UMass men’s hoop loses Jesse Morgan, drops A-10 opener
Massachusetts' Chaz Williams, right, collides with Saint Louis' Jordair Jett and Dwayne Evans, left, while reaching for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Purchase photo reprints »
Massachusetts' Raphiael Putney yells after being fouled during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Louis, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Purchase photo reprints »
Massachusetts' Terrell Vinson, center, heads to the basket between Saint Louis' Rob Loe, left, and Dwayne Evans during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Purchase photo reprints »
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team hung in against Saint Louis through foul trouble and an injury to Jesse Morgan Thursday night, but the Minutemen could not survive a late scoring drought.
UMass scored just eight points in the last 9 minutes, 26 seconds and fell 70-62 to the Billikens in the Atlantic 10 opener for both teams at Chaifetz Arena.
The Minutemen lost Morgan to a right knee injury early in the second half, leaving them without their No. 2 scorer in a game where they needed points. After the game Morgan was diagnosed with a sprained knee. He will be re-evaluated daily.
With 9:26 left, Chaz Williams hit a long 3-pointer that put the UMass ahead 54-50, but Saint Louis, which has built a reputation as one of the nation’s best defensive programs, dug in and went on a 12-2 run. The Billikens capped the run with three free throws by Cody Ellis on Raphiael Putney’s fifth foul.
The Minutemen still had a chance late. Trailing 64-60, Freddie Riley got an open look at a 3-pointer from the left corner that rimmed out with 2:22 remaining. UMass never got closer as Saint Louis pulled away.
“When he didn’t make that one, I thought the momentum went back to them,” Minuteman coach Derek Kellogg said. “Every loss hurts. To see the kids play their hearts out and not come away with a victory is a little bit draining for us.”
The loss wasted the best game of Cady Lalanne’s sophomore season. With Morgan out and several teammates in foul trouble, UMass desperately needed a spark and got it from Lalanne. He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“Cady showed what I was expecting from him when the season started,” Kellogg said. “I expect him to be a double-double guy.”
Williams had 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“This loss weighs heavy on my shoulders,” Williams said. “Being the leader, I’m supposed to make some of those plays down the stretch. We’re going to learn from this and move forward ... We let it slip away. We all understand that. We’re looking forward to the next game.”
The Minutemen (10-4, 0-1 Atlantic 10) will stay on the road for a game at Fordham at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Rob Loe led the Billikens (12-3, 1-0 A-10) with a career-high 20 points and seven rebounds.
UMass survived some foul trouble in the first half. Morgan picked up two fouls before the game was two minutes old. Terrell Vinson joined him two less than two minutes later. Before the half was out, Williams and Putney also had each picked up a pair of whistles.
Lalanne gave the Minutemen a lift off the bench in the first half with eight points and five rebounds, but Saint Louis, helped by seven offensive rebounds and 14 points by Loe, led 35-32 at halftime.