The Minutemen (18-4, 5-3) easily dispatched La Salle (12-10, 4-4) at the Mullins Canter Wednesday, 79-67.
UMass, in action for the first time since falling out of the Top 25, was solid offensively throughout, but coach Derek Kellogg emphasized their achievements on defense.
“I thought our defense was really good tonight,” Kellogg said. “We got right up and pressured the ball…it was a good 40-minute performance for us and hopefully we can use that as a building block to continue that and make it the way we play every game.”
UMass Guard Derrick Gordon was equally pleased with his team’s performance, saying, “We had two intense practices after the St. Joe’s game. I knew with our energy coming into this game we were all going to leave it on the court and were going to put on a show.”
UMass now finds itself in fourth place in the Atlantic 10, with showdowns against conference leaders George Washington (Feb. 15) and VCU (Feb. 21)looming.
Meanwhile, things went further south for Boston College Wednesday, as they dropped to 6-16 (2-7 in ACC play) on the year with a decisive 77-67 loss at Virginia.
Virginia (18-5, 9-1) was up 40-21 at halftime, and the Cavaliers went into cruise control in the second half.
BC managed to cut the deficit to six points with 36 seconds to play, but Virginia did not buckle at the charity strip.
BC has now dropped nine of its last 11 games, with the two wins coming against the ACC cellar-dwelling Virginia Tech Hokies.
And there’s no relief in sight for the Eagles, as they play host to Duke on Saturday.