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

RJ Luis’ 31 lead UMass past Duquesne in 87-79 win

Minutemen close the deal at the free throw line for second straight win
Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team slammed the door on a late comeback attempt by Duquesne to win 87-79 on Saturday at home.

The Minutemen (13-8, 4-5 Atlantic 10) were led by freshman RJ Luis, who closed the game at the free throw line, along with Dyondre Dominguez on the glass, who notched his first career double-double. The Dukes (14-8, 4-5 A-10) relied on its two starting guards Jimmy Clark III and Dae Dae Grant, who both finished with over 20 points.

An ascending star, Luis led the charge for UMass on a night without its two scoring leaders, veteran starters Noah Fernandes and Matt Cross. Fernandes and Cross both wound up out with injuries, and the Minutemen needed someone to pick up slack offensively.

Luis played with high energy and confidence from the opening tip, riding a 23-point offensive burst from the previous game against Richmond. His 31 points against Duquesne set a scoring season-high for UMass, and a career-high in his young career. No Minuteman had eclipsed 30 in a game since Tre Mitchell in 2020.

The true freshman also collected five rebounds, none more important than an offensive board following a missed free throw with 1:15 to go in regulation that stopped visitors from a chance at making it a one-possession game. Luis sank 15 free throws in the second half, finishing the game 17-for-18 from the stripe. It’s his 7th straight game with double-digit points.

The Dukes found themselves down 13 points with 11 minutes left in regulation and responded. Grant and Clark scored 12 each in the second half to keep the game within reach and put pressure back on UMass to close the door. Grant ended with a 23-point, 10-rebound double-double; Clark had 21 points, six rebounds and six steals.

“Duquesne is not easy to play against because of their nature defensively,” said UMass head coach Frank Martin.

Duquesne cut the deficit to five points multiple times down the stretch and forced the Minutemen to make shots from the charity stripe late in the second half. Luis strolled calmly to the line over and over, swishing free throw after free throw. His 17 made free throws dominated most of the scoring in the second half and made it impossible for any late-game comeback.

“RJ here shot like 20 [free throws], probably made all 20,” Dominguez said. “You just got to make both and get back on defense and continue to do the same thing to win the game.”

Dominguez provided huge rebounding help for the entire team in the absence of its leading rebounder Cross, who has averaged just under seven rebounds a game this season. Dominguez helped keep the Dukes away from the offensive glass, a big part of their success. The Minutemen outrebounded Duquesne 47-36 in the game.

Dominguez finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds on the day, shooting 75 percent from beyond the arc on four attempts.

Luis and Dominguez combined for over half UMass’ points, and helped each other create a memorable highlight in a fast break with 3:54 left in the second half. The Dukes relied heavily on full-court pressure throughout the game, trying to force turnovers and fouls to climb back into contention.

When the press finally broke down and the ball found its way to Dominguez, he looked up, saw Luis streaking for the basket, and lobbed a perfect pass towards the rim. Luis grabbed it and threw it down with two hands to send the crowd into a frenzy.

“I did it before a couple times with my friends,” Dominguez said. “I was like ‘hey let me try it’, and it worked. It’s probably one of the best plays I’ve seen here so far.”

UMass is back in action against George Mason on the road Wednesday, Feb. 1st. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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

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