Each week is different in the deep Atlantic Ten Conference, where few free rides are offered.

La Salle's basketball team discovered that firsthand.

After wins over A-10 heavyweights Butler and Virginia Commonwealth, La Salle saw its modest but impressive two-game streak snapped Wednesday night in a 61-60 loss to the University of Massachusetts at Tom Gola Arena.

The Explorers fell to 14-6 overall and 4-3 in the A-10. UMass improved to 14-5, 4-2.

"This league is a monster," La Salle coach John Giannini said. He added, "UMass is tough, the league is tough, and last week is over."

Tyreek Duren hit a driving layup for a 60-59 La Salle lead with 38 seconds left.

UMass regained the lead when point guard Chaz Williams scored on a layup with 8.1 seconds remaining.

"You couldn't guard it worse," Giannini said of Williams' layup. "They set a screen, and he went for a layup, and nobody stopped him or was even close to stopping him."

Williams' eyes got big as he prepared to drive.

"I saw [the lane] open like a big open sea," Williams said.

Out of timeouts, La Salle had trouble setting its offense and had to settle for a forced corner jumper at the buzzer by Jerrell Wright that was blocked by Raphiael Putney.

Wright and Ramon Galloway each had 16 points for La Salle, while Putney scored 17 for UMass.

La Salle trailed, 33-27, at halftime, but the Explorers had been down by 33-21 before scoring the last six points of the half. Wright scored all six points on two dunks and a layup. Wright kept the Explorers in the game with 12 first-half points, hitting all five field-goal attempts and both free throws.

La Salle had won three in a row and seven of the last eight against UMass. Yet the Minutemen were in their element. They are 9-1 in games decided by five or fewer points. La Salle is 4-1 in such games.

"We lost to a very good team," Giannini said. "I am phenomenally disappointed, but not surprised."

Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.