Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hangs on to top Saint Louis for the first time since 1995

Photo by Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian
Photo by Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

Derek Kellogg’s always points to possession of “50/50” plays as an indicator of the Massachusetts men’s basketball team’s success.

And while Kellogg didn’t think his team got to all of them Sunday, Derrick Gordon delivered on one when it mattered most, sealing a 60-56 Minutemen victory over Saint Louis Sunday at Chaifetz Arena. It was UMass’ first victory over Saint Louis since 1995.

“We gutted out a win on the road,” Kellogg told reporters after the game. “Any time you can get a win in this league right now you just take it and try to move on and improve.”

Leading 58-56 with 18.2 seconds remaining, UMass (12-9, 5-3 Atlantic 10 Conference) allowed Billikens forward Austin Gillmann an open 3-point attempt from the wing on SLU’s final possession of the game. But Gillmann’s flat-lining shot glanced off the front of the rim and bounced toward the free throw line.

Two Saint Louis (9-12, 1-7 A-10) players converged on the loose ball, but Gordon won the race, reaching his left hand in between and batting the ball toward the opposite end of the court. He chased down the loose ball and glided in for a layup as time expired, securing the victory.

“Having a play like that, one that basically sealed the victory, definitely gave me a boost,” said Gordon, who scored only six points.

It was a plodding, methodical game where neither team sustained a significant lead. The pace was similar to UMass’ 62-56 loss to Saint Joseph’s earlier this month, a loss in which UMass couldn’t hold off a late Hawks surge on the road.

According to Minutemen center Cady Lalanne, they weren’t going to make the same mistakes twice.

“We took a lot from that St. Joe’s game and put it to this game,” Lalanne said. Especially for me, learning how to steal and work hard down there. (SLU) is a team that grinds you out.”

Lalanne led UMass with a team-high 14 points (5-of-7 shooting) and 10 rebounds. He anchored the post for significant durations on offense and was a calming offensive presence for a UMass team which shot only 39 percent from the floor and 25 percent on 3-pointers.

Kellogg said Lalanne’s recent emergence – he scored 18 points in a win over Dayton Thursday – is a product of a more natural involvement in the offense.

“I’m not trying to force the ball to him where the defense is set and they can run and trap him so quickly,” Kellogg said.

“We’re trying to move him a little bit and then give him a look. I think he’s been much better, not as a secondary option, but more of as a ‘When it’s there, we’re going to get it to you. We’re not just going to force feed.’ That’s enable him to get some better looks instead of us trying to jam it into him.”

If not for Lalanne, who had nine points in the first half and didn’t miss a shot, UMass would’ve been in trouble.

The Minutemen were just 1-of-9 on 3-pointers in the first frame and led 30-27 at halftime. SLU took a 37-34 lead early in the second half after a 7-0 run, but Lalanne responded, converting on an and-1 layup opportunity to tie the game.

It was the start of a 14-2 run. UMass guard Jabarie Hinds (10 points) had five points during the stretch and the Minutemen forced the Billikens to commit four turnovers while holding them scoreless for nearly five minutes.

Minutemen guard Trey Davis punctuated the run, nailing a corner 3-pointer as he was fouled off an inbounds play. He made the ensuing free throw and UMass took a 48-39 lead.

“I thought the out of bounds under play where Trey hit the 3 in the corner was about as big of a play in the game as you could’ve had,” Kellogg said.

But SLU responded, closing the gap to 56-54 on a layup by Mike Crawford (15 points) with one minute, 48 seconds left. Davis answered, hitting a mid-range jump shot to push the lead to 58-54 before Crawford answered with two free throws, setting up the final possession.

Kellogg believes his team is improving, but could’ve used a better closing instinct.

“We’re getting better,” he said. “At times during the game when it seems like we have it, we just need to grasp it and hold onto it instead of giving them a chance,” he said.

It’s the Minutemen’s second straight win. They return to action Wednesday on the road against Fordham.

“It feels good,” Lalanne said of the win. “Especially right now, we need these wins because we’re trying to climb back up the ranks in the conference. These wins feel good.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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