×

UMass looking to avoid let down against La Salle

  • UMass coach Matt McCall, center, directs players Dec. 9, 2017 during a basketball game against Providence at the Mullins Center in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Chris Baldwin, top right, of UMass, shoots against La Salle, Sunday at the Mullins Center. Gazette STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Luwane Pipkins, right, of UMass, and Johnnie Shuler, of La Salle, dive for a loose ball Sunday at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • La Salle's B.J. Johnson with the free throw attempt during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Villanova, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Philadelphia. Villanova won 89-79. AP

  • La Salle's B.J. Johnson in action during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Miami, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, in Reading, PA. AP

  • La Salle guard B.J. Johnson (20) in action during an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Philadelphia. AP

  • La Salle head coach John Giannini yells at his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler at the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, Friday, March 15, 2013, in New York. Butler won 69-58. AP

  • La Salle's Pookie Powell in action during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Miami, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, in Reading, PA. AP

  • La Salle guard Pookie Powell (0) in action during an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Philadelphia. AP

  • La Salle’s Pookie Powell (left) and B.J. Johnson (right) are the No. 6 and No. 1 scorers in the Atlantic 10 respectively. The Explorers play at UMass, Wednesday. AP



@MattVautourDHG
Tuesday, January 09, 2018

AMHERST — There’s no jumping from peak to peak, according to UMass coach Matt McCall. No shortcut from winning at Dayton Saturday to beating La Salle when the Explorers visit the Mullins Center, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“It would be nice to build off Saturday, but you have to go all the way back down to the bottom of the mountain,” he said. “We were at high on Saturday, but we have to go all the way back down and prepare again to play one of the most talented teams in our league.”

The Minutemen have fallen into that trap before, dropping a home game to Georgia State after back-to-back wins over Providence and Georgia.

“La Salle is good. They have a lot of talent. We have to come in, stay together and not fall into that trap,” UMass sophomore guard Luwane Pipkins said. “They’re a scrappy team. We’re a scrappy team. We have to play to our identity.”

Senior guard C.J. Anderson will be back in the lineup after being suspended for Saturday’s game. Senior Rashaan Holloway’s status remains unchanged. He’s not expected to play.

“C.J. is playing. How he plays will determine how much he plays,” McCall said. “He’s done what he’s supposed to do. It’s all behind us. It’s about going forward.”

Neither Anderson nor Holloway were available for interviews after Tuesday’s practice.

McCall said Anderson would come off the bench as he wanted to reward the starting five — Pipkins, Carl Pierre, Malik Hines, Chris Baldwin and Unique McLean — that helped lead the Minutemen (8-8, 1-2 Atlantic 10) past Dayton.

With Holloway out, freshman big man Khalea Turner-Morris could see additional minutes.

“I’m sorry he’s out, but I’m very eager (to contribute). I’m waiting on coach to call my number and I’ll be ready,” Turner-Morris said. “I’ve gotten more patient. At the beginning of the year I didn’t do that. I’m ready. I’ve worked hard. I feel like I’m ready to take another step.”

McCall said the coaching staff is trying to speed his progress.

“We chucked him in there early in the Dayton game, picked up a couple quick fouls and was late on a rebound that he probably could have gotten,” McCall said. “We have to do a good job at getting him better and getting him more prepared.”

La Salle (7-9, 1-2) opened conference play by hammering Saint Louis 83-60, but then dropped back-to-back games to Rhode Island and VCU.

The Saint Louis win and URI loss came without B.J. Johnson, who leads the Atlantic 10 with 21.2 points per game to go with his 8.9 rebounds. He missed three games, including a nonconference loss to Bucknell, with an ankle injury and returned with 15 points against VCU.

“He’s explosive. He can hurt you in so many different ways,” McCall said. “He’s good. He’s tough to guard.”

Pookie Powell is sixth in the league in scoring at 18.0 points per game. With Johnson out, he had 29 vs. Bucknell and 28 vs. Saint Louis. He’s had 24 or more in four of La Salle’s last five games.

“Pookie Powell is as talented as there is. He’s a prolific scorer,” McCall said. “You’re awareness has to be through the roof when the ball is in one of those guys’ hands. We have our work cut out for us.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage