Wednesday’s Game at La Salle UMass basketball’s best chance at a road win

  • C.J. Kelly and the UMass men’s basketball team will look for their first road win of the season at 7 p.m. Wednesday at La Salle. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Matt McCall and the UMass men’s basketball team is aiming for its first road win of the season 7 p.m. Wednesday at La Salle. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2022 4:35:42 PM
Modified: 1/25/2022 4:34:35 PM

The bottom two teams in the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball standings will clash at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Philadelphia.

La Salle, No. 14 out of 14 teams, is accustomed to the basement. The Explorers have a mini fridge and everything after finishing in the conference’s bottom four each of the past few years. They are 1-5 in league games and have lost their past two games.

It’s unfamiliar territory of late for UMass, which finished fifth last year and eighth in 2019-20. But the Minutemen are 13th this season at 1-5 after an 0-4 start.

They haven’t won a road game yet, losing all five games by an average of 14.2 points. UMass (8-10, 1-5 A-10) is 1-8 away from the Mullins Center.

But La Salle’s Gola Arena has been more accommodating than most opposing gyms. UMass hasn’t lost there since Jan. 30, 2019, winning three games in a row.

The Explorers (6-10, 1-5) are an even 5-5 at home this season. They have the A-10’s third-worst offense (68.3 points per game) and No. 10 defense (78.3 per contest). La Salle is also the worst shooting team in the league, making just 41 percent of its baskets.

But the Explorers are the conference’s second-best rebounding team behind Saint Louis, which blasted UMass by 31 on Sunday, pulling down 39.3 boards per game. Their plus-12.3  margin also ranks third. The Minutemen are 12th pulling down 32.7 rebounds, and their opponents secure 3.2 more rebounds than they do, the 12th worst mark in the league.

La Salle does turn the ball over 14.1 times per game, the third-most in the A-10.

Clifton Moore averages 12.3 points per game to lead La Salle, but Josh Nickleberry is right behind him scoring 12.1 per contest. Moore is a 6-foot-10 center that grabs 6.8 rebounds per game, while Nickleberry makes 35.8 percent of his 3s, far and away the Explorers’ best mark of their volume shooters.

UMass, conversely, has the conference’s third-best offense (77 points per game). They’re still the nation’s fourth-best 3-point shooting team making 40.2 percent of their triples. Guard Rich Kelly is tied for first in the A-10 shooting 50.6 percent from 3.

The game will stream on ESPN-Plus.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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