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 prevails over Saint Louis 84-73 for first road victory

Four Minutemen score in double figures
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2024)

Yet another matchup came down to the wire for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, this time resulting in victory. UMass won its first road game of the season after defeating Saint Louis 84-73 behind a physical effort on Saturday.

Multiple players whom UMass (13-7, 4-4 Atlantic 10) has depended on all season in clutch moments helped close out the game, with four Minutemen scoring in double digits. Matt Cross, who returned to the starting lineup, led all scorers with 19 points, five boards, five assists and two steals.

“Two days ago, their feelings were hurt,” head coach Frank Martin said of the close loss against Saint Joseph’s, “but we leaned on each other instead of blaming each other, we didn’t make excuses… showed a lot of courage, going on the road and having to win a league game on the road in front of a hostile crowd.”

Rahsool Diggins followed Cross in scoring, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal. Of Diggins’s 15, he netted 12 of them in the second half as his efforts helped to secure a win for UMass. The Billikens (8-12, 1-6 A-10) did not go down without a fight.

It was a slow start to the game for the Minutemen. They were down 18-9 to open the first half, but picked up momentum before halftime and took a lead they held for the remainder of the game.

Saint Louis matched the Minutemen bucket for bucket and attempted to keep them out of the paint, a place where UMass finds most of its success. The Billikens succeeded in the first half, as the Minutemen only had two points in the paint in the first 10 minutes. But as the game progressed, UMass found many opportunities and overcame the challenge, ending the game with 40 points in the paint.

Compared to the Billikens’ 26 in the paint, UMass’s win can be credited to the physicality they bring when driving to the net and retrieving rebounds. The Minutemen out-rebounded Saint Louis 38 to 29 and had 14 offensive rebounds that allowed them 10 more second-chance points than the Billikens.

As UMass struggled to get anything going at the beginning of the game, Keon Thompson gave the Minutemen a spark of life when he went on a run and scored eight straight points. This stretch for Thompson displayed how strong of a player he is and how tough it is to defend him once he finds a groove. Thompson ended the night with 14 points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Freshman Jaylen Curry was the last of the Minutemen to reach double digits with 11 points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal, getting into the double figures for the sixth time in eight conference games.

Daniel Hankins-Sanford, who was just two points shy of a double-double, was a force on defense and on the boards, as he finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Both Curry and Hankins-Sanford have become strong and consistent players for Martin since UMass entered conference play.

For Saint Louis, Gibson Jimmerson scored 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Larry Hughes II added 14 points on 4-for-6 from three, but fouled out late in the game. Bradley Ezewiro scored 12 points on 4-for-4 from the field. The Billikens shot well from beyond the arc and from the foul line, but couldn’t overcome UMass’ physicality on the boards.

The Minutemen had many three-point opportunities in the first half and as they were presented, UMass took them. Out of 22 three-point attempts, the Minutemen hit seven, six of those coming in the first half.

“They were not defending the perimeter, they were daring us to shoot the ball and we got a little trigger-happy in the first half, but they were open and sometimes you got to let them go,” Martin said.

After pulling off its first road win of the season and getting back to .500 in the Atlantic 10 standings, UMass now has a week off before returning to the Mullins Center to host George Mason for a noon game on Saturday, Feb. 3.

“Most teams in the country are not where we’re at. A lot of people would be willing to trade to have the spot that we got right now. We just got to keep our focus on the important things, that we’re a good team and we just have to take care of business and continue to push,” Martin explained as the team heads into the final 10 games of the season.

Samantha Sands can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @samantha_sands_.

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