It’s one thing to make plans and it’s another to execute them. La Salle knew that containing UMass sophomore center Tre Mitchell would be key in Wednesday’s game at Tom Gola Arena.
The Explorers threw multiple bodies at the 6-foot-9 Mitchell, a preseason all-Atlantic 10 first-teamer. He was guarded by the quicker Jared Kimbrough and then the lengthier Clifton Moore. He faced double teams and saw extra defenders sprinting his way when he put the ball on the floor.
UMass had an answer for just about everything that La Salle tried. Mitchell scored a career-high 37 points on 13-for-17 shooting as the Minutemen defeated the Explorers, 85-66. It was the A-10 opener for both schools.
“Tre Mitchell is an NBA talent,” La Salle coach Ashley Howard said. “I just thought we did a lackluster job of really defending him with any aggression. It may have appeared that we tried to defend him a multitude of different ways, but we didn’t do a good job in any of the ways that we tried to guard him.”
Along with Mitchell’s inside presence, UMass (2-1) made 11 of 28 threes as La Salle fell to 2-4.
UMass had a one-point lead at the intermission, but Mitchell scored 25 points in the second half, and La Salle’s defense broke down as the other Minutemen complemented Mitchell with threes.
“We didn’t [bring the fight] in the second half of the game,” Howard said. “I’m just disappointed in that.”
The Explorers had one of their strongest offensive spurts in the first half. They shot 50% from the field and three.
La Salle couldn’t afford an offensive drought with the way UMass was creating good shots. The Explorers started the second half shooting 5-for-7, but a nearly three-minute stretch without a basket led to the deficit growing from two to 13.
“We probably had our best offensive game in terms of guys seeing the ball go through the basket, but we did not do our part to contain UMass,” Howard said.
Senior David Beatty led the Explorers with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Anwar Gill and Jack Clark added nine points each. La Salle shot 46.6% as a team.
Gill continues to show the highs that should make La Salle fans excited and lows that remind them he’s still a freshman. He hunted good shots but finished 4-for-12. Gill’s aggressiveness was on display twice when he tried to split UMass double teams. The first time resulted in a loose-ball scramble, and the second time allowed the Minutemen to take the lead with a transition three.
Another freshman, 6-10 Tegra Izay, was touted for his size, shot-blocking, and low-post defense. He seemed like a player who was recruited for matchups like the one against Mitchell. Izay entered the game having played nearly 17 minutes, and he only played three Wednesday, all in the second half.
“I went to Tegra late, and I just didn’t feel like he was ready,” Howard said. “If I would’ve gotten him in earlier, gotten him some more minutes, gotten him into the flow, it may have been better for him.”
La Salle hosts Delaware Saturday at 4:30 p.m.