Minutemen trounce Saint Joseph’s

By Jay Asser

Maria Uminski/Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team used defense and a balanced attack to win its second-straight game, 69-51, against Atlantic 10 foe Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday at the Mullins Center.

The 51 points were the second fewest scored by the Hawks this season and the second fewest allowed by the Minutemen against any opponent this year.

“I thought we were tough on the defensive end of the floor, especially in the first half,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.

Senior and leading-scorer Anthony Gurley led the way for UMass, scoring 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range. Gurley also chipped in six rebounds to the 41 total boards for the Minutemen (29 defensive, 12 offensive) in the contest. The performance marked the first time the guard recorded over 20 points in a game since scoring 21 in a win over Rhode Island on Jan. 30.

“I felt pretty comfortable that he was going to get to the basket tonight, especially when he started making, what you would say, those flip shots or floaters,” Kellogg said of Gurley. “He carried over what he did in the second half of Rhode Island and played a good game tonight.”

Coming out in the second half, Gurley poured in a 3-pointer, a floater in transition and a layup to score in UMass’ first three possessions, picking up where he left off in the opening period. With 17 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the game, Gurley (19 points) was outscoring Saint Joseph’s (17 points) on his own.

The Minutemen, however, went cold after a Hashim Bailey layup with 13:55 left in the contest, not scoring again for nearly seven minutes until the 7:14 mark. Gurley broke UMass out of the slump with a connection from deep, but not before the Hawks scored 10 consecutive points to cut the deficit to 15 points.

Nevertheless, the Minutemen maintained their lead down the stretch to earn the victory.

“Our guys showed a little bit of maturity to where we didn’t cave in or fold in the second half,” Kellogg said. “I thought we fought all the way to the end.”

The first half proved to be an ugly one for Saint Joseph’s as it managed only 15 points on 4-for-23 shooting from the field and 1-for-13 from long range. UMass clamped down on defense in the paint, allowing six points to the Hawks while scoring 22 on the offensive end.

After a slow start, the Minutemen scored 22 points in the final 10 minutes of the opening half to take a 34-15 lead into the intermission. After back-to-back and 1’s by Gurley and Vinson (on a dribble and dish from Gary Correia), UMass built a 20-4 lead to create separation between itself and Saint Joseph’s. The ball movement was encouraging for the Minutemen, who dished 10 assists on their 13 made field goals for the period.

The Hawks finally converted their first field goal with eight minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the opening half after misfiring on 13 consecutive shots.

With the victory, UMass improves to 15-11 overall and goes over .500 in conference play to 7-6. Saint Joseph’s, meanwhile, drops to 7-20 overall and 2-11 in the A-10, making them the only team in league with 20 losses.

The Minutemen aren’t looking at Wednesday’s win as any special achievement, as Gurley sees a lot of change that needs to happen.

“We’re not satisfied yet, we still have a lot of improvement to do,” Gurley said.

With three games left, Correia isn’t putting his money down on one result or another, and that UMass’ season is totally up in the air.

“Hopefully we can play these last three games, make a run at it and see what happens from there,” Correia said.

UMass will return to action on Sunday on the road against La Salle before returning home for its final contest at the Mullins Center against Temple.

Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]