Flyers made a season-best 13 3-pointers while shooting 46 percent from the field, while freshman forward Terrell Vinson led the Minutemen with 16 points. Harris saw his stretch of 37-straight games scoring in double figures come to an end, as he was held to nine points, a season low.

The Flyers are in seventh place in the A-10, right behind the Rams, and have an 8-6 conference record.

The Explorers are coming off a 65-53 loss to No. 20 Temple on Sunday, as Green scored 21 points on 10-of-23 shooting in 29 minutes.

UMass and the Explorers have met 23 times, with the Minutemen holding the all-time series advantage, 13-10. But the Minutemen have dropped their past three games against La Salle, including this year on Jan. 10 at Springfield’s MassMutual Center.

The Explorers used an 18-5 run in the second half to get rid of a seven point deficit, as UMass was outscored 16-10 in the final five minutes of play. The Minutemen were coming off their first A-10 victory of the year against Fordham, and went on to drop its next four contests.

Freshman guard Freddie Riley led all scorers with 22 points, going 6-of-14 from 3-point range, while Harris finished with 17 points. Green was held to 17 points, but La Salle used the contest to give it momentum in a win against GW three days later.

Along with Green, who is third in the conference in assists with 4.3 per game, the Explorers are led by Kimmani Barrett (13.3 ppg) and Aaric Murray. Murray is 14th in the league with 6.5 rpg.

David Brinch can be reached at [email protected]