Noah Fernandes, UMass hold off Saint Louis for 1st Atlantic 10 win

  • UMass forward Greg Jones attempts a shot in close against Saint Louis on Thursday at the Mullins Center. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass guard Noah Fernandes fires a 3 against Saint Louis on Thursday at the Mullins Center. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass guared C.J. Kelly drives against Saint Louis on thursday in the Mullins Center. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass coach Matt McCall gives instructions for the Minutemen against Saint Louis o CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass guard Javohn Garcia calls timeout after diving on the floor for a loose ball against Saint Louis on Thursday at the Mullins Center. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2022 9:48:29 PM
Modified: 1/20/2022 9:47:24 PM

AMHERST – Perfection down the stretch delivered the UMass men’s basketball team its first Atlantic 10 victory of the season 91-85 over Saint Louis on Thursday at the Mullins Center.

The Minutemen went 7-of-7 from the free throw line and made 3-of-3 shots from the field to outpace the Billikens over the final three minutes. 

Both teams were in the double bonus for the final 2 minutes, 50 seconds.

Noah Fernandes led UMass with 24 points and six assists.

Fernandes hung in the air and absorbed contact from Saint Louis big Francis Okoro before sinking a jumper with 46.9 seconds left to put the Minutemen ahead for good. That made it 84-83 UMass and fouled out Okoro, who scored 21 points for the Billikens. He connected on the free throw to give UMass an 85-83 lead.

T.J. Weeks levitated and rejected Lassina Traore, a 6-foot-9 forward, with 30 seconds remaining on a layup attempt that would have tied the game  at 85. Greg Jones (13 points) secured the rebound and sank two free throws after being fouled to make it 87-83.

Javohn Garcia put a bow on the victory, which snapped a four-game losing streak with a tomahawk dunk with six seconds remaining.

Garcia, who scored 15 points, put the Minutemen ahead 82-81 with a spinning layup ff the glass with 1:32 remaining, and Okoro responded with a layup for Saint Louis 20 seconds later to return the lead.

Fernandes gave UMass an 80-78 lead with 2:09 left with two free throws. 

Saint Louis point guard Yuri Collins picked up his third foul with 9:11 remaining. The Minutemen took a 66-63 lead in the minute and a half he was on the bench with six free throws.

His fourth foul came 27 seconds after he re-entered the game and put UMass into the double bonus. Okoro was called for his fourth foul with 6:36 remaining. 

While those stalwarts were on the bench, the Minutemen built a 77-71 lead punctuated by a Garcia 3 with 4:09 remaining. Collins checked back in at 3:53 with Gibson Jimerson at the free throw line. He made two free throws to cut the lead to 4.

Terrence Hargrove Jr. tied the game at 78 with a 3 with 2:38 remaining, forcing a UMass timeout.

UMass kept pace with the Billikens in the first half. They built a 22-15 lead 7:29 in when Jimerson hit a 3 to make it 22-15.

The Minutemen responded with a 10-0 run to build a three-point advantage. They only allowed one Saint Louis shot attempt during the stretch and forced two turnovers.

The teams stayed within a possession of each other for the remainder fo the half. Fernandes had an opportunity to tie the game entering halftime with two free throws after he was fouled with 3.4 seconds left. He sank 1-0f-2 to make it 38-37 Saint Louis.

Collins was whistled for a carry, and the Minutemen received the ball with 0.7 seconds remaining. The UMass bench and faithful in the arena lobbied the officials to check the clock, thinking the Minutemen should have more time for a shot. The referees gave the ball to UMass to inbound without changing it, and Rich Kelly missed a contested shot at the buzzer.

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