AMHERST, Mass. - Massachusetts' Raphiael Putney tallied a game-high 22 points in leading the Minutemen to a 72-59 victory over Saint Louis Saturday in Atlantic 10 Conference men's basketball action at the Mullins Center.
With the loss, the Billikens fall to 16-5 overall and 4-3 in the A-10. The Minutemen remain unbeaten at home and improve to 16-5 overall. They are in first place in the league standings with a 5-2 A-10 record.
Saint Louis rallied all the way back from a 19-point halftime deficit to pull within five with just over five minutes left to play. The Billiken deficit was six with 1:30 remaining, but UMass pulled away late to secure the 72-59 win.
Brian Conklin, who did not start the game due to an injury, led the team in scoring with 17 points. Jordair Jett chipped in 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. Dwayne Evans recorded a season-high 12 rebounds.
The Billikens were hampered by an 8-for-19 effort (42.1 percent) from the charity stripe and a 34.3 shooting percentage from the floor, both of which were season lows.
Rob Loe won the opening tip and proceeded to knock down a triple on the first possession of the game, but SLU was unable to maintain any momentum. The lead changed hands several times throughout the first several minutes of play. UMass gained a lead it would not relinquish at the 12:59 mark of the first half when it went on top 15-13.
Another three-ball by Loe at 11:25 slimmed the UMass margin to just three, and a rare trey by Evans pulled the Bills within two at 23-21 with 8:18 remaining in the first half. But all SLU would get the rest of the half were baskets by Jett and Cody Ellis and a Conklin free throw. UMass closed the half on a 22-6 rally, including scoring the final nine points of the frame, to take a 45-26 advantage into the break. That 19-point deficit is the largest SLU has seen this season.
The Billikens found life in the second half. Kwamain Mitchell and Jett opened with a pair of baskets. After UMass went back on top by 19, Ellis hit a pair of treys - and competed a four-point play after being fouled on one - to pull the Billikens within 12 of the lead at 49-37 with 15:22 remaining.
A basket by Mike McCall Jr. pushed the SLU deficit into single digits as it trailed 52-44 with 10:35 left. A 7-0 run, sparked by a Jett layin and capped with another Jett jumper, made it 56-51 with 5:33 to play. But that is as close to the lead the Billikens would get, and UMass ended the game on a 7-0 spurt for the 13-point victory.
Saint Louis returns to action Wednesday night when it hosts St. Bonaventure in a 7 p.m. tip at Chaifetz Arena. Then, Dayton comes to town Saturday for the Billiken Blue Out game at 4 p.m.