After being held scoreless in his previous outing, La Salle guard Amar Stukes tied his career high in points. A graduate student, Stukes had 13 of his 22 points in the first half as La Salle owned a 20-point lead at intermission. From that point on, the Explorers coasted to an 87-72 win over Massachusetts in an Atlantic Ten game at Tom Gola Arena on Wednesday night.
La Salle improved to 9-12, 3-5 in the A-10, while UMass fell to 10-11, 3-5.
During Saturday’s 81-74 loss at Richmond, Stukes attempted just two shots in 33 minutes in going scoreless for the first time this season.
“Last game, I wasn’t aggressive and the outcome wasn’t good for our team and I knew I had to be more aggressive,” said Stukes, who shot 8 of 9 from the field, 2 of 3 from beyond the arc while hitting all four foul shots.
La Salle was led by B.J. Johnson, who scored 26 points and is rounding into form after an earlier ankle injury that sidelined him for five games.
This was his third game back and the second straight dominant performance for the 6-7 senior, who totaled 27 points and eight rebounds against Richmond.
“Obviously he [Johnson] is a terrific player and is getting better all the time,” said La Salle coach John Giannini, who was honored before the game for earning his 500th career win last week in a victory over Fordham. “I think he can play better in terms of defense and rebounding, he is so athletic and once his conditioning gets a little better, I think he will make even more plays.”
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) January 25, 2018
In the Explorers’ earlier 86-79 overtime loss at UMass on Jan. 10, La Salle led by as many as 21 points early in the second half.
This time, the Explorers never let their foot off the gas and were never threatened in the second half.
The win was more impressive, considering that La Salle played without second leading scorer Pookie Powell, who missed his first game of the season with a hamstring injury suffered at Richmond. A junior guard, Powell is averaging 18.6 points and scored a career-high 30 in the earlier loss at UMass.
In its earlier win over La Salle, UMass was led by 5-9 sophomore guard Luwane Pipkins, who set a Mullins Center record by scoring 44 points.
On Wednesday, Pipkins was primarily guarded by 6-4 sophomore Saul Phiri and was held to six points in first half. He would finish with 25 points, but this game was decided in the first 20 minutes.