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

Noah Fernandes leads Minutemen charge in win over Saint Louis

Fernandes finished with a season-high 26 points
Dylan Nguyễn/Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team opened the new year with a victory over Saint Louis on Wednesday. The Minutemen (10-4) shot efficiently from beyond the arc, making up for their slightly lower field goal percentage from the floor. The Billikens (9-6) shot a higher percentage from the floor but failed to stop UMass from pouring in threes that kept the game just out of reach.

The Minutemen centered their offense around veteran point guard Noah Fernandes, who scored a season-high 26 points. He also guarded the Billikens’ star point guard Yuri Collins, who ran their offense and recorded a double-double.

“All summer, all year I think the coaches have done a good job of getting on me about defense and guarding the ball,” Fernandes said. “They also push me on offense, and tell me to be aggressive, and do the things that I do.”

Fernandes shot efficient on all levels against Saint Louis: He shot 7of-9 from the field, 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and 9-of-10 from the free throw line.

“I got to be careful how I say this because I don’t want it to sound demeaning to the other guys, but it’s a big difference with our team when Noah is on the court and when he’s not on the court,” said Minutemen head coach Frank Martin.

Newcomer RJ Luis tied for the second biggest scoring contribution of the night for the home team, adding 11 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot. UMass was also boosted by freshman forward Tafara Gapare, who added eight points and six rebounds and five blocks.

Fellow freshman Keon Thompson contributed to the scoring totals as well with seven points in seven minutes. Martin told media that Thompson spent the last couple days working 1-on-1 with assistant coach Brian Steele after not playing up to his standard the past few games. In the past three games, Thompson scored four total points.

“All three freshmen played with a lot of courage and definitely made plays to help us there,” Martin said.

UMass stopped any solid Saint Louis comeback attempt with its three-point shooting. The Minutemen shot over 47 percent from three, making 10-of-21 attempts.

The Billikens relied heavily on their point guard Yuri Collins offensively, as they have all season. Martin’s focus coming into Wednesday’s game centered around preventing him from making plays.

“He’s a handful,” Martin said. “If you turn him loose to his right hand, he never makes the wrong decision. It’s incredible. He’s as good as I’ve coached against as far as passing the ball off a ball screen. He doesn’t turn it over.”

Collins scored 16 points, shooting 85 percent from the floor, and 80 percent from the free throw line. He also dished out 10 assists, something he does better than anyone in the country. He averages 10.6 assists per game, almost two assists more than any other player in Division I.

“There’s guys with feel [for the game] and then there’s guys like him,” said Saint Louis head coach Travis Ford in a Sports Illustrated article.

The Minutemen head to the nation’s capital for a matchup against George Washington on Saturday, Jan. 7. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m., the game is on USA Network.

Judah Katz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at judah_katz.

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